Summary Of Chapter 3: The Enlightenment

by The Quicklet Team

This chapter is a free excerpt from Quicklet on Moneyball.

Again, the storyline toggles back to 1980, and a young Billy Beane has just been drafted by the Mets and placed in high-level rookie ball, with mostly college players. At first season’s end, Beane, who is incapable of dealing with failure, only managed a meager .210 batting average. During the off-season, he enrolls in business classes at UC San Diego, and ,“didn’t so much as pick up a bat or a glove until spring training the following March.”

By 1982, he is promoted to a Double-A team in Mississippi where another draft top pick, Daryl Strawberry, plays opposite of him in the outfield and succeeds greatly at the plate, while Beane continues to struggle. Looking back at his rough season, Beane “really questioned if [he’d] made the right decision to sign.” Lenny Dykstra, another well-performing player on the minor league team, adds to the pressure on Beane to succeed. Nonetheless, he,“kept grinding his way up through the minor leagues, propelled by his private fears and other people's dreams.”

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Again, the storyline toggles back to 1980, and a young Billy Beane has just been drafted by the Mets and placed in high-level rookie ball, with mostly college players. At first season’s end, Beane, who is incapable of dealing with failure, only managed a meager .210 batting average. During the off-season, he enrolls in business classes at UC San Diego, and ,“didn’t so much as pick up a bat or a glove until spring training the following March.”

By 1982, he is promoted to a Double-A team in Mississippi where another draft top pick, Daryl Strawberry, plays opposite of him in the outfield and succeeds greatly at the plate, while Beane continues to struggle. Looking back at his rough season, Beane “really questioned if [he’d] made the right decision to sign.” Lenny Dykstra, another well-performing player on the minor league team, adds to the pressure on Beane to succeed. Nonetheless, he,“kept grinding his way up through the minor leagues, propelled by his private fears and other people's dreams.”

Beane’s abilities as a player were phenomenal – he could run, throw, had presence of mind – and in addition, he had “bravado” and was a “natural leader of young men.” However, his hitting was extremely inconsistent and, at times, non-existent. Moreover, he let his emotions get the best of him; “he bust so many bats against so many walls that his teammates lost count.” It was these very tendencies that later led his wife to leave him, taking along his infant daughter.

He was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1984 and briefly played in the majors, before bouncing around various clubs’ Triple-A outlets (Twins, Detroit Tigers, and eventually the Oakland A’s). In 1990, he decided he’s “rather watch than play,” and walked into the A’s front office asking for a job as an advance scout – someone who travels ahead of the team and reports opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. Management considered him crazy – he was at the prime age of his career, despite his failures, and the A’s had gone to the World Series three consecutive seasons (1988-1990) – but nonetheless hired him.

Lewis digresses here and focuses on the ownership of the A’s. The team had recently shifted hands to two businessmen – Steve Schott and Ken Hoffman – who “weren’t going to spend any money,” and who had an entirely frugal and economic outlook on how to operate the organization.

Likewise, General Manager Sandy Alderson, who was previously a lawyer and Marine Corps office, held the belief that by, “analyzing baseball statistics you could see through a lot of baseball nonsense.” He approached the A’s farm team as if it were a boot camp: “the individual star was less important than the organization as a whole…[which] functioned well only if it was uniformly disciplined,” and put great emphasis on “on-base percentage” rather than runs.

After growing impressed with Beane’s enthusiasm as a scout, Alderson took him in as his assistant and tasked him with going out and “discovering” undervalued minor-leaguers. Alderson exposes Beane to a series of influential baseball pamphlets written by a man named Bill James. To Beane, James’ writing was “an escape hatch” from the trivialities of baseball; for the first time, he felt he belonged.
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