Moneyball (The Oakland Athletics Story)

The New York Times bestseller Moneyball (Lewis, 2003) is a book about baseball. It describes how Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, revolutionized Major League Baseball (MLB) by introducing a new approach (sabermetrics) to assessing the value of a player to a team (see Wolfe et al., 2006). The established approach to assessing player talent favored future potential, but sabermetrics focused on past performance. Also, the established approach focused on the statistics of batting average (BA) and earned run average (ERA). The new approach was based on the argument that different statistics such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage (OSP) were better predictors of a players performance. Beane introduced sabermetrics, but the underlying concept was not his. The writer Bill James had argued (and been ignored) for three decades that research attested to its superiority as a basis for determining a players true value to a team.

Beanes application of the new approach was successful, and the Oakland Athletics moved close to the top of the league despite being outspent by most of their competitors. As a result, the team had approaches from many interested businesses and sporting bodies including teams from the NFL and MLB, Fortune 500 companies, and Wall Street firms.

However, other MLB teams continued to show a lack of interest in the new approach, and some were openly hostile to it. Why? The MLB was bound in tradition and characterized by deep respect for convention and precedent. Sabermetrics challenged treasured orthodoxies for two reasons. First, it questioned the value of established predictors of performance. Second, sabermetrics based decisions on statistics and thus reduced the importance of professional judgment. In other words, sabermetrics sidelined the field managers who had previously enjoyed significant control over talent selection and in-game tactics. Sabermetrics thus threatened the job security of many who had been appointed on the strength of their knowledge of individual characteristics and aspects of the game that were no longer considered to be important.

We can explore how the introduction of sabermetrics affected team management and players in the movie Moneyball (2011, director Bennett Miller). Brad Pitt plays Oaklands manager, Billy Beane, who is losing his star players to wealthier clubs. The Athletics owner Stephen Schott (Bobby Kotick) will not provide more money. How can he build a competitive team with a limited budget? Beane hires an economics graduate, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand introduces him to James statistics-based approach to picking talent,Page 274 looking at the complementary skills of the players in the team as well as focusing on individual capabilities. Using this method, Beane puts together a team of previously unknown players. However, Beans senior manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) will not allow Beane to use these recruits and refuses to discuss the matter.

Criteria

Introduction – The introduction provides sufficient background on the topic and previews major points.

Question #1 Response – Explain in a comprehensive manner, in no less than one paragraph, who was actually resisting the newly implemented changes and why.

Question #2 Response – Explain in a comprehensive manner, in no less than one paragraph, the tactics and behaviors that Billy Beane and Peter Brand used to overcome resistance to this new approach that the team implemented.

Question #3 Response – Explain in a comprehensive manner, in no less than one paragraph, regarding your thoughts on lessons you can take from this experience concerning the nature of resistance and methods for overcoming resistance to change.

Conclusion – The conclusion is logical, flows from one question to the next question, and reviews the major points.

Assignment Questions

Who is resisting this change and why?

What tactics and behaviors do Billy Beane and Peter Brand use to overcome resistance to their new approach?

What lessons can you take from this experience concerning the nature of resistance and methods for overcoming resistance to change?

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