Tag Archives: Moneyball

Paul Dickson’s Top Baseball Book Selections are Profound

Paul Dickson, who is quickly becoming one of the premier sports biographers in the PaulDicksonPicturebusiness, selected his top five baseball books in an article today in the Wall Street Journal (April 22-23, 2017, p. c10).  The article is entitled “Five Best:  A Personal Choice.”

Dickson, who most recently penned a biography on Leo Durocher, also wrote a classic biography on Bill Veeck.  I read and posted blogs on both of these books, and you can read them here.

Veeck:  (3/14/2014)http://www.15minutebusinessbooks.com/blog/2014/03/14/paul-dicksons-masterpiece-about-bill-veeck/

Durocher: (3/19/2017) http://www.15minutebusinessbooks.com/blog/2017/03/19/dicksons-newest-characterizes-leo-the-lip/

These are Dickson’s top five selections in the WSJ article:

  1. Ball Four by Jim Bouton (1970)
  2. Only the Ball Was White by Robert Peterson (1970)
  3. Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck (1962)
  4. The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams (1970)
  5. Moneyball by Michael Lewis (2003)

I have no problems with any of these selections.  However, if I were making a list, I would have at the very top, the amazing work by George F. Will, entitled Men at Work:  The Craft of Baseball (Macmillan, 1990).  That book has convinced many skeptics and critics who think that professional athletes just play that they actually work.  No, this book proves they work.  And, they work harder and longer at their craft than the vast majority of employees in most professions, including examining multitudes of complex variables in making decisions.  Baseball players, in this book, are not the “boys of summer.”  They are truly men at work.  To me, for baseball fans who read books, it is an essential selection.

Cowlishaw’s List of Sports Books is Intriguing

I enjoy listening to Tim Cowlishaw in Dallas every afternoon on 103.FM.  He is a prominent columnist and reporter for SportsDay in the Dallas Morning News.TimCowlishawPicture

Today, I saw that he published his list of the top 50 sports books, in an article entitled “By My Reading…” (March 15, 2015, p. 14C)  Click the link here and you will see an interactive page that explains why he believes that a book belongs on the list, and what it contributes.

Cowlishaw is a veteran sports reporter in the DFW area.  He also appears on the ESPN national television program “Around the Horn.”  He joined the Dallas Morning News in 1989.  He has been a beat writer for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, and Dallas Stars.  Today, he focuses his work on daily columns.

Drunk on Sports CoverIn 2014, he published his own book, Drunk on Sports (Vigliano Publishing), in which he detailed his struggles and victory over alcoholism.


It was fun to look at Cowlishaw’s list of books.  If I were making such a list, I would include Men at Work by George Will (Easton Press, 1990).  That book explained the game day business of baseball better than anything I have ever seen.  It convinced me, as well as others, that baseball is not “boys at play.”



I was amazed how many of the books I had read, and even saved.  My favorites off his list were:

  • Ball Four by Jim Bouton (Dell, 1971)
  • Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn (Harper and Row, 1972)
  • Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger (De Capo Press, 2000)
  • Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof (Holt, 2000)
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton, 2004)
  • Cosell by Howard Cosell (Playboy Press, 1973)
  • Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer (World Press, 1968)

Cowlishaw did a good job of selecting and explaining why these books were prominent in a very concise way.

After reading it, I wanted to go out to the garage and see if I can pull out some of these.  Some would be yellowed, tattered, and torn.

Of course, I would have to find them first.

We rarely get any comments on our blog posts.  But, I am interested to see if you would add or subtract any sports books from his list after you look it over.



