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Moneyball : the art of winning an unfair game online

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at the table laughed.

A few weeks after he'd arrived in Vancouver, Jeremy Brown and
Nick Swisher were told by the team's trainer that the coaches
wanted to see them in their office. Jeremy's first thought was "Oh
man, I know I musta done something dumb." That was Jeremy's
instinctive reaction when the authorities paid special attention to
him: he'd done something w^rong. What he'd done, m this case,
was get on base an astonishing half the time he came to the plate.
Jeremy Brown was making rookie ball look too easy. Billy Beane
wanted to test him against stiffer competition; Billy wanted to see
what he had. The coach handed leremv and Nick Swisher plane


tickets and told them that they were the first guys from Oakland's
2002 draft to get promoted to Single-A ball.

It took them forever to get from Vancouver, Canada, to Visalia,
California. They arrived just before a game, having not slept in
thirty-one hours. No one said anything to them; no one wanted to
have anything to do with them. That's the way it was as you
climbed in the minors: your new teammates were never happy to
see you. "Everybody just kind of looks at you and doesn't say any-
thing," said Jeremy. "You just try to be nice. You don't want to get
off on the wrong foot."

That first night in Visalia, he and Swish dressed and sat on the
end of the bench. They might as well have been on the visiting
team. No one even came down to say hello,- if Swish hadn't been
on hand to confirm the fact Jeremy might have wondered if he still
existed. In the third inning the team's regular catcher, a hulk
named Jorge Soto, came to the plate. Jeremy had never heard of
Soto but he assumed, rightly, that he was competing with Soto for
the catching job. On the first pitch Soto hit a shot the likes of
which neither Jeremy nor Swish had ever seen. It was still rising
as it flew over the light tower in left center field. It cleared the
parking lot and also the skate park on the other side of the park-
ing lot. It was the farthest ball Jeremy had ever seen hit live. Five
hundred and fifty feet, maybe more. As Soto trotted around the
bases, Jeremy turned to Swish and said, "I don't think I'm ever
going to catch here."

If it was up to his new teammates, he wouldn't have. They
locked the door,- if Jeremy Brown and Nick Swisher wanted in,
they'd have to break it down. One day he was walking through the
Visalia clubhouse when someone shouted in a mocking tone,
"Hey, Badger." Jeremy had no clue what the guy was talking
about. He soon learned. His teammates, who still weren't saying
much to him, had nicknamed him "The Badger." "It was 'cause
when I get into the shower I kind of got a lot of hair on my body,"
Jeremy explained. Behind his back, they were all still having fun


at his expense. Jeremy just did what he always did, smiled and got

Along with most of the other players drafted by the Oakland A's
in 2002, Jeremy Brown had been invited to the Instructional
League in Arizona at the end of the season. By then, three months
after he'd been promoted to Visalia, no one was laughing at him.
In Visalia, he'd quickly seized the starting catching job from Jorge
Soto, and led the team in batting average (.310), on-base percent-
age (.444) and slugging percentage (.545). In fifty-five games, he'd
knocked in forty runs. So artfully had he ripped through the pitch-
ing in high Single-A ball that Billy Beane had invited him to the
2003 big league spring training camp — the only player from the
2002 draft so honored. Every other player in the Oakland A's 2002
draft — even Nick Swisher — had experienced what the A's minor
league director Keith Lieppman called "reality." Reality, Liepp-
man said, "is when you learn that you are going to have to change
the way you play baseball if you are going to survive." Jeremy
alone didn't need to change a thing about himself; it was the world
around him that needed to change. And it did. The running com-
mentary about him in Baseball America hung a U-turn. When the
magazine named him one of the top three hitters from the entire
2002 draft, and one of the four top prospects in the Oakland A's
minor league system, his mom called to tell him: someone had
finally written something nice about him. His teammates in
Visalia no longer called him "The Badger." Everyone now just
called him "Badge."

When Jeremy Brown comes to the plate on this mid-October
afternoon m Scottsdale, Arizona, it's the bottom of the second
inning. There's no score, and there's no one on base. The big left-
hander on the other team has made short work of the A's first
three hitters. He throws Jeremy a fastball off the plate. Jeremy just
looks at It. Ball one. Pitch number two is a change-up on the t)ut-
side corner, where Jeremy can't do much with it anyway, so he
just lets it be. Strike one. leremy Brown knows something about


pitchers: "They almost always make a mistake," he says. "All you
have to do is wait for it." Give the game a chance to come to you
and often enough it will. When he takes the change-up for a called
strike, he notices the possibility of a future mistake. The pitcher's
arm motion, when he throws his change-up, is noticeably slower
than it is when he throws his fastball.

The pitcher's next pitch is a fastball off the plate. Ball two. It's
2-1: a hitter's count.

The fourth pitch is the mistake: the pitcher goes back to his
change-up. Jeremy sees his arm coming through slowly again, and
this time he knows to wait on it. The change-up arrives waist-high
over the middle of the plate. The line drive Jeremy hits screams
over the pitcher's right ear and into the gap in left center field.

As he leaves the batter's box, Jeremy sees the left and center
fielders converging fast. The left fielder, thinking he might make
the catch, is already running himself out of position to play the
ball off the wall. Jeremy knows he hit it hard, and so he knows
what's going to happen next — or imagines he does. The ball is
going to hit the wall and ricochet back into the field. The left
fielder, having overrun it, will have to turn around and chase after
it. Halfway down the first-base line, Jeremy Brown has one
thought in his mind: I'm gonna get a triple.

