Reinvent the game. Moneyball for your Alpha.

Take me out to the baaaaallgame.  Take me out with the croooowd.

It’s October and that can only mean one thing– PLAYOFF BASEBALL.  The world series starts tomorrow night as the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Texas Rangers.  Not your favorite two teams?  Same here.  Let’s not talk about them then.  Instead, let’s talk about the Oakland Athletics and what your Alpha can learn from them.

In 2003 best-selling author Michael Lewis spilled the beans on baseball’s best kept secret- The Oakland A’s and their General Manager Billy Beane.  The 2001 A’s pushed the New York Yankees to the brink in the playoffs before falling just short in 5 games.  That offseason the A’s suffered tremendous personnel losses with their starting 1st basemen, center fielder, and closer leaving in free agency for teams who could afford to pay them more money.  Lewis’ book picks up with Billy Beane’s pursuit of rebuilding his team…on a budget.

Recently, Hollywood released the movie version of Moneyball starring Brad Pitt which rekindled the conversation about how an organization with scarce resources can compete with the big boys.  As Billy Beane says in the movie “There are rich teams, and there are poor teams. Then there’s 50 feet of crap. And then there’s us.”

So what does any of this have to do with your Alpha?  Let’s break down the A’s success and see how it ties into fraternity.

1)      Identifying what your ‘mold’ is.

What are the inherent characteristics about a player that they must possess?  Do they have to be a home run hitter?  Is it most important that they have a good eye?  What are the raw talents that simply cannot be coached?

Oakland A’s Owner: We’re not New York. Find players with the money that we do have.

–  It seems that fraternity men struggle to understand what they’re looking for in a potential recruit. “He needs to be a good guy” or “he’s just gotta fit in here” are common answers I hear.  Not so fast my friend!!  We’ve got to do better than that.  What are the specific and measurable characteristics an individual should have?  Use objective measures first (GPA and amount of involvement in campus organizations are a good start), and then let your subjective evaluations come in.

A’s Scout#1: I like Perez.
A’s Scout #2: He’s got an ugly girlfriend. Ugly girlfriend means no confidence.

Are those A’s scouts talking or our Brothers in a bid-voting meeting?  In baseball and in fraternity we use silly criteria for evaluations.  Let’s move beyond comments like this.

2)      Searching wide and far for men in that mold

In the book, the A’s find an unheralded catcher, who is widely considered not-worth-drafting, and make him a first round pick.  This prospect was so obscure that he wasn’t even listed in major baseball draft magazines, a virtual death sentence for any prospect’s draft chances.  The A’s knew what they were looking for though, searched for it, and weren’t afraid to stick to their mold.

Billy Beane: “We are card counters at the blackjack table. And we’re gonna turn the odds on the casino.”

–  In fraternity, we limit ourselves to searching for the youngest possible joiners.  We focus on first or second semester freshmen, and if we don’t get them then, we stop caring about them when they’re sophomores or juniors.  WHY?  Seeking out upperclassmen prospects (or other non-traditional joiners) is great for several reasons.  First, they’ve got an academic track record we can evaluate.  Also, they tend to be more mature. Have a mature presence in your new member class? Imagine that.  Further, they’ve had plenty of time to assume campus leadership positions so we know what we’re getting.  Finally, they probably know what they DON’T like in fraternity, and are more prone to want a positive fraternal experience.

3)      Coach ‘em up

The A’s know their mold, they bring in men who possess innate characteristics, and then they coach them into well-rounded players.

Billy Beane:  We want you at first base.

Scott Hatteberg: I’ve only ever played catcher.

In what ways can we cultivate our men?  What specific events or experiences do we offer to develop them?  Are we offering a fraternal experience that is developing our members?  Are they enjoying opportunities to grow in the classroom, in the community, and in social life?

Yes, we can recruit men who possess our values, but that’s just the start.  Ask yourself– in what ways are we making our members more refined, contributing members of society?

4)      March to your own drum

Billy Beane went totally off the deep end with this one, shattering decades of baseball tradition, and shunning ‘the main stream’ in the process.  That’s okay, though, because he knew deep down that’s what he had to do.  With a payroll less than 25% of the Yankees he won almost as many regular season games as them and almost beat them in the playoffs.

Billy Beane: If we pull this off, we change the game. We change the game for good.

Are you tired of your fraternity being average?  Do you want different results?  WELL THEN DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  Figure out what matters most.  Recruit men who match that mold.  Do fun and diverse events that cultivate your men.

One of the quotes that kept me motivated during my undergraduate days as recruitment chairman came from Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

The Oakland A’s were ignored, laughed at, and repressed… but they won.  The practices that Billy Beane employed have since been mimicked by almost every team in MLB, including the Boston Red Sox in 2004 when they broke “the curse.”

If your Fraternity is already ignored, why not try something new that could drastically change the future for you and your Brothers?


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