Book Cover
The Only Rule Is It Has To Work


★ ★ ★

TL;DR: Ben and Sam learn that baseball is more than just numbers. Good real-life, down-to-Earth sports story. Some great characters.

Notes

  • Ben and Sam, baseball bloggers and podcasters, become “special advisors to the general manager” for the Sonoma Stompers, an independent league baseball team in NorCal.
    • There were no rules, except for one that our players demanded: Whatever we tried had to work. (6)
  • GM: Theo Fightmaster.
  • Get major-league level tracking and analytics by calling in favors from STATS and BATS
  • Goal: beat the San Rafael Pacifics for the championship (4 team league)
  • Have to find “spreadsheet guys”
  • Clash with Feh, a more “old-fashioned” manager
  • Really strong start to the season, win the first half running away
  • Get manager Feh fired, new manager Yoshi is more receptive to analytics
  • Sean Conroy, first openly gay pro baseball playeer
    • Pitches a complete game shutout on Pride Night
  • Eventually lose to San Rafael in the championship game :(

Snippets

[Theo] wants badly to win [...] but he's not selling a winning club. He's selling the small-town experience of being at a ballpark on a mild summer night. "The owners's objective," he tells me, "is basically this vision of a family of four leaving the game, the kids got to high-five the mascot, they got a foul ball, they're walking to their car and saying, 'What a fantastic night at the park. By the way, who won?'" (15)

Start a star sticker chart. 10 stars and you get a burrito. Use food to your advantage. Stars can be given for anything you want to reinforce. Yes, I'm treating them like 4-year-olds. The first rule of child psychology is that it applies throughout all of life. They will scoff at it and three days later be checking out how many stars they have. (73)

What we think of as chemistry pervades every action [...] He shows a hint of disappointment that a postworkout batting practice is just soft tosses, not live pitching? Big League. He is all but cut by the end of that Opening Night banquet, because you can't have Big League in your clubhouse, bro. (90)

The only thing necessary for the triumph of Feh was for us to do nothing, so when I dropped by objection, the matter was essentially settled. Walker would make the team as long as someone didn't demand the ball even more forcefully before first pitch. Next time someone tries to tell you to "put yourself out there" -- join an online dating site after a bad breakup, maybe, or interview for a job whose requirements you can't quite meet -- remember Matt Walker, the patron saint of putting oneself out there. Walker went from total stranger to Opening Day starter in the span of ten days, just by being around. (116)

Never try to win an argument. (222) [Tiger: it never goes well.]

The other guy lives in a big house, too. Not all failure corresponds to a lack of effort. Or a lack of desire. Or a lack of preparation. Or a lack of skill. We lose, sometimes, because the other guy is also really good. (282)

We haven't lost our belief that data can help people build better baseball teams. We've just gained a greater appreciation for how hard it can be to collect and communicate. (332)