A's provide real life sequel to "Moneyball"

Billy Beane
CBS News

(CBS News) OAKLAND - As Yogi Berra once said, "It's deja vu all over again."

A baseball team made up of players no one else wanted has returned to the Major League playoffs. The Oakland A's were pegged to finish last in their division, instead they finished first.

The team is the poorest in Major League Baseball, with a roster filled with rookies and low paid veterans pulled from the junk heap.

"I think most people predicted that not only would we lose 100 [games], maybe 110," said Billy Beane, the A's general manager. "So this has been satisfying."

If what Beane has done with this team sounds like a Hollywood movie, that's because it was made into one already.

Brad Pitt played Billy Beane in the film "Moneyball," which was based on the bestselling book of the same name.

"Moneyball" is the David versus Goliath tale of a General Manager with a small budget for salaries out thinking everyone else in baseball by using a statistical formula to find winning players among baseball's discards.

"We essentially have to have players whose performance is better than what we're paying them," said Beane.

Beane's calculations saw the A's making the playoffs five times between 2000 and 2006. Their success forced many teams to rethink how they were stocking their rosters. Other teams began to copy the A's blueprint. But, then the A's went five seasons without a winning record.

"People just wanted us to cry uncle, like you got to change," said Beane.

He did not change. Instead, Beane began beating the bushes to find no-name players like Johnny Gomes and Brandon Moss.

"It's easy to go out and buy a Ferrari and take it to the racetrack," said Gomes.

But the Oakland A's cannot afford "Ferrari" players, if you understand the car analogy. That is not how the A's plan their roster anyway.

"A lot of Toyotas that just get good mileage," said Moss describing his teammates.

And the reliable players have allowed Oakland to win 94 games this year, with only a $55-million payroll.

By comparison, the New York Yankees spent nearly $200 million on their roster. All that money only got the Yankees one more win than the A's.

This season Beane is living the real life sequel to the movie. In the playoffs again, with a team that no one believed could win.

"I don't remember the early years," said Beane. "Those are great years but I have to go back and read about them because I was so intense during that period. I was very young myself. I don't think I really appreciated [it]. Winning is very hard and to do it consistently is really challenging."

This time though, Billy Beane is enjoying all the fun that comes with winning. Which makes for a great Hollywood ending, but it's even better when it's real life.

  • Jim Axelrod
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    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning" and other CBS News broadcasts.