I finished Moneyball recently, having found to my surprise that it was in my local library. It appealed immensely to me, I think in part because I'm the ideal target audience: a scientifically-trained, analytically-minded person with no experience playing baseball, only a self-taught love of the game. I need to read it again to really internalize the contents, but for whatever it's worth, here are a few things I experienced/learned/appreciated from the experience. This isn't very polished because it's summer and I'm crazy busy and tired, but thought this might make good filler for the All Star Break, when we won't have anything new to rant about (crossing fingers).
1) The basic concept is so freakin' obvious it's hard to grasp why it's so hard to grasp. I was actually a bit shocked that pre-Beane things were as different as they were. But it's not something I'd heard or read much before in following baseball as a casual fan since the mid-90s.
2) I can well understand the reluctance to let outsiders redefine an industry; the same thing is happening in farming as a wave of young people have been (re)entering direct-market farming for the past decade and challenging most of the conventional wisdom about how farming and the food supply should be run. The story of an outsider trying to change or fix a screwed-up system from the inside is basically my career arc, though we have a lot less resources than Billy Beane and a lot more decks stacked against us, particularly in the government. But I recognize the passion and the frustration.
3) Helps me understand why some people follow well-run teams instead of local teams. I had never given much thought to the differences between organizations before, at least in terms of a systematic skill or dysfunction. I've always assumed the way to be a good fan was to follow whatever your local team happened to be, and people who followed faraway teams for no reason were bandwagon goofballs. The book actually opened my eyes to the possibility of "rewarding" a well-run organization with support for more rational reasons than liking the logo or something.
This is dangerous to my still-young Royals fandom. Once you remove geography as a prime factor in fandom, and mix in modern technology with archaic broadcast protectionism, it's clear that someone like me would be far better off following a non-local team that actually does things right and can be watched online. I don't know how to handle this concept.
4) I hadn’t fully appreciated the extent to which minor leagues could be a coherently managed supply chain rather than a loose set of independent affiliates. Or conversely, could really screw with a big-league team if not managed as such. I understood much more clearly the value of teaching an organizational approach from the bottom up, not just trying to graft it onto players at the top. I also understood more clearly how players are developed, rather than just let rise/fall naturally.
5) Moneyball has ruined baseball for me as I knew it. I immediately started being annoyed at things the radio crews were saying. I watched Major League for the first time on a rare afternoon off, and kept thinking things like "wait, why are they always showing walks as being a pitcher's screwup" and so on. It was a better film than I was expecting, as someone who generally doesn't like goofy/offensive comedies, but I couldn't watch it with a light-hearted casual fan's appreciation as I might have been able to a week before. I'm screwed. Thanks, RR.
6) Do sabermetrics inherently appeal more to people further from the game? I can't help but notice that many of the most educated contributors on RR aren't from KC, or at least haven't lived/been there in a long time. They experience the game the way Billy Beane does, not from the field but from a more detached perspective. I know that's a cliche, especially when turned in the opposite direction, but the book made me think harder about the difficulty balancing an analytical approach to a sport built and marketed on human storylines.
Anyway, don't know if any of this is sensible or interested, but it can die a quiet death if not. Or Nick Scott can come convince me to follow the Rays (I do have a TB hat) since he was instrumental in drawing me deeper into Royals fandom in the first place.