'Moneyball' guru Beane speaks at Villanova

Billy Beane, baseball by numbers guru, was part of a panel at Villanova.
Billy Beane, baseball by numbers guru, was part of a panel at Villanova.
Posted: February 11, 2012

Moneyball was born as the 1993 Phillies were dying.

Billy Beane, the general manager and now part-owner of the Oakland A's - who developed the statistically based system of player analysis out of financial necessity - told a Villanova Law School symposium Friday that his successful philosophy was inspired by the surprising success of that Phillies team.

"I was right here in Philadelphia watching the World Series [which the Phils lost to Toronto]," said Beane, who was part of a panel discussing "Moneyball's Impact on Business and Sports." "Those '93 Phillies took a ton of pitches, walked a ton, and scored a ton of runs. That's when it hit me."

On the panel with Beane, who employed his epiphany to help the low-budget A's become one of baseball's most cost-effective teams, were Omar Minaya, the ex-Mets GM who now holds that position with the Padres; Jeff Moorad, the successful sports agent turned San Diego Padres owner, and MSNBC president Phil Griffin. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell moderated the discussion attended by about 1,500 at Villanova's Pavilion.

The ongoing appeal of Moneyball attracted so much interest, organizers said, that the symposium had to be moved from a campus auditorium to the basketball arena.

Originally a front-office philosophy for small-market teams, then a best-selling book, and more recently an Oscar-nominated film starring Brad Pitt as Beane, Moneyball was portrayed as a guide to successful business.

Griffin, who has no direct link to baseball, said he'd used the principles in his successful campaign to push MSNBC into the No. 2 spot, behind Fox News and ahead of CNN, in the cable-news wars.

"Challenge authority," Griffin said. "Tradition will kill you. . . . Understand and know your business."

A No. 1 pick of the New York Mets who had a forgettable career as a player, Beane told an audience packed with Phillies fans that he'd roomed with Lenny Dykstra, the gritty, tobacco-drooling star of both the Phils and Mets.

"And believe it or not," Beane said, shattering a popular stereotype of Dykstra, "he was the neatest roommate I ever had."


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068, ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com, or @philafitz on Twitter. Read his blog, "Giving 'Em Fitz," at www.philly.com/fitz

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