Mojo – I Think We’re In Need of Finding Our Mojo (Ron Washington, & “Multiplier” Leadership)

Ron Washington (Brent Jennings) & Billy Beane (Brad Pitt)

David Justice: Scotty H.
Scott Hatteberg: Yo, what’s up, D.J.?
David Justice: Pickin’ machine.
[Scott laughs]
David Justice: How you likin’ first base, man?
Scott Hatteberg: It’s, uh… it’s coming along. Picking it up. You know, tough transition, but I’m starting to feel better with it.
David Justice: Yeah?
Scott Hatteberg: Yeah.
David Justice: What’s your biggest fear?
Scott Hatteberg: A baseball being hit in my general direction
[Hatteberg and Justice share a laugh]
David Justice: That’s funny. Seriously, what is it?
Scott Hatteberg: No, seriously, that is.
[uncomfortable pause; Hatteberg leaves]
David Justice: Well, hey, good luck with that.
(From the movie, Moneyball)


We have a shortage in this country.  Let’s call it a “Mojo” shortage.  We’re just not quite sure about our future.  We’re seeming a little unsure that we are up to the task.  And it is draining our energy, all around us.

The reasons are plentiful.  This morning, Research in Motion (BlackBerry) announced their first round of layoffs.  Hewlitt Packard has recently implemented a major round of layoffs.  JCPenney has just gotten rid of its President – the turn around is going a little slower than hoped, and things look a little shaky.  American Airlines; well, the very name kind of just makes you sad at the moment.  And that list is just off the top of my head from what I remember the last few days.

But we still have well over 150 million folks showing up to work in this country every day.  And they need to be at their best.  And then, they need to get better in the days to come – better, more capable, smarter.  Liz Wiseman, in her book Multipliers:  How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, writes that the best leaders are Multipliers, not diminishers.  From the book:

“People actually get smarter and more capable around Multipliers.  That is, people don’t just feel smarter; they actually become smarter.  They can solve harder problems, adapt more quickly, and take more intelligent action.”

I’m not sure we have enough Multiplier leaders to go around at the moment.    I think we’ve got a Mojo deficiency, a Mojo shortage that must be addressed.

And I think we all need to be Mojo strengtheners, not Mojo stealers, Mojo diminishers.

Consider Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers.  The Texas Rangers are currently on a roll, but his strengths were evident much earlier.  His Multiplier abilities are described really well by Michael Lewis in Moneyball – The Art of Winning an Unfair Game:

Ron Washington was the infield coach because he had a gift for making players want to be better than they were — though he would never allow himself such a pretentious thought.

Billy Beane, with little money to work with, had to turn ball players with little potential in critical aspects of their job into functioning big leaguers.  Now, by definition, “big leaguers” are the true “A players.”  But even those good enough to get to the big leagues are not “A” players in every aspect of the game.  One case was Scott Hatteberg, a former catcher whose body would no longer perform the catcher’s role, had to be turned into a first baseman.  He was terrified at the challenge.  (see the dialogue from the movie, above).  But a first baseman has to be able to perform, play after play after play.  So the infield coach, Ron Washington, had to turn him into a big league first baseman.  Fast.

From the book, Moneyball:

The more he (Scott Hatteberg) went out to play first base, the more comfortable he felt there.  By late June, he could say with a smile that “the difference between spring training and now is that when a ground ball comes at me now, my blood pressure doesn’t go through the roof.”  A large part of the change was due to Wash.  Wash got inside your head because  — well, because you wanted Wash inside your head.  Every play Hatty made, including throws he took from other infielders, he came back to the dugout and discussed with Wash.  His coach was creating an alternative scale on which Hatty could judge his performance.  He might be an absolute D but on Wash’s curve, he felt like a B, and rising.  “He knew what looked like a routine play wasn’t a routine play for me,” said Hatty.  Wash was helping him fool himself, to make him feel better than he was, until he actually became better than he was.  At the Coliseum it was a long way from the A’s dugout to first base, but every time Hatty picked a throw out of the dirt – a play most first basemen made with their eyes closed – he’d hear Wash shout out from the dugout:  “Pickin’ Machine!”  He’d look over and see Wash with his fighting face on.  “Pickin’ Machine!”  He began to relax.  He began to want the ball to be hit to him.

