The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Isaac Sweeney
Jan. 25, 2012
I watched Moneyball recently. It’s about how the Oakland A’s changed the way Major League Baseball teams spend money on players. A scene early in the movie shows a bunch of scouts sitting around a table with the team’s general manager, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt). Beane has just learned that his three star players were bought by richer teams and that the A’s won’t give him money to buy big talent.
In the scene, the scouts are talking about potential players, commenting on things like throwing styles and athletic build and heart. Beane stops them, saying they talk too much about useless things. They don’t understand the problem, he says, which is that, in the league, “There are rich teams and there are poor teams, then there’s 50 feet of crap, and then there’s us.” According to the movie, baseball had become about money and it was unfair for teams that didn’t have money. So teams, like the A’s, started looking at statistics of undervalued players and they figured out how to mine wins from the players’ strengths.