2023 SABR Analytics Conference Research Awards: Voting Open Now!

A few days ago, while trying to find an article via Google, I searched for a phrase I recalled had been in it: “We’re not selling jeans here.” You know, that line from Moneyball. Alas, it was only slightly effective in narrowing down the entire internet, because apparently the entire internet has used this phrase in an article at some point. This quote is probably the most lasting thing that Billy Beane has ever done or will do. In 50 years, this quote will still be in wide circulation. This quote is everything. This quote will get him elected into the Hall of Fame. This quote will be in his obituary. This quote will someday be misattributed to Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. This quote is so pervasive that we should either agree it is the defining statement of the stathead era, or agree to never, ever, ever use it again.

Before we do, a quick tour of how far it has spread:

First Google result:
“Moneyball Judaism: We’re not selling jeans here.”

Not surprisingly, this final principle is key for own understanding of what a “Moneyball Judaism” should mean. When we comment upon and promote individual organizations and modes of Jewish engagement, we need to ask ourselves whether or not we are searching for impact, or whether we are “selling jeans,” valuing image over impact. On paper, if one organization closes, and another one receives a $10 million donation, our typical reaction is to assume that the former organization is a failure, while the latter is a success. However, at the moment, we have limited knowledge as to whether or not the organization flush with cash is successful because they have the right members on their Advisory Board, the right marketing strategy, or simply the right aura. While Moneyball may be about the numbers, ultimately we reap the benefits of Moneyball when we use data to recognize what works, what doesn’t, and where our own biases hold us back from seeing the difference between the two.

Fifth result: Cass Sunstein, Simpler: The Future of Government
Via Google Books

None of these points addresses the right question, which is what policies and regulations will actually achieve. As we shall see, we keep developing better tools for answering that question. All over the world, regulatory systems need their own Billy Beanes and Paul DePodestas, carefully assessing what rules will do before the fact and testing them after the fact, and occasionally depositing some highly touted rules, beloved by regulators, onto the shit list.

We're not selling jeans here.

Seventh result: Howard Megdal, The Cardinals Way
Via Google Books

You know that famous Billy Beane quote from Moneyball–"We're not selling jeans here"? Luhnow had actually sold jeans. More specifically, he'd been hired by Lands' End to improve how they sold jeans online.

Eighth result: Maria Garcia, Cinematic Quests for Identity: The Hero's Encounter with the Beast
Via Google Books

Billy, like Roy (Hobbs), was exploited by what baseball likes to pride itself on, in lore and at the movies: a paternal, protective system that discovers and hones a young man's potential. What Lewis sees is an overall failure of paternity.

Ninth result: Andrew C. Corbett, Jerome A. Katz, Entrepreneurial Resourcefulness: Competing with Constraints
Via Google Books

Other research has described a similar pattern of behavior among bricoleurs, who appeared to be motivated in part by their disdain for competitors who were immobilized unless they were able to acquire exactly the right resources for every task. Bricoleurs appeared to be saying to their competitors, "see what I can do!" and their desire to maintain this posture fed into a strong bias for action and willingness to compete under tight resource constraints.

18th result: Michael Mauboussin, The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing
Via Google Books

Looking back over this book, it is now pretty clear why untangling skill and luck is so difficult. The first obstacle to learning is psychological. The way most of us learn about the world is by experiencing it. But we know from the work of psychologies that our minds frequently use shortcuts. These shortcuts are marvelous time savers, and serve us well most of the time. But they also induce biases that are consistent and predictable.

26th result: Scott Lemieux: Lawyers, Guns and Money
“George Allen and the Perils of Althousism”

And so it goes with George Allen, whose collapse is an object lesson in the dangers of an Althousian focus on irrelevant superficial characteristics over substance. Consider this acutely embarrassing in retrospect piece by Rich Lowry. His touting of Allen for ’08 contains very little about any substantive merits, and a great deal about his height, cowboy simulacra, and mastery of football metaphors. And the problem with this, of course, is that the cowboy image concealed a lightweight, largely inept racist who is in a dogfight to keep what should be a safe Republican seat (let alone a serious presidential candidate.) Yes, pesonality heuristics matter to voters (although one would hope that intellectuals would transcend rather than reinforce them), but they’re inherently unstable, and voters can be smarter than they’re often presumed to be.

32nd result: Rafael Gely: University of Missouri School of Law Scholarship Repository
“What Law Schools Can Learn From Billy Beane”

If Billy Beane were to become a law school dean, he would try to figure out how to best measure players' contributions to law school success. In drafting students, what is the relative importance of LSAT scores and undergraduate GPA? In drafting entry-level faculty and signing lateral faculty "free agents," what is the relative importance of academic pedigree, judicial clerkships, practice experience, prior teaching and publications, and performance in the "job talk" and interview pressure-cooker?

40th result: Jonathan Klinger:
"The New Era of Campaign Management: Why Data Geeks Should Set Strategy”

So how can the GOP allow data to guide strategy? The key lies in ensuring that we as a party understand where it comes from and what it is capable of doing. Consistently troubling is that many still link data and digital together as though they are the same thing. They’re as different as fundraising and communications, though an essential step forward will be to fully integrate data and digital into all aspects of the campaign.

Every department of a campaign needs to be part of a continuous feedback loop that updates the campaign’s data and implements new best practices from analyzing that data.

43rd result: Peter Fishman, Mode Blog
“What Can Moneyball Teach Us About Unicorns?”

Investors may have the same opportunity. Lee points out, “34-year-old male ex-PayPal-ers with Stanford degrees…where should we sign?” Yammer founder David Sacks fits this description, but he also did when he founded Geni, one of the 99.93%. Founders with positive traits that are highly salient, like a Stanford degree or a stint at a successful company, might be more likely to succeed, but also would be more likely to command higher valuations; the excess returns to investors should be competed away on those easy-to-grasp attributes. It is the less salient traits—which are likely not identified by Lee’s article—that could provide real insight and value to investors.

47th result: Nolan B. Tully: 14th Annual Intercompany Long Term Care Insurance Conference
“The Rise of Technology: Impact of Data Aggregation & Analysis on LTC Insurers.”

Such analytical techniques are completely objective and unbiased in identifying correlations.

48th result: Random Person, Yahoo! Answers
“Can someone please explain to me the meaning of this quote?”

Corduroys are a ribbed fabric that produces much more friction than regular pants or jeans. Too much friction could, theoretically, start a fire although this is simply an exaggeration and is not likely to happen.

Thank you for reading

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Was hoping for a Levis or Wrangler executive presentation on how not selling jeans here is the new selling jeans here.
Maria Garcia, you receive an F for misspelling The Natural's last name.
Ack, that's on me. In my defense, I wrote this because it was 1 a.m. and I'd been unable to fall asleep.