Billy Beane taught me a lot.
He’s the Oakland Athletics’ manager Brad Pitt portrays in the movie Moneyball. After losing to the Yankees in the 2001 championship series, the A’s top stars leave the team. Billy asks his staff to redefine the A‘s problem.
Living inside the barrel, his staff cannot. With a salary budget of only $39mm (the Yankees was $1.2B), Billy’s 2001 stars left for higher paying rosters. What can the A’s do?
His staff defined the problem as “How to replace our top 3 players?”. Billy chastises them for thinking in old ways.
Billy sees the problem from a strategic, different view: “How can low budget teams beat teams with huge salary budgets?” He realizes he cannot beat teams like the Yankees or Red Sox at their game.
So, he decided to change the game of baseball.
He hired an economics wiz who defined baseball personnel management in the context of efficient effectiveness....not just effectiveness. He reengineered success by hiring players who got on base the most, at the cheapest salaries.
All of Beane’s staff thought he was nuts. Especially when the team started the 2002 season with the worst recored in baseball. In his darkest hour, Beane (like Churchill, Reagan, Bush 43) demonstrated commitment when all around him faltered. He stuck to his strategy through adversity, criticism and calls for his resignation...long enough for it to work. The change paid off...the A’s eventually set a league record 20 game winning streak on their way to the 2002 championship series.
Moneyball (the movie) inspired me: Innovate. See the whole board. Solve the real problem. Commit. Build the team ... Sell the Dream.
Lessons from Billy Beane