The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Michael Lewis wrote a book I liked very much -- Trail Fever, in which he followed around the nine candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996. A later book of his, "The New New Thing", portrayed Netscape founder Jim Clark as he founded Healtheon and built a massive computerized yacht. This effort did not interest me as much but it was still solid and has some good writing.

(By the way, the comments section is there for you to tell me that I need to read "Liar's Poker".)

Two weeks ago I was driving home and flipped through some FM stations. I listened to 92.3 KSJO and heard the DJ interviewing someone. "Great", I said to myself, "some iidiot is going to interview a porn star." Actually, the DJ was interviewing Michael Lewis! I learned two things: First, for five minutes in its 35-year history, KSJO elevated its level of discourse above that of rutting sewer rats; and Michael Lewis had a new book out called Moneyball. The subject was how Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane built a contending playoff team with one of the smallest payrolls in the league.

The next day I bought the book, and tore through it in two days. It is by far Lewis' best effort to date. Aaron Haspel sung its praises a few days ago, and he and Matt Welch linked to this longer review by Dr. Manhattan. I don't need to add my praises, especially as I know little about baseball.

Instead, I'll note that many people are calling Moneyball Beane's book, and believe that it's Beane's ego trip. I told two friends of mine who are big baseball fans about the book, and they shrugged it off: "Yeah, Beane's a genius and everyone else is an idiot." It's true that Lewis thinks a lot of Beane, but fortunately for his readers, his respect and admiration for his subjects falls short of hagiography.

I noticed that two sports journalists who write for the local paper made the mistake of asserting that Moneyball is Beane's book. First Bud Geracie had this throwaway line in his collection of musings, "In the Wake of the Week":

With former Athletic Cory Lidle at 8-3 for the Blue Jays, the Toronto G.M. could write a book.

"Well maybe he could," I yelled, "and so could Billy Beane, since he hasn't written one yet". (Never mind that Toroto's GM is a Beane protoge.)

Then Tim Kawakami wrote the following in today's Merc

DOES TENSION PRODUCE PLAYOFF-SERIES VICTORY? It works for the Yankees, every now and again. But we'll see in October how it works with the A's, who have been relatively tension-free heading into the past three postseasons, and we've seen exactly how effective that was.

This season, clearly, there are increased stress levels, from the Miguel Tejada contract situation to the prolonged fallout from Billy Beane's book to the new managing tenure of Ken Macha to, of course, the Thad Bosley departure.



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