What Baseball can Teach Government

By G. T. Bynum & Preston Doerflinger

The baseball book and movie “Moneyball” have a great scene about management evaluating prospective players for the Oakland Athletics’ 2002 roster.

In the movie, player scouts huddle in a conference room obsessing over players’ individual traits: Batting stance, swing style, throwing motion — even looks.

General manager Billy Beane is unimpressed. Beane, played by Brad Pitt, criticizes scouts for failing to recognize that Oakland, a small market team with limited resources, won’t succeed if it develops rosters as it has in the past.

A frustrated scout complains: “With all due respect, we’ve been doing this a long time … let us do our jobs.”

Beane disagrees, declaring: “You’re just talking like this is business as usual — we’ve got to think differently.”

That season, Beane’s staff reinvented player evaluation. Using strategic, data-driven metrics to guide roster selection, Oakland won its division, set a win-streak record and stayed competitive with teams boasting player payrolls nearly three times their size. Today, every team in baseball uses Beane’s “moneyball” approach.

City and state governments in Oklahoma face challenges similar to those Beane faced in 2002. Demands for core government services are increasing, but limited revenue exists to meet them. Needs may go unmet unless government takes new approaches to budgeting its limited resources.

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