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Summer Book Review

MONEYBALL: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

By John Appeldorn
On August 23, 2012

Most would agree that the game of baseball is America's true pastime. It reflects many of the ideals this nation strives to uphold such as personal achievement,
teamwork and strategy for success. However, it also shows what the power of wealth can have on a team's overall achievement.
Especially within the last two decades, there have been a small number of teams with the biggest budgets in all of sports that have dominated or have at least contended in many of Major League Baseball (MLB)'s postseason
events. Most of the poorer teams tend to struggle with winning,
since they do not have the means to sign star players to huge contracts. This was not the case with the Oakland Athletics, who in 2001 managed to reach the playoffs with the lowest budget in the major leagues. Michael Lewis, who is primarily a business journalist,
explores this David and Goliath phenomenon in his book Moneyball. He illuminates the flaws the MLB has in assessing players' talent and subsequent value to a team's success.
Moneyball is no typical sports story. Lewis writes about the American pastime with the vigor and curiosity of an economist; he exposes a connection between the spirit and the politics of the game. With the mindset of a businessman,
Lewis mathematically reduces
baseball and, most importantly, a successful ball club to simple percentages: scoring runs. His account
of how baseball stats have progressed in the past 30 years shows a much more in-depth side of baseball that was only seen by those within the system.
Lewis centers his book around the A's manager Billy Beane, who instituted a new method of determining
athletic value by looking beyond a player's performance on the field. By consulting extensive
statistical analyses (known as Sabermetrics) of players, Beane was able to see the strengths in these athletes that were grossly overlooked by nearly every other team. Thus, with this frugal
strategy of in-depth player scrutiny deemed "moneyball," Beane's team managed to compete
in the playoffs with less than one third of the budget of the juggernaut New York Yankees.
Moneyball is just as expository
as it is a joy to read. Lewis writes with a clear and lucid style and maintains a great deal of humor. Apart from slogging
through a chapter or two that deals with heady baseball numbers, readers should find the overall story lively and attention-grabbing.
One would think that a book that describes baseball as a business plan and the players as numbers would squelch the spirit of the game. However, that is not the case with Moneyball. The numbers add a great depth of knowledge and nuance to a game that we thought we knew so well.
Although the book deals primarily with the management side of the game, Lewis does intermittently include the individual
stories of players that echo the romance and triumph of the glory days of baseball.
All in all, the book is an intriguing and fascinating account
of baseball in true underdog
fashion, and should provide fans and non-fans alike with a story to talk about.


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