Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Why Moneyball is a Must Read and Why
it Has Little to Do with Management By Baseball

The only thing my father & I have in common is that we're completely different -- Dale Berra

I got a terse note yesterday from a surfer I'll call "Manny Sanguillen" for reasons that will become obvious to fans of the former Pirate catcher. Manny asked a solid question, though it was phrased as a percussive comment, and in a tone I have to describe as pointlessly hostile.

Sanguillen wanted to know why he should be interested in Management by Baseball since it was merely derivative of the writing Michael Lewis had done in his hot book Moneyball. So Manny, here's why: because to paraphrase Dale Berra, the only thing Moneyball & Management By Baseball have in common is they're completely different.

The thesis (non-explicit but totally obvious) underlying Moneyball is "Everything Baseball Needs to Know About Franchise Management, it Can Learn From Wall Street". It applies lessons Lewis has learned in his years as the Western World's finest and most readable insider financial journalist. The book takes those lessons and shows how a small (but growing) cadre of youngish professionals have taken those lessons and used them to squeeze value out of resources that others undervalue, all driven by their own lack of resources. Lewis doesn't know a ton about baseball, but, extra-bright guy that he is, he learned a goodly amount while working on the book, easily surpassing the average fan's understanding. So how's Management By Baseball different?

The thesis of my work, about 170 degrees away from Lewis', is: Everything You Need to Know About Management You Can Learn From Baseball. It applies lessons I learned as a baseball reporter and management consultant. The work takes those lessons and shows how people can become better managers in any kind of organization by applying lessons learned from the National Pastime.

Some of the people I interviewed for my work had already talked with Lewis. Perhaps Lewis interviewed some people I had already spoken with. So Manny, we're pretty different...bearing just about opposite takes on common subjects.

Having said that, if you haven't read Moneyball yet and you want to learn many gripping things about the way teams scout and acquire players, do succession planning and manage resources, as well as get some gossip on some current baseball people off- and on the field, I strongly urge you to buy it & read it. It's both insightful and fun.

Oh, and if you haven't figured it out yet, I called my vicious note-sender "Manny Sanguillen" because the Pirate catcher was notorious for taking a vicious swing at virtually every pitch thrown near him. Our Manny is one of those surfers who can't pass on taking a vicious swing at anything he reads.

The actual Sanguillen once swung at, and connected with, a pitch after it had bounced in front of home plate, on the hop. This may be apocryphal (baseball reporters sometimes make up quotes when they don't get good ones, and they don't get good ones very often), but when asked by a reporter after that game why he'd swung at a ball that had bounced already, Sanguillen allegedly replied he only laid off pitches after they bounced twice.

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