Introduction to the film
The film Moneyball was screened in 2011 in the cinema, which came in second in box office result for the opening weekend. The film was then being nominated for a total of 6 Oscar awards in the same year. This film depicts a Major League Baseball team named Oakland Athletic that was eventually managed by Billy Beane – Starred by Brad Pitt.
It showed how a season wonder Baseball team managed to put together a run of an impressive 20-game winning streak and went on to set a new American League record, but however went on to lose the following 11 games in a row. Akin to comparison to the football scene now, Oakland Athletic saw its best 3 outfield players being approached and signed up by richer clubs who could offer them better incentives such as salaries. Hencefore, manager Billy Beane had to look for ways to manage and rebuild his team without the three.
The introduction of the theories of analysis and making senses from performance statistics by Peter Brand, who was just a nerdy Yale latest Yale graduate student who had crunched numbers – starred by Jonah Hill. Peter Brand was actually a fictional character in this movie, whose real role name was supposed to be DePodesta. The director of Moneyball respected his request for not having his name portrayed, and thus Peter Brand was named to take on DePodesta’s role in this film (Reid, 2011). He was able to convinced manager Billy Beane to look for undervalued outfield players and recruit them solely base on their key performance statistics on the field. It was a bold and risky move on the part of the Oakland Athletic’s manager while their endured to cope without his best three, but yield the best result from some bargain selection criteria.
Personality of Billy Beane in Moneyball
Billy Beane started off as a promising young Baseball player who had impressed many baseball scouts when he was still in high school. He was said to be willing to sacrifice a Stanford football program scholarship to chase for his dream in the Major league baseball as his career (Carole D, 2019). During his first 6 years stint with the Twins as an outfield player, he had requested for a change due to his inability to concentrate and stay focus on the game. As a result, in the year 1990, he became the advance scout of Oakland Athletic at the tender age of 27. In the year 2001, he was the general manager for the team.
The Oakland Athletic’s manager was portrayed as an inward and lonely man, who had a failed marriage and is in the midst of recovering from it while managing the Baseball team. He has a daughter, Casey, and he was a very doting father. In the film, it was visible that he sometimes felt lost as he was driving his car aimlessly along the road while tuning in to the radio. He was driven and very ambitious to win the Major League Baseball Championship with Oakland Athletic, and was constantly ready to challenge his own beliefs on and off the field (EmanuelLevy, 2011). The manager also had his own principle, which was never to watch Oakland Athletic’s game in person, although many would have argued that a manager should do so in order to understand the flow of the game, the opposition team’s strength and weakness and his own, and from there develop a game plan to counter or preserve the game points.
Personality of Peter Brand in Moneyball
Peter Brand studied at Harvard and played both college football and baseball during those years, although he wasn’t good enough to be selected as an outfield player for the Major League Baseball. In the year 1999, he officially signed a contract with Oakland Athletics as a scout. He was put into the test when the 3 outstanding outfield players left the team, and the team owners were unable to inject more cash for quality players in the market. Discussions on affordable prospects and evaluations from statistics between the pair started. He went on to take up the role of the Assistant Manager of Oakland Athletic.
Common Traits of Billy Beane and Peter Brand
Through this film, I am able to recognise a few common traits between the pair. Firstly, they were very determined and focus on their job. The departure of their 3 outfield players had crippled many plans, but they took on the challenge and grind out solutions on tight budget and training. Billy Beane and Peter Brand were both committed individuals who had given their all in their roles. They did not sit on the fence and hedge. They were both passionate and were not natural outfield players to begin with.
Through the lens of Leadership
Moneyball had a couple of leadership lessons that individuals can draw from. A simple example can be the sentence made by the manager of Oakland Athletics – Billy Beane, “My bar is to take this team to a championship”. This sentence may be short and easy, but it is a result from delicate goal settings within the team, communicating it to the players and fans to ensure that they are on the same page, and aligning expectations. This goal also serves as a benchmark of the measurement of success towards the end of the campaign.
Dealing with Constraints
In every setting from big to small – organisations, departments or even teams, there are constraints. Within this constraints, there are many layers of severity, some could cost more implications, while some may just be too small to even talk about it. Billy Beane mentioned that ‘There are rich teams and poor teams. Then there is 50 feet of crap and there’s us. It’s an unfair game.” This showed that he understood that although the club owners have the say in how they control the overall budget allocated for the team in terms of transfers and salary, Billy Beane main role is to make do with the selection he has on hand and bring in players whom fits the budget and criteria and decide how the deployment of players and tactics. Lastly, outfield players control their role of play and onfield behaviours. In reality, a leader who aims to beat the competitors who are better positioned in terms of funding, manpower or history will have to think out of the box and deliver strategies that are missing from the competitors (Priestly, 2015). Value-added services or playing to its employees’ strength are valid examples.
