Working Smarter, Not Harder...Literally

Work smarter, not harder is good advice. This axiom takes into consideration that there might be a better way to accomplish a task. Analytical data present options that may be preferable to the old way.

That is the central premise of a book by Michael Lewis. It is the story about the Oakland Athletics, a Major League Baseball (MLB) team, and it’s General Manager Billy Beane. A film based on the book starred Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game proposes a better way to assemble a competitive team than how baseball insiders have done it in the past. The Athletics, and Beane in particular, believe that the use of computer-generated analysis to acquire new players produces better results than the system used for many years. The conclusion was that rigorous statistical analysis demonstrated better indicators of success. This strategy enabled the A’s to reach the playoffs in 2002 and 2003 in spite of having the third-lowest team payroll in the league.

If you are not a baseball fan, don’t quit reading.

Theo Epstein

In 2004 Theo Epstein became the youngest GM in the history of MLB when the Boston Red Sox hired him at the age of 28. Using the Moneyball approach, he led the team to six playoff appearances and two World Series titles (something they had not accomplished in 86 years) in nine seasons.

In 2011 Epstein resigned from his job in Boston to become President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. His devotion to the data-driven analysis that helped teams identify and accumulate players with little-noticed but crucial strengths had succeeded inestimably in Boston. However, “a few weeks before spring training of 2012, in the ballroom of a budget hotel in Mesa, Ariz., Theo Epstein stood before nearly every person connected with the baseball operations of the Chicago Cubs and told them how the Cubs were going to win the World Series” (Fortune Magazine).

The magazine article was based on The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Baseball Team and Breaking the Curse, a book by Tom Verducci. He reported that “Epstein devoted the first three days of the session to on-field strategy: hitting philosophy, pitching philosophy, defense, and base running. But the entire last day was devoted to character. The Cubs, Epstein insisted, would acquire only players with outstanding makeup.”

Near the end of his tenure at Boston he came to understand that character and chemistry were strengths that could not be captured with a strictly analytic approach and “their absence was painfully clear as the team underwent a late-season collapse. The more the team lost, the more it broke apart from within. Players ­feuded with one another. The egos that had created cracks in the clubhouse while they were winning caused deep fissures as they lost.”

Epstein had put so much faith in numbers when he began as general manager of the Red Sox. “Now character did not just matter. It was essential to Epstein’s blueprint to win the World Series.” He gave his scouts very specific instructions about how to assess not only a player’s skills and abilities but the kind of person he was. How he treated other people. How he responded to adversity. What others- friends and enemies- said about him. His character.

Chicago Cubs 1908 & 2016 World Series Champions Team Photo (Size: 12" x 15") Framed

The brilliance of what the Cubs did was to put their faith not just in numbers, but also in the type of people they acquired. In 2016, five years of applying this new approach, the Cubs won their first World Series championship in 108 years.

Epstein understood that character counts!

Isn’t that what Jesus was implying when he told his disciples “Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.” “Don’t say anything you don’t mean” (Matthew 5:33 CEV, MSG). Repeatedly the Master points his followers to a high standard of morality and instructs them to be genuine in their relationships.

Jesus wants us to know, character counts.

Jamie Jenkins