Billy Beane tells the “Moneyball” story of metrics in baseball
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN – Moneyball’s Billy Beane told the Ball State University crowd that emotions should not rule major league baseball.
But privately, Beane would throw chairs when the Oakland Athletics lost just like in the movie “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt,
More than 2,000 people showed up at Emens Auditorium for Beane’s appearance this week to tell the story written by author Michael Lewis and played by actor Pitt in the recent movie.Former Indy Star sports writer Mark Montieth, who has a sports show on 1070 radio, asked the questions.
Beane’s appearance also helps promote Ball State’s upcoming baseball season that starts March 15 with Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne. Beane’s picture appears on baseball schedule cards.
The A’s general manager’s system using saber metrics or simply data analysis to drive major league baseball over subjective judgments of those in the business revolutionize the sport and got other teams to use the numbers crunching to decide who pitches, catches, hits and walks.
His sidekick Paul DePodesta, portrayed by Jonah Hill in the movie, was a Harvard economist who helped Beane change how baseball works and made small teams with limited money like Oakland and Tampa compete with the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees. DePodesta went on and now heads player development for the New York Mets.
Beane said he and DePodesta were approached by Lewis, then a New York Times writer, more than a decade ago about writing a story about the A’s. Lewis was “very intoxicating,” Beane recalled and hung out with the A’s during the season. When the newspaper story never came, Lewis said he was writing a magazine article. And when that did not happen, Lewis said he was writing a book, telling Beane that nobody would read it.
Lewis has a knack for blending in after writing “The Blind Side” that also became a best selling book and a movie.
Moneyball was a best seller, but it took a few more years before the movie came after Pitt read the story. Beane recalled losing his identity for a while as Pitt was Billy Beane to movie goers and sports fans.
Beane said the book was accurate and told how he and DePodesta implemented a system using numbers that made player changes and increased winning from a team that was traditional last in the rankings.
When Montieth asked whether the change in baseball went from jocks to geeks running the program, Beane said it was neither.
“It is about getting the best information you can,” said Beane.
As the Moneyball system has been used by more and more teams, Beane said he was harder to deal on trades and recruiting players besides having new, and smarter people who have more money running baseball.
Beane said the A’s recently picked up an Indiana baseball name, Jarrod Parker, who was drafted out of high school in 2007 as a pitcher for Arizona. Parker then played in minor leagues, had surgery for an injury and recently showed up on the A’s roster as their pitcher. He graduated from Norwell High School.
Baseball is actually a series of minor league play, said Beane, who was played professional baseball, but was not very good. That’s how he got in managing, and he said his number system can be used in business or education to achieve better performance.
Just last year, Beane was recognized as the Baseball Executive of the Year after the movie came out. And he made to clear to all those sports administration majors that you don’t have to play baseball to manage the team or organization.