Identifying the Problem and Sourcing for Solutions
Leaders need to have the ability and foresight in envisioning solutions, uniting and leading the team out of crisis when called upon. Some issues might be due to underlying factors, such as unhealthy practices and poor usage of resources. Some leaders may be blinded by short term thinking, therefore it is important that leaders think through the long term and identify the best solutions.
Billy Beane rightfully mentioned that “People who run ball clubs will think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, but to buy wins. And to buy wins you must buy runs.” This implies that a leader must be able to define and implement strategies that are different, bold, and a strategy that is able to bring out the best of the individuals collectively. The leader must also be able to convince the followers to step out of their comfort zone if required and stick to the strategy as a team. It is often said that if you can’t win a game, then change the game.
Patience and perseverance to see through strategies implemented
In Oakland Athletic’s case, the first 6 weeks of the season upon the recruitment of the undervalued players and Billy Beane strategies was nothing but a poor return of results. Even though the manager was heavily criticized by his staff, fans and media at that stage, Beane stood firm in his vision and belief in his strategies. He was patience and took measured risks that 6 weeks is too short to evaluate his tactical approaches success. Eventually, they were rewarded with the team’s record breaking run of 20 games without a defeat.
Leading by example
For most part of the movie, it was portrayed that the Oakland Athletic’s manager does not have the full backing from his staff, players, fans and media. It also showed that both Billy Beane and Peter Brand caught up with their players to show them how those statistics that they had reference to had actually resulted in the players’ better performance. This allows the players to see the little results of improvement although results aren’t going their way yet. This kept the spirit high and is also a way to win over support.
Ignore the Stereotypes
The Stereotypes in the film were those undervalued players that were unwanted by the other clubs, but snapped up by Billy Beane and Peter Brand. There were branded as out of sort as compared to relatively better players. However, it had proved that with the right strategies, such ‘left-overs’ does have a point to prove and are able to perform as well as the ‘better’ ones and expensive ones. Other teams’ management soon began to notice how well Oakland Athletic had done with its limited budget through its cost-effective strategies and were quick to try it out.
In a particular scene after both Billy Beane and Peter Brand talked to the players, Beane went on to approach Dave Justice alone. Dave Justice was one of the newly recruited ‘undervalued’ player that they had decided to signed against the advice and wish of the rest of the scouting crews in Oakland Athletic. Beane was transparent and upfront in relating his difficulties in getting the players to agree on his approaches to Dave Justice, and seek his assistance in stepping up and lead from the field (Stewart, n.d.). Justice was a prime 36 years-old player, and the players respected him. This leadership empowerment to Dave Justice meant that Beane was selfless and truly wanted the team to do well.
Through the lens of Investment Management
It was obvious that budget constraint was the main setback for Oakland Athletics when the 3 outfield players have to leave the team, and they were unable to find quality players from the professional market for transfers. There were many factors that can determine the ‘price tag’ of an outfield player – many could be highly valued if they possess specific specialized skills which may be in any form of pitching, batting, fielding, or all. On the other hand, there could also be unimportant factors that devalued players, for instance being an unpopular left-handed player.
Billy Beane and Peter Brand worked together to recruit these ‘unpopular’, less famed, and ‘cheaper’ alternatives as replacement for the 3 outfield players who have departed for bigger teams. They managed to assemble a team who is worthy to challenge for the Major League Baseball Season, having spent so much lesser as compared to other teams. In other words, their results have far exceeded what they had paid for.
In the context of Investment Management, there were so many fund houses and indexes in the market today. Some are definitely more popular, while some are less appealing. Funds managers who often market themselves as someone who is able to identify under-valued stocks are just like what Peter Brand had done in his role as Oakland Athletic Assistant Manager. In direct comparison, scouting of players were done with statistics on field, and investments can be done with appropriate business analysis with the help of technologies and news sources (Fitzsimmons, 2017). Technologies had greatly improved many passive investment tools such as Exchanged-traded funds (ETFs) or other index funds that has the ability to track the market or a particular market segment of interest more accurately, and most importantly, at a lower ‘price’ in terms of commission fees as compared to actively managed funds. Always be on the look-out for cheaper alternatives, and understand that not all rejected things are not good. It is subjective to the requirement of individual and the expected returns from the ‘investment’.
Moneyball had also shown viewers that the changing landscape in terms of payroll. Organisations and leaders are constantly expected to keep as close to the payroll budget as possible without comprising much of the ‘outfield’ quality. It is also worth noting that statistical comparison is widely used in this decade. For instance, on a particular season, the Tampa team was able to notch a win more than the Red Sox team which had spent comparatively $121.7 million more (Grier, 2011). This would not be a wise investment decision by looking at the result yield.
