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jillian, a baseball post for you

Jillian goes to one baseball game a year with me, and this year, for some reason, we spent most of the afternoon talking about paradigms, in particular the changing paradigm in baseball. Jillian doesn't care about baseball, but she knows about paradigms, and she seemed pretty interested in my argument that the paradigm is changing right now as we speak.

Brief explanation: Bill James published his first mainstream book in 1982, in which he made the case for the useful importance of critical statistical analysis in running a baseball franchise. Little by little, this kind of analysis is creeping into the front offices of baseball clubs ... most recently, this was brought to everyone's attention in the book Moneyball. Because baseball is so mired in the past, the change has come very very slowly ... sadly, the Giants are one club that resists the inevitable here ... and it is inevitable.

But Jillian was puzzled ... my explanation made statistical analysis seem to be a clear good, so she wondered why the paradigm hadn't already shifted. I said not everyone shared my positive feelings about the shift, and referenced again the fossilized notions that have taken root in baseball for more than a century.

But things are changing, and one way you know this is because the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. As John Shea said in today's Sporting Green:

After an 8 1/2-decade drought, it took a guy from Yale, who was hired as general manager at 28, who subscribes to the theories of Bill James and Moneyball, to construct a roster of players who resisted the evils of a ghastly and ghostly past and turned the Red Sox into champions.
The Boston Red Sox spent a lot of money, and you'll hear some people claiming that the only reason the Sox finally ended The Curse was the money. But the truth lies in the simple fact that the Boston Red Sox thought it was a good idea to give a job in their organization to Bill James. And they won the World Series. For the first time in 86 years.

The shift is inevitable. Thanks to Boston, the shift is coming sooner than you think.

Which is ironic, considering that there was a time when Boston was so far behind the times as to make them the putrid scum of baseball. Boston, you see, was the last major league team to sign a black player. And I suppose it deserves mention that even now, the best "minorities" on the team are Latino, not African-American ... it's at least possible that Boston is still less than hospitable to black players, although folks who know more about it than I do (i.e. they live there) tell me that's a lie. In any event, here's to Pedro Martinez, and David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez, and Theo Epstein and Bill James, and paradigm shifts.

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