“A Call to Play Ball” Excerpt from Moneyball for Government

By U.S. Senator’s Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA)

We started this book with a description of an impressive winning streak—the longest in the history of the American League. A made-for-Hollywood, feel-good, David-and-Goliath tale. But before Billy Beane’s A’s were winning, they were losing. Big time. At the beginning of the 2002 Moneyball season, the A’s went 5-16. They were swept by the middling Toronto Blue Jays. Swept by Kelly’s Boston Red Sox—at home. They lost seven consecutive series for the first time in eight years, and the criticism and finger-pointing was endless. “There may not be an A in quit, as the team advertising campaign claims. But there is an A in awful,” one sportswriter observed. “There’s no A in quit, but there is an A in hapless,” another piled on a few days later.

“Ask anybody associated with the A’s what’s wrong with the team these days … and check out the puzzled expression you get. Maybe a better question is, ‘What’s not wrong?’” commented a third.

At that time, Beane’s revolutionary data-driven, evidence-based methodology was considered a half-baked fantasy—a punch line. We know the feeling—because we hear those criticisms every day about the performance of our federal government. We hear that this Congress is the least productive in history, that nothing will ever get done. Over the past few years of partisanship and gridlock, congressional approval has dropped below that of the big banks and used-car salesmen. According to a Gallup poll, Congress is less popular than colonoscopies and root canals. As our colleague Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is fond of saying, we’re down to just blood relatives.

Certainly, the anger and frustration is understandable. Given all the dysfunction, it’s easy to assume that nothing productive will ever come out of a Washington this broken. But while it would be easy to assume that, it would also be wrong.

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