A Deeper Look at “Moneyball.”

The Story Line.

Moneyball, the movie, tells the story of the Oakland Athletics professional baseball team and its general manager, Billy Beane in the year, 2002.  The movie was adapted from Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, a book by Michael Lewis, published in 2003. 

The central idea presented in Moneyball is that in 2002 the traditional ways of evaluating and hiring potential players:  (a) looking at stolen bases, (b) runs batted in, and (c) batting averages, were unreliable and amounted to nothing more than the subjective opinions of managers, coaches, scouts, and front office personnel. 

What Beane and his assistant, Peter Brand in the movie (Paul Depodesta in real life) did instead was use computerized statistical analysis of each player’s potential vs. his performance with the emphasis on getting on base.  In the baseball world this approach is referred to as sabermetrics (“saber,” coming from the name, Society of American Baseball Research combined with the word metrics).  Even though Bill James coined the term back in 1982, the practice of analyzing statistics was not adopted.  Up through 2002 Professional Baseball still relied on its century-old traditional approach.

The year 2002 became a “perfect storm” time in professional baseball for Billy Beane because of three factors.  (1)  Billy Beane had become General Manager of the Oakland A’s’ in 1997 and, like Alderson, the prior GM, he emphasized economy. (2) Before the 2002 season started, Oakland’s three top players were hired away by the New York Yankees for more money than the A’s’ could pay (Beane’s words were, “They gutted the A’s’ roster.”).  And, (3) the Oakland A’s’ were sold to two new owners just prior to the start of the season, who made it clear to Beane that there would be no increase in his budget for 2002.

Beane visits the Cleveland Indians GM looking for talent and meets Paul DePodesta, a Harvard graduate (major study: economics) working at his first job as an analyst for the Indians.  Beane hires him away.  Together they spend 30 million dollars on a team of supposedly “misfit” ball players who eventually go on to win 20 straight games to break a record that goes back 80 years. 

To everyone’s shock, Billy Beane’s record-setting, against-all-odds-team, makes baseball history.  After the season is over, the owner of the Boston Red Sox tries to lure Beane away from the ‘A’s with an offer that would make him the highest paid GM in the history of baseball.  Beane turns him down to remain in Oakland.  The Red Sox go on to win the World Series two years later using Beane’s and DePodesta’s sabermetrics approach. 

Gradually, during the last nine years, professional baseball has adopted Bean’s and DePodesta’s approach using analysts who use sabermetrics. 

***  If you want to read more about this unbelievable changeover in professional baseball, check out the great cover article in the Sports section of the December 7, 2011 issue of USA Today newspaper named:  “The Suits Behind the Uniforms.”

 

Now, A Deeper Look.

 

What makes this movie so appealing for me is that it portrays complex people with exaggerated and fascinating personality styles.  I really loved it.  Okay, let’s take a look, not only at the personalities but also let’s look at some of the relationship themes.

The Superiority personality types live their lives according to certain core ideas, a few of which are:

  1. I love information.  (These people are always experts in some subject.)
  2. I can set multiple goals and I will reach them.
  3. I treat life seriously.
  4. I must figure it out (whatever it is).
  5. I must be accurate, thorough and maintain high standards at whatever I do.
  6. I want to make some meaningful contribution to life.

Using the information above and studying both Billy Beane and DePodesto, we can see that they are both exaggerated Superiority people.  There’s no compromise of their beliefs, decisions or actions.  In the face of incredible odds, they take on, not only the Oakland A’s’ organization, but also the entire world of Professional Baseball.   So yes, exaggerated Superiority styles they both are.

The relationship between these two men is interesting.  Superiority people can be active or passive with their behavior.  Those who are active focus on a goal and concentrate all their energy on reaching it.  Once they decide to go for the finish line, they will take calculated risks to succeed.  (We see this personality a lot in small business owners.)  Billy Beane, in 2002 guiding the Oakland A’s,’ fits this description and we see DePodesta coming unglued at Beane’s risks in a couple of situations.

Passive Superiority people are more cerebral; we see them use much less active behavior.  Passive people “wait” more than active people.  Their goals are more detailed-information oriented.  We see them often in the university setting as PhD’s who study, teach and write.  If they’re in the corporate world, they’re often CEO visionaries whose biggest personal asset is being able to see an end result quicker and better than others.  De Podesta fits this description in Moneyball.

Superiority people mostly live “in their heads;” so they’re not always at their best in relationships.  In other words, they’re “head” people instead of “feelers.”  Often, they come off as detached.

We see this in Moneyball with both men.  Instead of “letting off steam” verbally, Beane doesn’t talk about his frustration; he acts it out by throwing chairs, water coolers, etc.  DePodesta only verbalizes his fear in one scene when Beane trades Pena.  One other time, DePodesta throws a ball at Beane.   We know he’s feeling fear (Will Beane take the Red Sox offer?) but he doesn’t talk about it. 

We also see Beane’s lack of talk in his relationships with his team manager and his head coach.  Instead of talking, he acts:  he trades Pena when the A’s’ manager won’t use Beane’s  first base choice and he fires the head coach, without warning, after the coach makes personal, disrespectful remarks about Beane’s record as a player.

The only place we really get to see the “feeling” side of Beane is when he’s with his daughter.   And, if DePodesta has “feeling” relationships with anyone, we don’t see it in this movie.

The relationships between Beane and DePodesta feels good to me.  It’s obvious that they respect and like each other and that they enjoy working together.  In real life, DePodesta stayed with Beane for 5 or 6 years before moving on to another ball club. 

 

___________________

 

To prepare for this review, I saw the movie twice (Yep, I liked it that much!) and read a few articles about Beane and DePodesta which I’ll mention now.  These are in addition to the article I already mentioned above.

 

  1. This Wikipedia page will get you about six or so pages on Beane’s personal and professional life.
  2. This video will get you DePodesta giving an hour-long talk to business people about the time he and Beane were together.  It’s so interesting.
  3. The article “Moneyball: Lessons for the U.S. Economy” appeared in Section A of the Wednesday, October 5, 2011 issue of USA Today (written by Paul Osterman).  It’s about applying the forward kind of thinking that Beane and DePodesta used in their baseball world to the world of business.

 

I hope you enjoyed this article and, if you haven’t already, go on to see the picture.  And, if you have a favorite movie you’d like my thoughts on the personalities, defenses or values in it, please let me know.

 

Warmest wishes until next time,

                                                       Joan

 

            You can learn more about the four personalities that I write about both in my articles and my movie reviews by checking out the descriptions of each one on my site:  www.allaboutpersonalities.com.  If you think anyone you know will enjoy this review, please share.

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