The Playing Field is Not Level
“For more than a decade the people who run professional baseball have argued that the game was ceasing to be an athletic competition and becoming a financial one. The gap between rich and poor in baseball was far greater than in any other professional sport, and widening rapidly. At the opening of the 2002 season, the richest team, the New York Yankees, had a payroll of $126 million which the two poorest teams, the Oakland A’s and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, had payrolls of less than a third of that, about $40 million” (pp. xi, xii).
The Need to Rethink
“At the bottom of the Oakland Experiment was a willingness to rethink baseball: how it is managed, how it is played, who is best suited to play, and why. Understanding that he would never have a Yankee-sized checkbook, the Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, had set about looking for inefficiencies in the game” (p. xiv).
“Many of the players drafted or acquired by the Oakland A’s had been victims of an unthinkable prejudice rooted in baseball’s traditions. The research and development department in the Oakland front office liberated them from this prejudice, and allowed them to demonstrate their true worth” (p. xiv).
What is Success? What are the Indicators of Success? In Players? In Coaches?
“The ability to control the strike zone was the greatest indicator of future success. The number of walks a hitter drew was the best indicator of whether he understood how to control the strike zone” (p. 11).
“For Billy and Paul and, to e slightly lesser extent, Erik and Chris, a young player is not what he looks like, or what he might become, but what he has done” (p. 38).
“‘He was able to instantly forget any failure and draw strength from every success'” (p. 46).
“[Discipline and composure]” (p 52).
“Scoring runs was, in the new view, less an art or a talent than a process” (p. 59).
“Billy wasn’t one to waste a lot of time worrying about whether he was motivated by a desire to succeed or the pursuit of truth. To his way of thinking the question was academic, since the pursuit of truth was, suddenly, the key to success” (pp. 62, 63).
“And he was left with his single greatest fear: that one one would ever really know. That he and Paul might find ever more clever ways to build great ball clubs with no money, but that, unless they brought home a World Series ring or two, no one would know” (p. 280).
“What begins as a failure of the imagination ends as a market inefficiency: when you rule out an entire class of people from doing a job simply by their appearance, you are less likely to find the best person for the job” (p. 115).
“Billy Beane was a human arsenal built, inadvertently, by professional baseball to attack its customs and rituals” (p. 117).
“What he believed was what Paul Volcker seemed to suspect, that the market for baseball players was so inefficient, and the general grasp of sound baseball strategy so weak, that superior management could still run circles around taller piles of cash” (p. 122).
“The question was: how did a baseball team find stars in the fist place?” (p. 126).
“He has made it into the big leagues less on the strength of his arm than on the quality of his imagination” (p. 223).