Thanks to the Michigan News Agency for letting the five of us take over the back of the store to talk about two important topics – baseball and business. How do the two go together? I actually had not considered it while reading “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis. It was a point brought up by JJ (sitting next to me), who was leading the discussion group tonight. He said that the book implied methods for the future of baseball. “The problem is that it can’t just be statistics which are used. The human element is also needed.” This was a recurring point throughout the discussion.
JJ, along with Craig (in the Detroit Tigers shirt) and Eric (wearing red), are all baseball fans. Juan (in the striped top) and I had different perspectives if only because our source was strictly the book, not what has happened in baseball, especially to the Oakland A’s, since 2002.
Here were some of the main discussion points:
- The agents in the book were divided between new and old guard, referring to the talent scouts. Many of us choose to run our own business because we disagree with the “old guard.”
- Economic lesson – getting more for less especially when considering a minimum wage pitcher vs paying one $14 million who is injured. Sometimes spending money isn’t the best value.
- Finance – how trades were strategically made. At the end of the day this would be used for business, not necessarily for a baseball team.
When it comes right down to the “Moneyball” story, it was all about Billy Beane. He was supposed to be “THE Guy,” super athlete, and drafted straight out of high school. Eventually, he became the manager of the Oakland A’s, a Major League Baseball team, and was determined to find players who were not like him, who didn’t cost a lot of money (because it wasn’t available to spend), and end up with a winning team.
Billy traded players like people trade stocks, trying to get the best deals. More than that, though, he had certain standards that were important to him. When players or staff did not buy into the standards, they ended up in one of his trades.
The question in the discussion was if the “Moneyball” method still applies as a winning concept now that the secret has been out for the last ten years, or has it been built into the culture? In other words, is it really about the statistics? Or is it that Billy created a culture, and the people who stayed were the ones who understood and bought into the concept? As Billy was known to say throughout examples in the book when referring to the distinct differences between the mainstream and some of his players,”We’re not selling jeans.”
Stacy (a.k.a “The Book Lady”)