“He began to want the ball to be hit to him.”  He found his Mojo.  He was ready for work.  He was ready for his work.  He was up to the task.  And much of the credit was due to a Multiplier leader like Ron Washington.

The books are filled with the advice.  Look for the good.  Build on strengths.  Praise often.  Tell the stories of success far and wide.  They all boil down to this:  don’t steal anyone’s MojoStrengthen it.  Because until a person “begins to want the ball hit to him,” there is little chance of the success we all want, and need.

So, are you in a leadership position?  Consider the people around you – are you stealing their Mojo, or strengthening it?  This may be the ultimate test, the ultimate trait, of good leadership.

Reflecting on one “Values Deficiency” of the Ol’ Boys Network – (And Why We Need a “New Women’s Network”)

Do you know why they call it the “ol’ boys network?”  Because it’s filled with men who never quite grew up, and they like their clubhouse to still be a very exclusive club.

So, if you’re not part of their group, play by their rules, see the world their way, you can’t break in to the ol’ boys club.  Whether you are male or female.

And, in spite of the incredible increase in the numbers of women, holding the larger number of all levels of college degrees, and getting hired in law firms and orchestras and companies and everywhere else, it seems, it is still an ol’ boys world that can’t quite make the right kind of room for these “outsiders.”

There’s a scene in Moneyball where Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is trying to make a dent in the ol’ boys network.  It is not an easy task.   Watch (trouble viewing the video? – click here):

I thought of all this as I revisited the terrific book by Margaret Heffernan, How She Does It:  How Women Entrepreneurs are Changing the Rules of Business Success.  Here’s a key excerpt:

What motivated them (entrepreneurial women) after they had started was strikingly uniform: They were all driven to succeed for their workforce. (emphasis added). They may have started for themselves, but they kept going for others.
This has profound implications for the businesses women run and the way they run them. The bond between looking after the business and looking after the people is not rhetoric, and nurturing isn’t weakness; it is what explains their success. When you feel such passionate affinity with, and responsibility for, your employees, then you put values, ethics, and culture squarely at the center of every decision you make. If that sounds a bit too much like social work, it is worth remembering that these companies are highly lucrative.

“Driven to succeed for their workforce…”  In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg speaks of the power of “keystone habits,” organizational habits that shape the entire organizational culture.  I think the evidence continues to build that we have put the pursuit of profits, and other such values, above the value of “nurturing the members of your workforce.”  And I think we need some kind of major refocus, a “reset,” with a new set of keystone habits to put nurturing the members of our workforces front and center.

And when we do, values just might be rediscovered.  Because if you value something other than people, I’m not sure it’s a very valuable value.

Values matter now, says Gary Hamel.  Nurturing the members of your workforce is a value that comes out clearly in women-owned businesses.  Maybe we all need to help such women break right on through and past all those “ol’ boys clubs.”  I’m not sure we will be able to value the right values with the “ol’ boys” always in charge.  Maybe we really do need more “new women’s networks” to counteract the narrow, values-deficient nature, of all those “ol’ boys clubs.”

Managers & Supervisors; Teachers, Coaches, & Mentors – thoughts on Developing Employees

What am I?  Just a teacher – a member of one of the great professions in the world.  
John Wooden, Wooden on Leadership

“For a lot of employees, Starbucks is their first professional experience… So we try to figure out how to give our employees the self-discipline they didn’t learn in high school.”
Quoted in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg


So, let’s state the problem simply.  Many employees are not equipped to do the actual jobs that they are hired to do.  Even if an employee has the “skills,” or at least the “knowledge” to do some jobs, they have to grow into these jobs in a lot of ways.  (Learning to make the right mixture and temperature of the coffee drink is a different skill than knowing how to successfully interact with a customer the “Starbucks way”).

In other words, developing employees is one of the critical needs of the era.

So, what do we do about it?

