Billy Beane was considered the hottest of prospects, a preternaturally gifted and athletic high-school outfielder whom scouts were comparing favorably to another Southern California talent, Darryl Strawberry. When the deep-pocketed New York Mets plied him with a $150,000 signing bonus (big money in 1980), Beane scrapped his plans to attend Stanford and packed for the big leagues, where his alleged potential could no longer hide the free-swinging bust he'd always been. Now widely considered the best general manager in the game, Beane has turned the small-market Oakland A's–with the league's second-smallest payroll, at roughly $40 million–into a dominant franchise, defying all concerns about competitive imbalance. (The Yankees' payroll: $140 million.) The secret of his success? Making sure that no Billy Beanes ever play for the Oakland A's. If other GMs had any sense, they'd treat Michael Lewis' inspired and scabrously funny Moneyball like a revolutionary manifesto and immediately fire everyone in the front office, replacing the old scouts with a pack of Ivy League number-crunchers. In a sport where great minds wander a forest of subjectivity, Beane and his right-hand man, Paul DePodesta, never trust their eyes when considering players, unless those eyes are staring down at a stat sheet. On draft day, Beane never selects high-schoolers over college players. He believes hitters are a more reliable commodity in early rounds than pitchers, and he considers on-base percentage more important than batting average or slugging percentage, because plate discipline can rarely be taught. The "look" of a ballplayer means nothing to him (hence his surprise selection of Jeremy Brown, a lard-assed catcher who shattered the University Of Alabama record books), and he doesn't care much for base-stealing, sacrifice bunts, and other "small-ball" tactics. With so little money at his disposal, Beane has adopted a strategy of drafting players who can contribute quickly (i.e., within the six years of indentured servitude that bind all draftees before they can go for the big free-agent dollar), and trading for veteran castaways like Scott Hatteberg or David Justice, who simply know how to get on base. Performance means everything, potential nothing, which is why Beane's outstanding young pitching staff is stocked with light-throwing aces like Barry Zito, whose cagey style had been passed over for dozens of no-name fireballers. Following the A's 2002 season, in which they topped the toughest division in baseball, Lewis brings the same excitement and adventure to the numbers game as he did to his gripping business exposés Liar's Poker and The New New Thing. In the Beane spirit, he also spends chapters on figures who would get sniffed at by the old guard, like Bill James, editor of the influential Baseball Abstract (a Bible for stathounds) and undervalued role players like Hatteberg and middle-reliever Chad Bradford. Some might question Beane's wisdom in giving all his secrets away, but if Moneyball attests to anything, it's that baseball traditions can be as hardheaded as they are sacred.