Moneyball

Billy Beane Character Analysis

The general manager of the Oakland A’s, a Major League Baseball franchise, during the period that Moneyball covers (he remained the general manager beyond the scope of the book, as well). As a younger man, Billy was a promising baseball player in his own right, but he made the mistake of signing a contract to play with the Mets directly out of high school, and then failed to live up to his potential as a professional athlete. As a general manager, Billy tries to use a scientific, statistics-heavy approach to drafting and acquiring ballplayers—in other words, an opposite approach to the talent scouts who assured him that he’d definitely be a great ballplayer. As the most prominent, fleshed-out character in the book, Billy is a mess of contradictions. As general manager, he makes an effort to be cool and rational, but he’s also prone to uncontrollable rages. He insists that coaching and managing can’t change athletes’ identities, and yet he expends millions of dollars and thousands of hours trying to do just that. Most perplexingly, Billy is responsible for initiating a revolution in baseball management, monetizing and economizing the business in ways never before seen—and yet, he seems oddly indifferent to money: when offered a record-breaking contract managing the Red Sox, he turns it down.

Billy Beane Quotes in Moneyball

The Moneyball quotes below are all either spoken by Billy Beane or refer to Billy Beane. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W. W. Norton & Company edition of Moneyball published in 2004.
Chapter 1 Quotes

When things did not go well for Billy on the playing field, a wall came down between him and his talent, and he didn’t know any other way to get through the wall than to try to smash a hole in it. It wasn't merely that he didn’t like to fail; it was as if he didn’t know how to fail.
The scouts never considered this. By the end of Billy’s senior year the only question they had about Billy was: Can I get him?

Related Characters: Billy Beane
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

"Baseball organizations don't understand that with a certain kind of highly talented player who has trouble with failure, they need to suck it up and let the kid develop," Dorfman said. "You don’t push him along too fast. Take it slow, so his failure is not public exposure and humiliation. Teach him perspective—that baseball matters but it doesn't matter too much. Teach him that what matters isn't whether I just struck out. What matters is that I behave impeccably when I compete. The guy believes in his talent. What he doesn't believe in is himself. He sees himself exclusively in his statistics. If his stats are bad, he has zero self-worth. He's never developed a coping mechanism because he's never had anything to cope with."

Related Characters: Harvey Dorfman (speaker), Billy Beane
Page Number: 53-54
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

The A’s front office realized right away, of course, that they couldn't replace Jason Giambi with another first baseman just like him. There wasn't another first baseman just like him and if there were they couldn't have afforded him and in any case that’s not how they thought about the holes they had to fill. The important thing is not to recreate the individual," Billy Beane would later say. "The important thing is to recreate the aggregate.”

Related Characters: Billy Beane (speaker), Jason Giambi
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

Billy Beane wanted him to hit. Hatteberg told his agent to cut a deal with Oakland: one year with a club option for a second with a base salary of $950,000 plus a few incentive clauses. The moment he signed it, a few days after Christmas, he had a call from Billy Beane, who said how pleased he was to have him in the lineup.
And, oh yes, he'd be playing first base.

Related Characters: Billy Beane, Scott Hatteberg
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

The moment he hangs up he calls Mark Shapiro, current owner of Ricardo Rincon, and tells him that he has the impression that the market for Rincon is softening. Whoever the other bidder is, he says, Shapiro ought to make sure his offer is firm.

Related Characters: Billy Beane, Mark Shapiro
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

This was the character whose behavior was consistent with the way he said he wanted to run his baseball team: rationally. Scientifically. This was the "objective" Billy Beane, the general manager who was certain that "you don't change guys; they are who they are." Who will describe his job as "a soap box derby. You build the car in the beginning of the year and after that all you do is push it down the hill." To this Billy Beane's way of thinking there was no point in meddling with the science experiment … But there is another, less objective Billy Beane … And he allows me to see that the science experiment is messier than the chief scientist usually is willing to admit.

Related Characters: Billy Beane (speaker)
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

Coaches, players, reporters: everyone at once starts to worry that the Oakland A’s don't bunt or run. Especially run. Billy Beane's total lack of interest in the stolen base—which has served the team so well for the previous 162 games—is regarded, in the postseason, as sheer folly. Even people who don't run very fast start saying that "you need to make things happen" in the postseason. Take the action to your opponent. "The atavistic need to run," Billy Beane calls it.

Related Characters: Billy Beane (speaker)
Page Number: 269-270
Explanation and Analysis:

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"I made one decision based on money in my life—when I signed with the Mets rather than go to Stanford—and I promised I'd never do it again." After that, Billy confined himself to the usual blather about personal reasons. None of what he said was terribly rational or "objective"—but then, neither was he. Within a week, he was back to scheming how to get the Oakland A’s back to the playoffs, and Paul DePodesta was back to being on his side.

