NEW ALBANY, Ind. — His style of stockpiling the Oakland Athletics’ roster with underestimated talent has been the subject of a best-selling book and major motion picture, but Billy Beane still is reluctant to tip his hand when it comes to his secrets of the trade.
When one man asked Beane what the primary statistic lines he tracks during his rigid Sabermetrics approach to personnel decisions, the A’s general manager likened the question to one that might be proposed during a “Saturday Night Live” skit.
“General, if there’s something you don’t want the Iraqis to know, what would it be,” Beane mused, as the crowd that gathered at Indiana University Southeast erupted with laughter.
A former Major League outfielder, Beane climbed the front office ranks following his career before becoming the A’s general manager following the 1997 season.
Marred by losing records, sagging revenue and a small payroll, Beane decided to use what at the time was considered a revolutionary methodology to filling the A’s roster.
Beane used what he described as objective, statistics-based analysis to determine what players the club would sign. While haughty home-run numbers were grabbing headlines, Beane and his staff sought players who could draw walks and simply find a way to get on base.
His approach worked, as the A’s would make the playoffs each season from 2000 to 2003. Last year, the A’s went on a torrid late-season run to best the deep pockets of the Texas Rangers for the American League West Division crown.
Beane’s style of compiling players was the focus of the 2003 Michael Lewis book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.”
The book and Beane’s character would be portrayed in the 2011 movie “Moneyball,” which featured actor Brad Pitt playing the role of Beane.
“It seems like a normal Brad Pitt movie, then you hear your name,” Beane said. “It’s a little surreal to say the least.”
Beane, age 50, said his favorite baseball movie is the 1942 hit “The Pride of the Yankees” that is based on the life of former New York Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig.
Admittedly a very hands-on general manager, Beane said he never forgets that if he makes a bad decision on a utility infielder, it could cost an employee his job somewhere in the organization.
But as much as he likes to win, Beane said baseball will never trump his main passion.
“I’ve never wanted my professional life to be my self esteem,” he said. “For me, it’s always about my children.”
Daniel Suddeath is a reporter for the News and Tribune in Jeffersonville, Ind.