Base on Balls

08/12/2020 CHRC

Base on Balls

Maybe it’s my mom’s fault. When I was only six months old, she discovered that watching the Detroit Tigers on TV captivated me and gave her time to get things done. Then again, maybe it’s my dad’s fault because when he took me to games, he taught me how to keep score, the old-fashioned way, the way that you can go back and check which field a batter hit a pop fly in the third inning. (Foreshadowing my work with performance management tools?)

All blame aside, I love baseball. I still keep score whenever I’m lucky enough to go to a game; mocked until the seventh inning when someone does want to know what that guy did in the previous at-bats. So perhaps it was because I cannot go see a game in person this summer, that over the weekend I picked up Moneyball by Michael Lewis. I loved the movie when it came out and couldn’t imagine enjoying the book even more. But, I did.

It is so amazing to read how recruiters (scouts) with so many statistics at their fingertips, even before the advent of personal computers, still relied on gut and feel instead of cold, hard math. Getting on base and scoring runs wins games. Looking good in the uniform and having “the face” does not. I absolutely love Billy Beane’s line: “Are you selling jeans?” 

The biases in business do not differ very much from those exposed in professional baseball. I have been lucky enough to work with the sort of organizational development professionals that design robust competency-based selection tools, yet managers still need to be coached around their empty biases about how a candidate “seems” and “he’s got that look” like he would do well here. 

Even though Michael Lewis’s book is now seventeen years old, it really is a great summer read—especially this summer of fan-less baseball. While remote working has eliminated some of baseless management habits that sluggish managers have relied on for decades, if not centuries, if not millennia, there is plenty of work still to do. Perhaps diving into the lessons in this book will remind us to eschew bad old habits, and develop good new ones, grounded in stats, like your coaches used to drill you on every summer.