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The Only Rule Is It Has To Work, by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

NewCos are data-driven as much as gut-driven, and so are the many sports teams operating in the “moneyball” era popularized by sabermetric pioneer Bill James and then really popularized by Michael Lewis’s book of the same name. But the term “moneyball” suggests that you have money to work with; you just use it wisely. So how do you play moneyball with hardly any money? Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, the former and current editors in chief of sabermetric publication of record Baseball Prospectus, found out when the Sonoma Stompers, a team with one of the lowest payrolls in the Pacific Association, a professional baseball north of San Francisco, gave the two of them a chance to run its baseball-operations department. Their The Only Rule Is It Has To Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Teamisn’t just a sports book. It’s a funny, instructive, self-aware, and surprisingly soulful look at what it takes to make change when imagination and energy dwarf budget and surprises along the way make the pair rethink what can work. What’s best about the book is it shows how much people on different sides — the old guard and the data-driven evangelists — have to learn from each other. The innovations come when all sides can weigh in. Their conclusion, as summarized in a recent op-ed by Miller, is that data can tell a persuasive story untellable in other ways. But it’s not the only story. And the data only serves the organization if its leaders integrate it with the other stories in the air.

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