It's a new thought for him. He isn't built for triples. He hasn't
hit a triple in years. He thrills to the new idea: Jeremy Brown, hit-
ter of triples. A funny thing has happened since he became, by
some miracle, the most upwardly mobile hitter in the Oakland A's
minor league system. Surrounded by people who keep telling him
he's capable of almost anything, he's coming to believe it himself.

He races around first ("I'm haulin' ass now") and picks up the
left fielder, running with his back to him, but not the ball. He's
running as hard as he's ever run — and then he's not. Between first
and second base his feet go out from under him and he backflops
into the dirt, like Charlie Brown. He notices, first, a shooting pain
in his hand: he's jammed his finger. He picks himself up, to scram-


ble back to the safety of first base, when he sees his teammates in
the dugout. The guys are falling all over each other, laughing.
Swish. Stanley. Teahen. Kiger. Everybody's laughmg at him again.
But their laughter has a different tone,- it's not the sniggering
laughter of the people who made fun of his body. It's something
else. He looks out into the gap in left center field. The outfielders
are just standing there: they've stopped chasing the ball. The ball's
gone. The triple of Jeremy Brown's imagination, in reality, is a
home run.


I never could have written this book without the help and encour-
agement of the Oakland A's. Many people who work for the organ-
ization feature prominently in this story but a few who were
important to me do not, and I would like to thank them here. The
team's co-owner, Steve Schott, took me to a ball game and encour-
aged me to pursue my line of inquiry. The front office's first line
of defense, Betty Shinoda, Wilona Perry, and Maggie Baptist, never
made me feel anything but welcome. Jim Young and Debbie Cal-
lus made my life easier than it should have been in the press box.
Mickey Morabito, who had no interest in letting me anywhere
near the team's plane, took me along for the ride. Keith Lieppman
and Ted Polakowski, who must have wondered why I so longed to
pester their minor league players, instead helped me to do it. Steve
Vucinich might have asked what business I had in his clubhouse,-
instead he did everything to make me feel welcome short of
steaming LEWIS on the back of an Oakland A uniform and send-
ing me out to the mound. Jim Bloom introduced me to big league



players and helped me to sell them on my project. Two of those
players, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, helped me far more than
then hiict appearances in this book suggest.

Several old friends read parts or all of the manuscript and saved
me from myself: Tony Horwitz, Gerry Marzorati, Jacob Weisberg,
and C^hris Wiman. Several new friends combed through the first
dratt and helped to save me from baseball: Rob Neyer, Dan
Okrent, and Doug Pappas. Dick Cramer and Pete Palmer offered
invaluable counsel on both the theory and history of sabermetrics.
Alan Schwarz provided assistance on the history of baseball sta-
tistics, which was remarkably generous, given that he is himself
writing a book on the subject.

Roy Eisenhardt introduced me to Billy Bcane, a fact that went a
long way with Billy, with reason. Looking through my notes it's
clear that the book arose from what amounts to a year long open-
ended conversation with Billy Beane, Paul DePodesta, and David
Forst. And yet not once did any of them seek to control or dilute
what 1 might write. 1 will always be grateful to them for their gen-
erosity of spirit.

I am blessed to write for the publishing equivalent of the Oak-
land A's. Encouraging me to write about baseball was as bold as
telling Scott Hatteberg to play first base. For this I am more than
usually grateful to my editor, Starling Lawrence, and his assistant,
Morgen Van Vorst. The Norton sales director, Bill Rusin, should
have put a stop to this project before it began, but he at least pre-
tended to approve of it. 1 am grateful to have had the chance to
present the book to Oliver Gilliland, but it goes only a little way
to alleviating the sorrow of knowing that it was the last time 1
ever will.

For help in just about every phase of this project 1 am grateful
to my wife, Tabitha Soren. Ucr official stats, impressive as they
are, still don't do justice to her performance.


(continued from front flap)

amateur baseball enthusiasts: software engineers,
statisticians, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, and
physics professors.

What these geek numbers show-no, prove-is
that the traditional yardsticks of success for players
and teams are fatally flawed. Even the box score mis-
leads us by ignoring the crucial importance of the
humble base on balls. This information has been
around for years, and nobody inside Major League
Baseball paid it any mind. And then came Billy Beane,
general manager of the Oakland Athletics.

Billy paid attention to those numbers-with the
second-lowest payroll in baseball at his disposal he
had io-and this book records his astonishing exper-
iment in finding and fielding a team that nobody else
wanted. Moneyball is a roller coaster ride: before
the 2002 season opens, Oakland must relinquish its
three most prominent (and expensive) players, is
written off by just about everyone, and comes roar-
ing back to challenge the American League record
for consecutive wins.

In a narrative full of fabulous characters and bril-
liant excursions into the unexpected, Lewis shows
us how and why the new baseball knowledge works.
He also sets up a sly and hilarious morality tale: Big
Money, like Goliath, is always supposed to win . . .
how can we not cheer for David?

MICHAEL LEWIS is the author Of the
bestsellers Liar's Poker and The New New Thing,
among other books. He lives in Berkeley, California,
with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their two daughters.







ISBN 0-393-05765-8


5 2495

9 780393"057652




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Online LibraryMichael (Michael M.) LewisMoneyball : the art of winning an unfair game → online text (page 24 of 24)