The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. “The one constant through all the years…has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.”
In 1980, Billy Beane forfeited a football and baseball scholarship to Stanford University to sign with the New York Mets. Along with Darrell Strawberry, he had been one of two players the Mets had selected in the first round of the major league draft. Beane had inordinate athletic talent and the “look” of an exceptional physical specimen. A decade later, however, he sported a dismal.219 batting average and felt it was wiser to halt his career and become a scout for the Oakland A’s.
By 1997, he had ascended to the position of the team’s general manager. In so doing, he was prepared to conduct an experiment in sabermetrics a real-life test of Bill James’s new paradigm. What would happen if the team’s decisions were based on scientific data? This experiment was prompted by four factors. First, ironically, his own personal “insider” experience in baseball revealed how wrong insider knowledge could be.
He looked like the prototypical outfielder and wowed the scouts with his sheer athleticism. But, as Beane understood, the hidden reality was that he could not hit very well. Second, when he joined the Athletics, the general manager was Sandy Alderson, a Harvard law school graduate who had never played baseball but who was an advocate of Bill James.
He provided Beane with access to the sabermetrics paradigm. Third, not wed to the traditional insider paradigm, Beane became enamoured with the possibilities that inhered to actuarial decision making. It might give him an edge when competing against other teams. Fourth, the Oakland A’s were financially strapped. With a limited budget, Beane would have to win without the luxury of high-priced players.
Unless he drafted well and traded for bargains, his team would be consigned to the lower echelon of the American League. Beane’s success in using evidence-based baseball is wonderfully chronicled in Michael Lewis’s Moneyball. Dismantling the Athletics’ reigning organizational culture that reflected the traditional insider paradigm, he insisted on making player personnel decisions based on meaningful statistics that could be shown to predict success in the major leagues (such as on-base-percentage).
In so doing, he compiled a team that enjoyed a high level of success. As Table 1 shows, within two years the A’s had a winning record. Then, from 2000 until 2006, the team averaged nearly 95 wins a year. Over the same period, the powerful New York Yankees averaged only two wins more. Michael Lewis’s book, Moneyball, documents the effective use of evidence-based practices by Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics.
Lewis shows how Beane’s reliance on theoretically relevant statistics and on a scientific approach to baseball allowed him to achieve winning seasons despite being burdened by severe budget constraints. His approach spurred much antagonism in the baseball community because it challenged many long-standing, but ultimately unsupported, practices. In this context, Moneyball provides a useful conduit through which to assess why many correctional agencies are ineffective in the services they provide.
In fact, the points of comparison between baseball and correctional practices are striking and warrant careful illumination. Although invaluable, these efforts do not address the reverse side of the coin: If certain programs have few effects, then what does work to reduce recidivism? Again, strides in this direction have been taken, but mostly by a limited and ageing group of scholars.
The challenge ahead is thus for a new generation of managers to engage in knowledge construction that is, to use evidence to design the processes of total quality management. Second, as information on what works continues to mount” as it is now doing”knowledge dissemination will have to occur. Sometimes called “technology transfer,” there are minimal conduits for sharing detailed knowledge on how best to assess and reform offenders.
In many cases, the difficulty is not practitioners’ receptivity to knowledge but their inability to secure training in evidence-based practices. Third, knowledge fidelity will be a continuing concern. Even when evidence-based practices are developed and shared, it will be difficult to ensure that programs are implemented and sustained with integrity.
Limited resources, an absence of follow-up training, shifting staff, a changing political environment and a range of other factors can result in corners being cut and treatments being robbed of their capacity to transform the wayward. It must be an important point of emphasis in the time ahead. Despite these hurdles to surmount, the emergence of evidence-based corrections is an uplifting development.
Michael Lewis’s Moneyball illuminated the power of evidence to achieve wonders in difficult circumstances. It thus created excitement and the chance for new vistas in a sport rich in, but also burdened by, its traditions. To be sure, a statistical, data-driven approach is not a panacea. But as in baseball, this paradigm does offer a formidable and still largely untapped strategy for transforming the correctional landscape.
In so doing, advocates of evidence-based corrections have the potential to improve offenders’ lives and to enhance public safety. This is a worthy adventure to join. Baseball is life. Assignment: After Reading the BOOK (not just watching the movie .), think about baseball, the American past-time, as a constant, how can it be that it has changed?
Many organizations with a strong sense of tradition and history find it difficult to innovate and adapt to changing times. As a manager, you are required to initiate, innovate, and impact change! Construct a paper that answers each of the questions below (not a Q&A!) but a paper that incorporates the answers to the questions into a logical and complete paper.
Your answers should include specific references to events in the book and relate these events to the readings assigned and the topics we’ve discussed in the course thus far (using specific references to readings). This is not a Q&A session!!!!! This is not a book summary!!!! This is a full-fledged paper!!! If you simply give me a numbered answer to the questions you will fail this assignment.
You must use outside resources, opinions, examples from the book, etc. Use proper APA6.0 citations for your sources. Please do not scout the internet (like Course Hero) and find a pre-fab answer, I want your opinion. Guide topics for you to explore (this is not a Q&A list – it is by no means a COMPLETE listing of what the assignment should include – these are just “food for thought” and some guided directions for you).
What is the central issue that the Oakland As organization is facing? What is happening in the organization’s external environment? What needs to change? (characterize both evolutionary and revolutionary changes) The “paradox of planned organizational change” “changes are often planned in a linear fashion (step 1, step 2”) when in fact change is very nonlinear.
What were some of the interim “messy” consequences of Billy Bean’s planned changes that created additional challenges for him? Resistance is a big factor that can derail organizational changes. Describe three different instances of resistance to change Billy Bean encountered (one each: Blind, Political & Ideological).
Did Billy Bean successfully overcome the resistance? If yes, how? If not, why not? Analyze Billy Bean’s leadership strategy as it relates to facilitating organizational change. Use concepts from both the novel and textbook to help you analyze Bean’s leadership characteristics & style and how those played a role in managing the organizational change (noting pre-launch, launch, implementation and sustaining change phases).
Do you have to succeed at something in order to accomplish real organizational changes? Why/why not? Justify your answer with examples/facts from the book. Use the theories from Moneyball, and tell us how your management style will or will not be affected and why.
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