Moneyball: How to Win an Unfair Game

 

by Michael Lewis

(Norton)

 

(This column first appeared in the July 10, 2003 issue of ArtVoice of Buffalo.)

 

With our daily newspapers offering more space to sports than they do to national and local news, with our few remaining open spaces increasingly given over to athletic fields and with the age of first sport competition of our nation's children descending rapidly toward nativity, it is no wonder that this book about the statistical and fiscal sides of big league baseball has risen to number one on the non-fiction lists. But even given its popularity source, Moneyball is a deeply flawed book. Lewis's chosen protagonist, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, a hugely talented player whose flawed character made him a mere journeyman professional, has now turned some of those same characteristics to leading a baseball organization. The real hero of the book should have been the man whose ideas have made the A's a winner, Sandy Alderson. Alderson doesn't rate as much space here as the big league scouts who get their deserved come-uppance. Nor do the assistants who man the computers to dredge up the statistics on which management decisions are made. Instead the focus is on Beane's chair-throwing "leadership." Despite those flaws, however, and before the book begins to drag toward the end, it has a good story to tell: specifically, how an organization can spend less than $35 million in salaries and win more games than the Damn Yankees who spend $126 million. A good argument for learning math.-- Gerry Rising