Friday, August 21, 2015


Several years ago,  I did something I rarely do: I went to a movie. Along with Greg Glenn, I went to watch Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and based on the book of the same name. The following entry is from April 19 of 2006. Although my dad is not mentioned in this devotional, I read the book in question because of him. This may sound silly but as Dad and his fellow elders were putting together a new staff for their congregation, he read the book Moneyball to see how the Oakland A's assembled their squad. Think there is no correlation between the Bible and baseball? Read on!

 Our hometown NBA franchise is watching a brutal season limp to a mostly unwatched conclusion. The Houston Rockets possess two of the planet's superior basketball talents in Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. Unfortunately, both have spent significant portions of the year on the disabled list with a variety of injuries. Recently, the Rockets grabbed headlines with the hiring of new front office blood, assistant general manager Daryl Morey. After an apprenticeship season in 2006-2007, Morey will become the Rockets' GM the following year. Many were shocked by the move. While Morey has worked with the Boston Celtics for three seasons, he is not cast in the traditional mold of ex-player, ex-coach, or ex-scout. Morey is a statistician/economist and apparently a very good, published one. In recent years, professional teams are turning to the world of mathematics to determine personnel moves. The trend became public with the 2003 publication of Moneyball, an inside look at the decision making process of the Oakland Athletics. Michael Lewis dissects how the A's, under GM Billy Beane, completely revamped their scouting system, signing players few other teams want. Faced with financial imbalance when competing with the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, Oakland has managed to compile one of the finest records in baseball the while sporting one of the lowest payrolls. I have to admit that even though I was a head coach in high school baseball for six years, I don't totally understand the number analysis. Still, I will attempt a synopsis. Basically, Beane, and increasingly others, believe that batting average and RBI's (runs batted in) are overvalued statistics. What Beane looks for are relatively unknown, low paid players with high on-base percentages or players who make the fewest number of outs while batting. Beane also thinks defense is overrated, at least the manner in which it is typically viewed. At times, he finds the type of hitter he wants and then decides where the new acquisition will play in the field. Needless to say, much of this is seen as baseball heresy. Bunts and stealing bases are revered baseball strategies. Beane sees them as unnecessary risks, potential wastes of the most precious commodity in an inning, outs. The jury is still out on this new reasoning but Billy Beane disciples are popping up all over baseball.

As a basketball coach, I'm conflicted by reliance on statistics. In middle school, we don't even keep stats. I'm of the opinion that kids are enamored of them, sometimes playing for the glory of points, rebounds, assists, etc. instead of the team concept. I know who the best players are and who can function effectively as a group. On the other hand, junior high girls' basketball is SLOW and does not have a high number of possessions, the up and coming statistic to be dissected and broken down. There will always be resistance to new ideas, primarily from those who perceive their influence will be threatened. Education is loathe to consider new concepts, often content to repeat scenarios of failure. Dating has become scientific but I can determine attractiveness on the Steve Scale without computerized number crunching! Who accepted Jesus most readily when he arrived in Israel? Mostly, it was those we might call disenfranchised, men and women without clout. These people called his message a new teaching and delivered with authority. (Mark 1:27) The baseball insiders complain that the statistical gurus never played on a high level. Sounds similar to the grumbling surrounding Jesus. He was a neighborhood guy, so who did he think he was coming up with this new philosophy? The question was asked in John 7:15, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" The term paradigm is overused but Jesus shifted the interpretation of scriptures, both in his generation and those that followed. Baseball is being re-thought and so is the Bible. We can break down the message of redemption into only one statistic-laden verse:

"There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all."
Ephesians 4:4-6

Applicable quote of the day:
"Statistics are no substitute for judgment."
Henry Clay

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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