Related Characters: Billy Beane (speaker), Paul DePodesta
Related Symbols: The 2002 Playoffs
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:

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Billy Beane Character Timeline in Moneyball

The timeline below shows where the character Billy Beane appears in Moneyball. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Curse of Talent
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...shouted for the players to run a sixty-meter dash. To the scouts’ amazement, one player, Billy Beane, ran the dash in just 6.4 seconds. (full context)
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Billy Beane had always been a superior athlete. As a high school freshman, he pitched for... (full context)
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In Billy’s senior year, his batting average went down from .500 to .300, possibly because of pressure... (full context)
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...head talent scout from the New York Mets, Roger Jongewaard, was rumored to be considering Billy Beane for his first pick (the other possibility was a then-unknown Darryl Strawberry, and the... (full context)
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...decided to take a big risk and extended his second first round draft pick to Billy Beane (his first, first round draft pick was Darryl Strawberry). When Jongewaard made Billy the... (full context)
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Soon after Billy’s decision, he started to get cold feet. He confessed to his parents that he was... (full context)
Chapter 2: How to Find a Ballplayer
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At the age of forty, Billy Beane was the general manager (GM) of the Oakland A’s: as a GM, his job... (full context)
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In his previous years as GM of the A’s, Billy had allowed scouts to take the lead with the draft. In 2001, Billy’s head scout,... (full context)
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In 2002, Grady Fuson had cause for alarm. Billy clearly didn’t approve of his method of choosing players, and he’d been talking with his... (full context)
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...Beck was the first unlikely player Paul identified with the help of statistics. In 2002, Billy was determined to use Paul’s methods to choose more players. (full context)
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...2002 was an important year for the A’s because the team had seven first-round picks. Billy needed to seize his opportunity, using Paul’s methods. (full context)
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Billy, Paul, and the team of scouts begin weeding through the prospective players. Erik Kubota, the... (full context)
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...the scouts begin ranking everyone. They talk about a player named Nick Swisher, in whom Billy is very interested. Unusually, Billy has refrained from traveling to see Swisher’s games, for fear... (full context)
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The conversation turns to other players, and Billy begins to argue with his scouts. The scouts name strong, powerful players who, on paper,... (full context)
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The next player is Jeremy Brown. The traditionally-minded scouts find it absurd that Billy is so interested in Brown, since Brown barely made the cut to be considered for... (full context)
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Billy and Paul assemble a list of eight college ballplayers, none of whom are particularly popular... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Enlightenment
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In the 1980s, after Billy Beane signed with the Mets, he felt uncomfortable. Oblivious to his reticence, the Mets general... (full context)
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Billy’s problems continued throughout his time with the Mets’ Double-A team. His roommate, Lenny Dykstra, rose... (full context)
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Billy was an exceptionally talented player: fast, quick-thinking, hard-working. His great weakness was that he couldn’t... (full context)
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For the next few years, Billy moved back and forth between Triple-A and big league teams in Detroit, Oakland, and Minnesota.... (full context)
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Why did Billy’s career never pan out? His friends and teammates offered hundreds of explanations. He lacked confidence;... (full context)
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In 1990, Billy was twenty-seven years old—the prime of his baseball-playing years—and newly married to his high school... (full context)
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At the time when Billy was becoming a talent scout, the A’s were going through a series of major changes.... (full context)
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In the early nineties, Billy Beane worked as a talent scout. His wife left him, supposedly because she thought he... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Jeremy Brown Blue Plate Special
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...late nineties that a “man of action” applied intellectuals’ ideas to the sport. In 1997, Billy Beane had become GM of the Oakland A’s, and he’d read a lot of Bill... (full context)
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On the morning of the amateur draft, Billy Beane contemplates some of the unlikely players that he and Paul have identified. One, a... (full context)
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One of Billy’s other scouts has told Billy about a promising but overweight fielder named Jeremy Brown. Brown... (full context)
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Billy Beane gets a call from another GM, J. P. Ricciardi, of the Blue Jays, telling... (full context)
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Moments later, Billy calls Steve Phillips of the Mets and asks him about Swisher. Phillips tells Billy that... (full context)
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Billy Beane examines the list he’s put together: eight pitchers and twelve position players. His list... (full context)
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...schoolers that, historically, have a high chance of failing to live up to their potential. Billy and Paul aren’t reckless gamblers anymore: they’re shrewd card-counters. (full context)
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...Oakland A’s get to pick Nick Swisher. For the next rounds of the draft pick, Billy consults frequently with Paul and Erik. To their amazement, nobody takes Joe Blanton, another talented... (full context)
