Billy Beane Talks Moneyball

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Billy Beane. Taylor Richards Glenn

The subtitle of the book Moneyball is The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. How fair is major-league baseball today?

Let’s put it this way. It’s not the same for all 30 teams. It’s not necessarily unique to baseball. Because of revenue sharing, we’re certainly not there yet. But even though the A’s revenues have gone up, for every half-step forward we take, the larger-market teams are taking three steps.

How does inequality in baseball compare with other pro sports?

It depends on what you want. If creating the most level playing field is the goal, then you have to look at the NFL. That’s arguably the best-run sports league in the world. But I would bet that if you polled fans, there’s a certain amount of people who are attracted to the David-and-Goliath story that exists in baseball. Everyone wants to have a villain.

You wrote an op-ed about health care with Newt Gingrich and John Kerry. What was that like?

I can’t even describe—I was sort of speechless, and completely honored that their office would call me. My first response was that it was probably a little bit out of my league, making big comments on health care. And they weren’t necessarily looking for that from me—but they said, listen, the application of metrics could create a more efficient system. So I basically stayed within my lane from there.

What’s another Brad Pitt character you identify with?

There’s the detective in Seven, the casino thief in the Ocean’s movies, Death in Meet Joe Black. I remember Fight Club, too, but that’d probably be giving myself too much credit. His character on Head of the Class, I think that’s where he first broke in. I think that’s the one I identify with.

How long are you going to be a general manager in Oakland?

There’s talk about your going to Chicago or New York. The good thing about doing this job for a long time is you stop reading the papers as it relates to that. Any sort of scuttlebutt I hear on that, I sorta completely disregard. I’m very happy being a general manager here.

You’re known for never watching games from inside the stadium. If you went to this movie with your family, would you wait in the lobby?

I’ve actually thought about that. The difference between this and a game is that I know the ending already, so I’m OK.

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