Moneyball and Spiritual LeadershipFATHER ROBERT BARRON
Moneyball is a portrait of leadership in the world of baseball. But its lessons apply to any seeker on the spiritual path.
Beane's breakthrough occurred through the ministrations of a young, untested, Yale-trained, junior executive named Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill). Setting aside the assumptions that had, for decades, determined the way baseball talent was assessed, Brand asked a pair of elemental questions: what wins games? Answer: scoring runs. And what makes scoring runs possible? Answer: getting on base. Therefore, he concluded, if you want to win games, you have to acquire players who have a knack for getting on base, through hits, walks, getting struck with the ball, etc. He had developed a metric for determining precisely who had that ability – and found that, more often than not, baseball executives and scouts overlooked or undervalued those very players.
Inspired by Brand's vision, and armed with his statistics, Beane assembled his scouts for a meeting regarding the acquisition of players for the upcoming year. Over and again, the grizzled and experienced baseball men spoke of the "look" or the "body" of a player, the way the ball "jumped off the bat" of one prospect, the "confidence" of another. Exasperated, Beane shouted, "but do they get on base?!" He was implying that a great looking, athletic, skillful player might not actually be the kind of player that wins games. He wanted his scouts, who were beguiled by the romance of the game, to share his own clarity of vision in regard to their ultimate purpose. Needless to say, the old veterans didn't jump right on board. Neither did the manager; neither did the sports writers; neither did the fans. And when Beane's team, assembled according to Brand's calculations, started the season slowly, the critics came out in force, accusing the general manager of arrogantly standing athwart years of baseball common sense. But Beane stuck to his guns, and the team "of misfit toys" began to gel, and then to excel, and finally to produce the longest winning-streak in American league history.
The single most important quality of a leader is clarity of vision, and his second most important quality is a willingness to do what he has to do in order to realize that vision. Lincoln was no great economist; he did not have extensive experience in government; he was not a particularly skilled legislator, but at the most dire moment in American history, he saw with crystal clarity what the country needed and he had the intestinal fortitude to make it happen. "If I can save the Union by freeing some of the slaves, I will do it; if I can save the Union by freeing none of the slaves, I will do it; if I can save the Union by freeing all of the slaves, I will do it," he famously said. Then, in the course of the war, despite choruses of criticism, he fired and hired a whole bevy of generals until he found the man he needed. When people complained about the drunken General Ulysses Grant, Lincoln said, "I can't spare this man; he fights," and then, playfully, "send a case of Grant's whiskey to all my other commanders." The President knew that he had to win the Civil War and that in order to win the Civil War he needed a general who would bring the battle to the enemy.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus turns on two young men who are following him and asks, "what do you want?" It's an indispensably important question. Many people go through life not really knowing what they, most fundamentally, want, and accordingly, they drift. The correct answer to Jesus' question is "eternal life" or "friendship with God" or "holiness." This corresponds to Billy Beane's "scoring runs" or Lincoln's "winning the Civil War," for it is the simple, clear, unambiguous articulation of The Goal that any believer should have as he endeavors to "lead his life." Now other people may know, more or less, what they want spiritually, but they lack the courage and attention to pursue that end in the face of distractions and opposition. They know that they should be growing in holiness, but the secular culture proposes sex, pleasure, power, and honor so attractively, that they lose their way. Or perhaps, they receive withering criticism from those who are stuck in the old, standard way of life, and they give in.
Father Robert Barron. "Moneyball and Spiritual Leadership." Word on Fire (October 6, 2011).
Reprinted with permission of Father Robert Barron.
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Father Robert Barron is the founder of Word On Fire and is an acclaimed author, theologian and speaker. He is the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. Fr. Barron is also the creator and host of the groundbreaking, ten-part documentary series called CATHOLICISM (www.CatholismProject.org). Word On Fire (www.WordOnFire.org) programs reach millions of people and have been broadcast on WGN America, EWTN, Relevant Radio and the popular Word on Fire YouTube Channel. Fr. Barron is the author of, And Now I See: A Theology of Transformation, Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master, Heaven in Stone and Glass: Experiencing the Spirituality of the Great Cathedrals, Eucharist (Catholic Spirituality for Adults), Priority of Christ, The: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism, and Word on File: Proclaiming the Power of Christ.
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Copyright © 2011 Father Robert Barron
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