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For Billy’s next choice, he selects Jeremy Brown—a choice which will make him a laughingstock. For the... (full context)
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...it at the time, the A’s new strategy will change the way baseball is played. Billy Beane is, in any ways, ideally positioned to change baseball: he’s seen, first-hand, the inadequacy... (full context)
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After the draft is over, one of Billy’s scouts tells him that Mike Kriger, shortstop for the University of Florida, who’d previously been... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Science of Winning an Unfair Game
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In the 2002 draft, Billy Beane faced a crisis: how to make the Oakland A’s into a viable team with... (full context)
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In 1999, Billy Beane had presented to Paul Volcker, arguing that his own team’s success was, in essence,... (full context)
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...a lucrative contract with the Saint Louis Cardinals. Isringhausen had been a minor-league pitcher before Billy acquired him in 1999. Billy reinvented Isringhausen as a “closer”—i.e., a pitcher who can wrap... (full context)
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The second major player that Billy traded away in 2001 was Johnny Damon, a center fielder. In many ways, the decision... (full context)
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...DePodesta interned for the Cleveland Indians, he met Mauriello and Armbruster. In 1998, he convinced Billy Beane to hire AVM Systems to help the A’s calculate their players’ value. (full context)
Chapter 7: Giambi’s Hole
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...Jason Giambi. Giambi was so talented that the A’s couldn’t find a good replacement; however, Billy Beane told his employees to focus on “recreating the aggregate” of Giambi, in other words,... (full context)
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Michael Lewis goes to talk to Billy Beane, who’s in the weight room. As he walks over, he realizes that Billy spends... (full context)
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In the fourth inning, Michael Lewis finds Billy Beane, who, as usual, has been tuning in to the game in brief, nervous snatches.... (full context)
Chapter 8: Scott Hatteberg, Pickin’ Machine
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...to the Toronto Blue Jays, one of the worst teams in the league. In response, Billy Beane sent the big league’s starting first baseman, starting second baseman, and starting pitcher back... (full context)
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...that, for a nice stretch after the A’s acquired him, Mabry was batting .400. Nevertheless, Billy Beane refused to put Mabry in the regular lineup. Billy didn’t like that Mabry was... (full context)
Chapter 9: The Trading Desk
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That evening, Billy Beane waits for a call from Mark Shapiro, the GM of the Cleveland Indians. He’s... (full context)
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Billy Beane wants to get rid of Mike Magnante and acquire a talented player named Ricardo... (full context)
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After fifteen minutes of conferring with Paul, Billy calls Steve Phillips, the GM of the Mets, and asks him for 233,000 dollars and... (full context)
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Billy hangs up the phone, and his assistant tells him that Pete Gammons, a reporter from... (full context)
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Billy can be brutal with his managing. For instance, only a few months after acquiring Jeremy... (full context)
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Early in July, Billy made another set of trades. Recognizing that one of the stars of the Oakland A’s,... (full context)
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While he’s been talking to Gammons, Billy misses a call from the Montreal Expos GM, Omar Minaya, the man “who controls the... (full context)
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Billy suggests that Minaya send Cliff Floyd to him “for a few minutes, and let Billy... (full context)
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Billy hangs up and realizes that he’s spent too much time talking to Omar Minaya—he needs... (full context)
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...afterwards, Ricardo Rincon, who is from Veracruz, Mexico, and doesn’t speak fluent English, meets with Billy. Billy tells Rincon that, effective immediately, he’s on the A’s, and that he’ll be playing... (full context)
Chapter 10: Anatomy of an Undervalued Pitcher
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In 2000, Billy Beane, acting on Paul’s advice, called the GM of the White Sox and asked him... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Human Element
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...win its twentieth straight game. Reporters from CNN, ESPN, and other channels wanted to interview Billy Beane about how he’d put together a record-setting team. Billy was reluctant to handle so... (full context)
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Michael Lewis talks with Billy Beane in the middle of the game. Billy talks about how his shortstop, Eric Chavez,... (full context)
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...Soon, the bases are loaded, with nobody out. Quickly, the score becomes 11-6, 11-7. Disgusted, Billy mutters, “what a fucking embarrassment.” (full context)
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...if in disbelief, he runs around the bases. “Not five minutes later,” Michael Lewis concludes, “Billy Beane was able to look me in the eye and say that it was just... (full context)
Chapter 12: The Speed of an Idea
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...2002 playoffs. In their penultimate game of the regular season, they face the Texas Rangers. Billy Beane and his staff discuss how they’re going to have to lose Ray Durham next... (full context)
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...things happen. First, Art Howe holds a meeting with the press in which he criticizes Billy for not giving him a long-term contract. Second, fans, GMs, managers, coaches, and players begin... (full context)
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Billy said, “My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to... (full context)
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After the 2002 season, Billy Beane agreed to manage the Red Sox for 12.5 million dollars over five years—the highest... (full context)
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Reporters everywhere talked about how Billy Beane was going to become the highest-paid GM in history. Then, suddenly, Billy called the... (full context)