AZ Alkmaar hire “MoneyBall” Hero Billy Beane
Dutch club AZ Alkmaar have hired Billy Beane with the hope of developing their own “Moneyball” football program and the American data analysis guru was quick to express his excitement at this new opportunity: “I’m truly excited for the opportunity to be part of AZ Alkmaar in an advisory role. Despite being a great football club with a long history, they face many of the challenges we have with the Oakland A’s. My love for football and AZ’s vision of the future of the club made this an attractive pursuit.” Beane has had a longstanding fascination with European football, citing Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger as a manager he admires for his blend of performance on the pitch and financial prudence and he has said in the past that it was his dream to be an executive at a football club once his baseball career ended and a top football prediction is that he will have success here too.
Beane will retain his general manager duties with the Oakland A’s, a team that remains competitive despite sporting one of the lowest payrolls in Major League Baseball and the A’s have qualified for MLB’s playoffs each of the past three seasons, only to be knocked out before the World Series. Critics of baseball’s sabermetrics system, the use of data to analyze the sport, are quick to point out that Beane has never won a title with the A’s. AZ’s director of football Earnie Stewart is a known “Moneyball” fan himself, having organized a screening for his fellow AZ execs shortly after joining the club. The former U.S. midfielder, who scored against Colombia in the 1994 World Cup, is half-Dutch and hopes the collaboration with Beane can give the club an extra edge. “We’ve had a lot of contact with Billy In the last few months. His knowledge and ideas are impressive. Also Billy’s soccer network is excellent. We have already noticed that Billy thinks two steps ahead in the area of innovation. That’s what really connects with the ambitions of AZ.”
Like the A’s, AZ have managed to compete with the big boys of the Dutch league, mainly PSV and Ajax, on a limited budget, winning the domestic league twice, most recently in 2009, while finishing in the top five in three of the past five seasons. Beane’s philosophy is that one must get the maximum value for each player bought or sold: “There is a misconception that you never pay much for anybody, but that is not true at all. You want to make sure you are getting more value than you are paying. That may come in the form of a very expensive player, it may come in the form of a very young player, but it’s not about being cheap or not spending money.”
A top sports betting expert would have to suggest that markets for players are much more inefficient in soccer than in baseball so there is a much bigger opportunity in soccer that there ever was in baseball. No matter what one thinks about data in sports, Beane is likely to relish the challenge of imparting his knowledge to the boardrooms of European football initially as an advisor before taking up a full time role. Furthermore, because we know that in football we are 10 years behind baseball’s MoneyBall era, the best football tipsters will be predicting the success of any who decide to follow in this path!