Michael Lewis has a sharp, at times caustic, article in Sports Illustrated this week responding to the critics of his best-selling book, “Moneyball.” (The article isn’t available on the net, but it’s worth picking up the latest issue on the newsstand.) Lewis details his experience writing the book, and clarifies his relationship with the Oakland front office. He also examines how organized baseball is run more like a Club than a business, and how many mainstream newspapermen are card-carrying members of that Club. Lewis was bemused by the criticism directed at Billy Beane:
It was, in a perverse way, an author’s dream: The people most upset about my book were the ones unable to divine that I had written it.”
Here is Lewis’ reaction to Tracy Ringolsby’s brusque dismissal of the book. For Ringolsby:
The problem wasn’t just that Beane’s ego was out of control. It was that the author of Moneyball “has a limited knowledge of baseball and a total infatuation with Billy Beane.”
A limited knowledge of baseball–it sounds damning enough, but what does it mean? It doesn’t mean that there’s some distinct body of insider knowledge that he has mastered, or if it does, Ringolsby produces no evidence of it. It cannot mean the knowledge that might only come from playing the game, for he himself never got beyond Babe Ruth baseball. And it most certainly does not mean that he has some special understanding of what these people in Oakland are up to, because he has shown scant interest in interviewing them. Think of it! A guy who makes his living writing about baseball, working himself into a fine lather about Billy Beane’s radical experiment in Oakland and never, according to Beane himself, asking for an explanation. A limited knowledge of baseball: What it means, so far as I can tell, is that Ringolsby is just another guy who’s assigned himself the job of barring people from the game who, in his view, have no business inside. He’s not a writer. He’s a bouncer.
But he has his own moment, this fellow. When he sits down to write his column he knows in his heart that he speaks for a lot of people who work just off the field of play. He may belong only to the women’s auxiliary of the Club, but his views of the game reflect those of the actual members. A lot of people who make the decisions about building baseball teams think the way he does. That’s why it’s possible for a team with no money to win so many games.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it.