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Moneyball, the Sequel: Billy Beane for President!

Uploaded: Apr 17, 2014
Postpone the primaries, cancel the caucuses, stop the presses – we've got the consensus candidate for the President in 2016. There's a growing movement to draft our own Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane, or at least his management principles, in service to the nation's governance. Of course, I doubt that Billy, like many business leaders, would accept the cut-in-pay -- and autonomy -- that accompany the title of Commander-in-Chief. That said, we could do worse than to examine the applicability of his team's innovative approaches to achieving better results with precious resources.

A remarkably bi-partisan leadership group called Results for America has made what it calls "Moneyball for Government" (brief video here) the centerpiece of its advocacy. It includes former cabinet-level members of both the Bush2 and Obama Administrations, Senator Mary Landrieu and former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They are calling for "evidence-based governance" that seeks to move from common principles to policies – and to gauge the programs that ensue for future funding based on how well they achieve defined metrics of performance.

Too often, they say, government has operated by mere belief or at the behest of special interests, which come to include the entrenched bureaucracies that grow up around well-meant pots of money. Regardless of results, programs acquire lives of their own. Liberals and Conservatives alike and point to absurd wastes of resources, whether they result from Ike's military industrial complex, or any of many social investments that would not survive dispassionate, results-based scrutiny. They hope to transform governance the way the A's have transformed Major League Baseball's talent valuations and team-building – meaning 'fundamentally.'

Now, this is more a trend than a Eureka moment. Governments at all levels have recently adopted performance metrics to guide some of their programming. The Bush2 and Obama crowds have both embraced the concept. Examples include the President's 2015 Proposed Budget, which contains initiatives like the Social Innovation Fund, Expanded Performance Partnership Pilots, and other 'seed' program where the government pays only upon success, as quantitatively defined. States have joined the movement, as with Iowa's Corrections metrics, and diverse initiatives in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Utah. Cities, too, are 'in' -- they may be onto something.

Obstacles, of course, abound. For one thing, we are dealing with Political Parties: one Party seems to pride itself in its rejection of evidence-based anything. Global warning, anyone? And the other Party has a tradition of ignoring any pesky math more complicated than fingers-and-toes. Further, Washington has a facility for co-opting good, new ideas and pretzelizing them into forms unrecognizable to the innovators. Finally, for now, other baseball teams are painfully familiar with the concept of "garbage in/garbage out" – you have to choose the Right metrics, and measure them accurately. The process of deciding across-the-aisle about 'what to measure' and 'how' will be a major, ongoing challenge.

Still, there is potential for breakthrough here, and we can always look to the A's to maintain our faith in a Moneyball-type approach, that continues to evolve ahead of the league. So maybe it's worth contemplating what a Beane Administration might look like:

Vice President: Brandon Moss, because you need a motor-mouth.

Chief of Staff: Bob Melvin. Give him the instruments and he'll make sweet music.

UN Ambassador: Coco Crisp. Who doesn't love Coco? He'll disarm the most militant mullah.

Ambassador to Alabama: Josh Donaldson

Secretary of State: Jed Lowrie's wife, already a diplomat.

Secretary of Defense: Josh Reddick. There's no better defender, and no nasty sliders in the Pentagon.

Press Secretary: Ariel Prieto. He has a way of cutting to the chase.

Head of the Fed: Eric Sogard. Nerd power drives monetary policy.

Filibusterer-in-Chief: Ray Fosse. Even his questions go on for hours.

Uncle Sam: Bill King, doppelganger.

Please add your own nominations!
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Roz Rogoff, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 17, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Didn't Jimmy Carter campaign on Zero Based Budgeting? And isn't that the same thing? And wasn't Carter the "Worst President of the 20th Century," well maybe second worst to Harding?

And wasn't that what Romney proposed, but probably would have been able to do it better?

So what am I missing here (other than making my questions go on for hours)?


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Apr 18, 2014 at 7:20 am

Roz -- you may be onto something. Web Link (sfw)

Then again, anything that reduces the influence of 'special interests' (slippery term, I know) is probably healthy. And I've always believed in the Peter Drucker phrase: "What's measured, improves."

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Apr 18, 2014 at 8:12 am

Tom: This is probably your best column to date(am I showing my age by calling it a "column"? Sorry, when I was sports editor of my high school paper 30 years ago, this would be a "column")

As a long time A's fan, it is fantastic to watch how Billy Beanne can take a shoe string budget and really think outside the box and field a team that is not only competitive, but also full of exciting and likeable players and coaches. Living within your means and budget, getting your employees to believe and trust in the system, and creating an atmosphere where employees feel valued and actually like each other and are willing to make sacrifices for the good of the organization, should be a blue print for any entity, whether a business or a government. Billy Beanne realizes that allowing players to have long beards, strange haircuts, and a loose club house where players can have fun and act like children playing a game(which they really are), does not cost anymore money, and is an incentive to play for a club who can not pay what most other teams are paying.

Unfortunately, I think you are right, that there are too many distractions and obstacles that would prevent our political leaders from following Billy's example of how to successfully run an entity. Unions, political parties, special interest groups, lobbyist, etc., are so entrenched in Washington, and so powerful, that "moneyball" principles would not have a chance.

I am sure that if Billy Beanne was President, and allowed to use his "moneyball principles", the ridiculous amount of taxes that I just had to pay a few days ago would be drastically smaller, and the government services actually provided would be much better.

Well, although we will never see "moneyball principles" in Washington, at least we can see it at the Oakland Coliseum(for now), as our boys pursue their third consecutive league championship.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Apr 18, 2014 at 9:00 am

Thanks, Am! We intend to be Authentic Fans this evening (and for anybody's planning to rob the house, please be sure to feed all the rottweilers before you leave -- they'll be ravenous, thanks.). Web Link (sfw)

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Apr 18, 2014 at 11:37 am



THANK YOU Pleasanton Weekly


Posted by Roz Rogoff, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 18, 2014 at 6:04 pm


Talk about nostalgia, Ann Reinking and 12-year old Erzsebet Foldi (I looked her up on IMDB) singing and dancing to "Everything Old is New Again." And the picture was even made during the Carter years; one of the good things from then.


PS I saw "All that Jazz" in a movie theater in 1979 when I still bothered to go to the movies. I will have to rent "Moneyball" now.

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