In 2018, what is a win? A shift in philosophy has changed MLB forever

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The first game of the 2013 baseball season was in Houston, hosted by an Astros team that had finished in last place the previous year and was going to finish in last place again. It was nationally televised — the Astros had just moved from the National League to the American, reebok nfl jerseys earning them baseball’s showcase time slot — and in the sixth inning the booth called down to ESPN’s Buster Olney for an interview with GM Jeff Luhnow.

What do you think Luhnow said? What, in a nutshell, was the Astros’ “pretty simple” philosophy? When, two years later, ESPN’s analytics report named the Philadelphia 76ers the most analytical team in any major sport, what do you think made GM Sam Hinkie “the NBA’s most ardent analytics master”? After the NFL’s Cleveland Browns hired Moneyball superstar Paul DePodesta to be chief strategy officer, how would you define the strategy he has been chief of? What holds these three exemplars of “pure” analytics together?

In 2018, using “data” or “statistics” is so commonplace and obvious that it can hardly be called a strategy anymore. Even teams that do invest more extensively in analytics are likely to find only tiny advantages that dissipate quickly against like-minded GMs’ prying eyes. “The old days of getting something for nothing are over,” Billy Beane told the New York Daily News in 2003. “There are too many good [GMs] out there now. The art of the deal isn’t ripping off the other guy; it’s giving up something to get something that makes you better.”

Modern teams across all sports do that by playing to win a different game — not a figuratively different game but literally different games, games that are years away instead of the game right in front of them. “Moneyball” is now synonymous with the willingness to lose games, without shame, for years at a time, to build something far off in the future. This is perhaps fitting, as the first lesson most of us learn about money is how to save up: how to collect interest, how to wait for deals, how to pool money for greater purchasing power — buying 5 pounds of gum balls at Costco instead of spending a quarter at a time at the machine.

This is how baseball found itself in this strange place this offseason, nfl authentic jerseys cheap where roughly a third of the league’s teams were totally uninterested in winning games in 2018 — a place agent Scott Boras described this winter as “destructive to our sport.” “We have to get rid of the noncompetitive cancer,” he complained. “We kicked people out of the game when they tried to not win.”

In the past, that might have been true. But one of the sabermetric movement’s greatest legacies is less a tactic or a strategy than a major shift in philosophy: It has reinterpreted what counts, redefined what it means to be successful and dramatically changed baseball. Which means it’s changed us too.