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May 8, 2017 | by  | in Sports |
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How to Make Baseball an Object Lesson in Diversity

According Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball: the Art of Winning an Unfair Game, in 2003 a revolution of sorts happened in baseball. A type of Wall Street-based logic invaded the hallowed halls of America’s oldest game. The logic privileged the “objectivity” of statistical models over the traditional and subjective “eye test”, and sought to exploit the market inefficiencies of a game most observers would sum up quite simply as hit, catch, throw, and run.   

In 2017 market-based logic has invaded practically all our sacred spaces and for younger fans, weaned on fantasy sports and computer games, sports and statistics are already inextricable. But for a sport that was moving into its second century of relevance, it’s understandable that the vitriolic ramblings of Bill James would encounter some push back.

It took the failed baseball career of Billy Beane to spark the revolution. Out of highschool Beane opted for professional baseball over a scholarship to Stanford, and, well, sometimes you can lose an unloseable situation. Beane’s disillusionment with the scouting process provided the necessary scepticism required for James’ thinking to gain traction inside of baseball’s traditional guard.  

Beane is played by Brad Pitt in the 2011 film adaption. Alongside Pitt is Jonah Hill, playing Peter Brand, a composite character based largely on Beane’s assistant and Harvard economics graduate Paul DePodesta. When Hill occupies a room of old scouts, the feeling is almost perverse. He simply does not look the part. But this juxtaposition between Pitt’s Beane and Hill’s Brand is ultimately what the story of Moneyball is about. It’s a lesson in diversity that says results will suffer when an entire group is excluded from the room based on appearance and, more importantly, an advantage can be gained from including those who have previously been excluded.

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