My colleague Karl Krayer, in his Team-Building workshops, talks about the two kinds of roles every team member fills.  The first kind is the “official/formal” role.  Captain; secretary; leader; foreman; “member” (every team member is always, officially a “member”).  But there are other roles, the “unofficial/informal” roles that are never officially assigned.  These are roles that people just seem to step into based partly on the power of their personality.  These are roles such as the team “cheerleader;” the team “mother;” the team “counselor.”  People have natural gifts, and tendencies , and they fill these roles just because that is who they are.  These roles are “good,” and helpful to every group.  Encourage folks to fill these roles.  (There are also some “bad” unofficial roles, such as “slacker;” “pain-in-the-rear.”  These are not good roles, and must be guarded against constantly).

Well, in the realm of employee development, I think there is this same official-unofficial (formal-informal) reality at work.  Some people have a job title that represents some form of “leadership.”  Here’s a representative list:

Team Leader
Shift Foreman
Exeucutive Team

But for an employee who needs to be developed (and, don’t we all?!), there is also a great need for someone(s) to fill another set of roles; “unofficial” roles, but roles that are critical.  Here’s one list of such roles:

Vice Principal (a disciplinarian role).

I think that in this under-managed, under-led era, there is also an under-coached, under-taught, under-mentored problem that must be addressed if we want to develop our employees.

Some of these roles can be filled (should be filled) by the people with the official titles.  But there is also a need for “everyone” to start letting their natural gifts help build others.

Stephen Bishop (playing David Justice), Moneyball

Consider:  in the movie Moneyball, there is a terrific scene when Billy Bean asks David Justice, now in the last days of his playing career, to step up and help the younger players know how to play this game.  He had no title for this role.  But Justice “got it,” and agreed to step up for this challenge.  “Coach; mentor; teacher.”  There is an element to each of these in the challenge that David Justice accepted.

So, here is what a good manager/supervisor needs to spend some time on.  Look carefully at each employee.  Does this particular employee need some teaching, or coaching, or some discipline, or some soft-skills development?  Once the need is clearly identified, then the pairing begins to put the right coach or mentor or teacher with the employee.

Because, when the hiring is done, the employee does not usually arrive fully developed.  With the right management, and the right teaching/coaching/mentoring, that employee just might rise to meet and exceed all of your high expectations.

Without such attention and help, we should not be surprised when employees cease to develop.

Michael Lewis: The Financial Crisis is a Moral Crisis

Iceland; Ireland; Greece; California.  They are all in trouble – deep, serious trouble.  The debts are massive.  The way out looks…  well, there doesn’t seem to be a very workable way out.

And the financial situation in other corners of the globe have ripple effects in every corner of the globe like never before.  What happens here does not stay here, not in the financial arena.

This is the disturbing message of the new Michael Lewis book, Boomerang:  Travels in the New Third World.  I’m reading this book, and preparing a synopsis for a client group.  It is Michael Lewis at his best – great storytelling, with plenty of “this is really important, and genuinely enlightening” insights.  I have read, and presented three other books by Lewis:  The New, New Thing; Moneyball; The Big Short.  They are all still worth reading.  This new one, Boomerang, just adds to my appreciation of Lewis as a writer and thinker, even as it adds to my understanding of the current fiscal crisis.

But it is more than a financial crisis alone.  It is a moral crisis.  Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Lewis conducted by Fareed Zakaria.

“I think we get the democracy we deserve, and in California it’s very hard to argue otherwise.  We have essentially direct democracy – all big fiscal decisions are made by the people by plebiscite.  And the idea that somehow in essence the people are not getting what they want – they are getting what they want.  That’s the problem.
They (the people in California) are getting what they want.  They want public services, and they don’t want to pay for them.  They want to cheat the future for the present.  And that’s not just a financial problem.  That’s a cultural/moral problem.”  (emphasis added).

A moral crisis.  And a moral crisis requires a moral solution.  And, so far, I’m not reading much in the solution department.

We live in a troubling time.


Here’s the interview with Lewis.  The excert above is just after 3:30 in the video.