Through the lens of Start-up Management
Inspiring Start-up to Overcome the Barrier against success
Many start-ups are small set-ups with big ideas and drive, but lack concreate proof of success and establishment to convince investors in backing their ideas and proposals. Lots of hard works, sheer determinations, trials and errors, testing of strategies and products procedures were visible in these start-ups phases. In relating to Oakland Athletics, the loss of the 3 outfield players had prompted Billy Beane and Peter brand to experiment and experience ‘just like a start-up’.
Inability to get funding from investors
Oakland Athletics in a way looks like a typical start-up, being low-cash and a new team of members brought in together. Hencefore, it is rather comparative that many start-ups failed to pitch their start-up ideas and plans to potential investors to get the required funding they are looking for. Billy Beane, in this case a ‘proposal pitcher’, failed to entice its owners into injecting more cash into the team for transfer and salaries. He was instead asked to work with the constraints and although he gained success from his recruitment and strategies employed on the tactical field, he failed as a ‘start-up’ pitcher in requesting for new cash injections plan.
Trust needs to be earned
Billy Beane knew that trust towards his strategies and tactical approaches needs to be earned, especially when they are something that are out of the comfort zones of the players and staff. When he tried to talk to the players and staff to explain his ideas, he received more engagement from them and this had led to the improved performance on field. Taking time out in these ‘talks’ ensured that the expectations and visions can be aligned. In a new-start-up, these talks are often the easiest way to pitch for funding during a presentation.
Growing and expanding the comfort zone
Billy Beane had to study economics at the UC San Diego during his playing career in the season breaks. Even as an executive, he continued to work on his interest such as software and video-game development, authoring articles and being an advisor (Newsville, 2016). In a way, he had never stopped learning. A new start-up also requires the always-learning spirit to better itself and enhance its product speciality and specialisation field in the future after its initial establishment. A start-up may do well by concentrating its efforts on a single product or service at its infant launch stage, but continuing it to the grown phase would be insufficient for the company to have the cutting edge compared to its competitors. It is through constant learning of the market outlook and the analysis of consumer behaviours that the company can develop more products and services to stay competitive and remain relevant to the consumers over time.
Metrics in success
In the film, Billy Beane communicated to his players and staff regularly about his strategies and tactical approaches, before getting them to work on it and improve their game. In business context, everyone in the department or team has a role to play for a larger organisation success. What comes next is the metrics that determines the success of these collective efforts. What defines success and what defines failures?
Through the lens of Hiring Processes
Is experience everything?
In sports, most scouts took on the task to look out for talents who were young and possess certain criteria, such as an established and decorated career. Thus, they rely heavily on such profiles during hiring selections. In hiring context, almost every hiring company are now looking at the interviewee’s work experiences. However, in start-ups or established companies, there are bound to be workers who are going to be sitting for their first job and hence lacking the experience most are looking for. These people may lack the experience, but they have the hunger and talent within them that could possibly make up for it. Therefore, start-ups should hire these individuals in the early days. They could turn out to be one of the future stars that the company had groomed, because most start-ups may not be able to hire existing stars with a bucket of experiences out there.
The Wage War
In the context of Baseball, an established pitcher with a certain years of 5 years of playing experiences may cost a club a weekly wage of $50,000 for instance. This is the industry standard and competitors are all ready to invest such amount of money to lure these pitcher into their respective clubs. When more teams are offering baseline wages, there are bound to be teams that start the wage war by offering even more. What can Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletic do to keep up with these bigger clubs in the midst of their constraints and sourcing for an equivalent established pitcher?
There are many good pitchers who are playing at a lower division or are less experiences, but are able to make up for their hard work in training and some may have better sport attitudes that the established pitchers. These candidates generally are not the first cut for selection for clubs that could offer high wages to tempt the established pitchers away. As a result, Oakland Athletic could work within their financial constraint and still recruit good players, but requires the improvisation of game strategies to stand a higher chance of winning the game. Player’s sole influence is insufficient to win games.
The film Moneyball had provided audiences with ample lessons and learning points to be drawn in the context of leadership, businesses and start-ups, hiring processes and even investments. It is very closely related and applicable to the current outlook of these sectors, where many start-ups opportunities are there for the picking. While leaders and companies often wants to select and hire the cream of crop for any vacancies that are available, they have to bear in mind that not all dream teams consist of stars. When faced with constraints, sufficient opportunities and training can help to polish those discarded and undervalued candidates to be the next potential cream of crop. In-house training programs, leadership and guidance, job rotation and exposures, periodic job review and feedback, are channels of engagement to keep the candidate relevant to his jobs. Not all leaders and managers have to work with constraints in the case of Oakland Athletics’ Billy Beane, but a great leader would be able to do so when called upon, or faced with such situations in bad times.
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