Did Billy Beane (Moneyball) have a secret sauce?

  1. Open, authentic, transparent, uncomplicated communication
  2. Going the extra mile for the team
  3. For the love of the game

Full disclosure: this column was inspired by and a response to an article Ted Seides wrote for Institutional Investor, which he ended with the statement, I wish I knew what Billy and Jim do.  But I never will. This blog is my response to Ted.

Did Billy Beane (Moneyball) have a secret sauce?

In order to understand how Billy Beane managed to lead the Oakland Athletics to a modern day record of continuous wins, we have to delve down into the team culture, and try to figure out what makes it tick. Here are three key tells:

  1. Open, authentic, transparent, uncomplicated communication
  2. Going the extra mile for the team
  3. For the love of the game

Open, authentic, transparent, uncomplicated communication

There is a scene in the movie that takes place in the indoor batting cage in which Billy confronts one of his star players whose better baseball days are behind him, and exhorts him to help mentor the younger players on the team. The player says to Billy, I’ve been around baseball a long time, and I’ve never seen a GM talk to his players the way you do. That is our first clue.

Going the extra mile for the team

Flying home from an away game, the AGM sits next to a player who complains about the fact the players have to pay for soda. Somehow that information gets back to Billy, who includes a clause in a trade with a team owned by a soda magnate, that the team gets free soda for three years. That is our next clue.

For the love of the game

Billy has just returned from Boston, where he has been offered the highest salary for a GM in the history of sport (Billy eventually turns down the offer and stays in Oakland trying to win the Series). The AGM insists Billy come into the tape room, where he shows him a tape of an amateur player, who trips rounding first and thinks he is out. As it turns out, he has hit a home run without realizing it. You can sense the reverence the two men feel about the game, and the many aspects of it that capture and uplift the human spirit.

Conclusion

For Billy Beane to achieve what he did, he had to transform the team culture, both on and off the field. The way he did it, respecting the players, being transparent in exchanging information and always being prepared to put his neck on the line (he actually agreed to pay one player’s salary when the owner balked), this is what is at the heart of a Billy Beane transformation. It is an authentic lesson in leadership.

By |2018-11-15T14:42:09+00:00November 15th, 2018|News|