Billy Beane revolutionized the way baseball players are valued and also exploited the advantages of timing.
The reason his Oakland A’s played like a different team in the second half of their 2001 season—zooming from 44-43 before the All-Star break to 58-17 after it—is because they were a different team.
Their general manager, on a shoestring budget, had scooped up undervalued players right before the trading deadline, a time when bad teams usually lose hope and start dumping talent. As the supply of players rises, their prices fall.
Here are the five rules Beane uses when he’s out on a shopping spree.
1. Never let the grass grow under your feet. No matter how successful you are, the status quo is bad and change is good. And when money is tight, you can’t afford long-term solutions, only short-term ones, so make constant small upgrades.
2. Never get yourself into a position where you’re saying, “I have to do something.” That means you’re in trouble and headed for a bad deal. Remember: You can recover from an employee you didn’t hire. It’s tough to recover from a bad hire.
3. Know exactly what every player in your field is worth to you. You can put a dollar figure on it.
4. Know exactly who you want and go after them.
5. Try to listen to bright, honest critics. Every deal you do will be scrutinized. Ignore the fools and the snarks.
—Adapted from “The Trading Desk,” Michael Lewis, The New York Times; Photo: Beane in 2006.