With the movie Moneyball out recently (starring Brad Pitt no less) I was inspired to at least read the book.
Partly because some very smart American friends had recommended it, and partly because Michael Lewis wrote it, and anything Michael Lewis has written is worth reading.
And the more I read the book, even as someone who knows next to nothing about baseball, the more I realised that at least a similar approach was what the Brumbies need to adopt if they want to succeed.
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Back in the glory days (late nineties and early noughties) they certainly had a somewhat similar approach. Picking talent in the discards of NSW and Queensland and redefining the way the game was played to suit the strengths of the players available.
But it’s 2012 now, and there are teams in Perth and Melbourne looking to do exactly the same thing with the support of much wealthier target markets than Canberra.
But there’s certainly hope in the new regime at the Brumbies under Jake White.
Most of the known star players have been shown the door and they seem to have picked up a lot of under-rated talent which fits a specific game plan.
This line from the end of the book (when other poor teams started to pick up the moneyball system) sounded familiar:
What happened was that the Jays went, overnight, from being a depressing group of highly paid underachievers to an exciting team. They were younger, cheaper, and better.
(Oh and read the book: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game . Seriously, it’s really about people and management, not baseball)
Some other quotes which seem pertinent:
“Managers tend to pick a strategy that is least likely to fail rather than pick a strategy that is most efficient,” said Palmer. “The pain of looking bad is worse than the gain of making the best move.”
if you challenge the conventional wisdom, you will find ways to do things much better than they are currently done.
What begins as a failure of the imagination ends as a market inefficiency: when you rule out an entire class of people from doing a job simply by their appearance, you are less likely to find the best person for the job.
“You know what gets me excited about a guy? I get excited about a guy when he has something about him that causes everyone else to overlook him and I know that it is something that just doesn’t matter.”
Win with nobodies and the fans showed up, and the nobodies became stars; lose with stars and the fans stayed home, and the stars became nobodies. Assembling nobodies into a ruthlessly efficient machine for winning baseball games, and watching them become stars, was one of the pleasures of running a poor baseball team.
Six television screens display a soundless frenzy. No one in the video room so much as sighs. They have no interest in morality tales. Morality is for fans.