Millions of people have read Michael Lewis’s 2003 best-selling book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The book chronicles the life of Billy Beane a General Manager of the Oakland Athletics who utilized sabermetric principles to run the financially strapped team in an extremely effective way.
Before Bill Beane was a general manager, he was a first-round draft pick for the Mets in 1980, the same year Darryl Strawberry was drafted. Beane looked like Mr. Baseball and was perceived as having an extreme amount of talent, but he never lived up to the hype hitting just .219 with 3 homers in 301 at bats across eight seasons.
Despite his tremendous physical abilities, his inability to mentally deal with his failures is what separated him from the successful players he sat next to on the bench, like Lenny Dykstra.
Here is an excerpt from Moneyball where Beane talks about why he failed as a baseball player:
Physically, Lenny didn’t belong in the same league with him. He was half Billy’s size and had a fraction of Billy’s promise – which is why the Mets hadn’t drafted him until the 13th round. Mentally, Lenny was superior, which was odd, considering Lenny wasn’t what you’d call a student of the game. Billy remembers sitting with Lenny in a Mets dugout watching the opposing pitcher warm up. ‘Lenny says, “So who’s that big dumb ass out there on the hill?” And I say, “Lenny, you’re kidding me, right? That’s Steve Carlton. He’s maybe the greatest left-hander in the history of the game.” Lenny says, “Oh, yeah! I knew that!” He sits there for a minute and says, “So, what’s he got?” and I say, “Lenny, come on. Steve Carlton. He’s got heat and also maybe the nastiest slider ever.” And Lenny sits there for a while longer as if he’s taking that in. Finally, he just says, “Shit, I’ll stick him.” I’m sitting here thinking, that’s a magazine cover out there on the hill and all Lenny can think is that he’ll stick him.”
The point about Lenny, at least to Billy, was clear: Lenny didn’t let his mind screw him up. The physical gifts required to play pro ball were, in some ways, less extraordinary than the mental ones. Only a psychological freak could approach a 100-mph fastball aimed not all that far from his head with total confidence.
“Lenny was so perfectly designed, emotionally, to play the game of baseball,” said Billy. “He was able to instantly forget any failure and draw strength from every success. He had no concept of failure. And he had no idea where he was. And I was the opposite.”
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