Billy Beane walked up to the New York Stock Exchange on Friday morning, handed his driver’s license to a security guard and was reminded once more of his “Moneyball” fame. “You do a good job,” the guard said. “Not this year,” Beane said, with his Oakland Athletics bound for a last-place finish in the American League West. Bill James walked in just behind him, his name and face eliciting none of the same reaction.
They are two of the most influential figures in the evolution of Major League Baseball, and they are inextricably linked. The data-driven decision-making that made Beane a celebrity was rooted in the work of James, whose early writings on baseball statistics formed the foundation of modern statistical analysis.
But until Friday, the two of them had never actually appeared together in public. The occasion was a conference on the disruption of business models hosted by NetSuite, a software company whose board of directors includes Beane, the longtime Oakland GM.
Before appearing together at the event, Beane and James, a Boston Red Sox senior advisor, sat down with The Wall Street Journal to discuss the future of sabermetrics. Following are edited excerpts from the interview.