Sunday, March 05, 2006

Malcolm Gladwell on Baseball

I've never been a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan. The Tipping Pointwas OK, but I never really bought into many of the arguments in Blink. However, we are on the same page when it comes to the major problem in our favorite sport as Gladwell discusses in Part II of his e-mail interview with Bill Simmons:

It came after the Blue Jays (my team) won the second of their World Series titles. Economic reality hit, and they basically stopped trying to compete at the top level, and I wondered to myself: Why do I care so much about a sport where some teams have $200 million to spend and some teams have $20 million to spend? I know, I know -- as Rob Neyer and others point out -- that there is no necessary correlation between payroll and success. It is possible, as "Moneyball" reminds us, to win with less by being smarter. But the point is not that if you have more money than someone else you automatically win more games. The point is that if you have more money that someone else you're playing a different game than they are. Wal-mart is not competing against mom-and-pop corner stores. They're in a different business. And it isn't fun, at the end of the day, to watch a mom-and-pop compete against Wal-mart. It's painful and pointless.

I loved "Moneyball." I thought it was one of the best books of the past decade. I think it should be taught in psychology classes and business schools as a treatise on the subtle effects of bias on expert decision-making. But do you think that Billy Beane, for a moment, wouldn't trade his situation with Theo Epstein or Cashman? To me, the hard cap in football -- and, to a lesser extent, the soft cap in basketball -- are what makes those sports so interesting. It's what makes them sports. Contests where one player has significantly more resources than another are not sports. They are marketplaces. To root for the Yankees or the Red Sox is the functional equivalent of rooting for Microsoft or General Electric. No thanks."

1 Comments:

Blogger j-bird said...

this is a great point. last year when i was watching football, i kept thinking about how much the cap makes the game more interesting. parity is such a nice thing. baseball is such a pure and beautiful game. the payroll disparity takes away so much of the innocence of the game.

Monday, March 06, 2006  

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"I've had a pretty good success facing Stan (Musial) by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third base."
- Carl Erskine