In many ways, Michael Lewis’ story of the Oakland A’s and the “sabermetrics” revolution in baseball reads like an allegory for defense. “You didn't have to look at big league baseball very closely,” he writes, “to see its fierce unwillingness to rethink anything.”[i] He goes on to quote Bill James as saying, “The people who run baseball are surrounded by people trying to give them advice. So they've built very effective walls to keep out anything.”[ii] Lewis notes that baseball insiders “believed they could judge a player’s performance simply by watching it,”[iii] and that “conventional opinions about baseball players and baseball strategies had acquired the authority of fact.”[iv] In one of the most pivotal passages of the book, Lewis quotes at length from Robert “Vörös” McCracken, one of the baseball outsiders who turned conventional wisdom on its head. McCracken could just as well have been speaking about the military:
"The problem with major league baseball is that it’s a self-populating institution. Knowledge is institutionalized. The people involved with baseball who aren't players are ex-players. In their defense, their structure is not set up along corporate lines. They aren't equipped to evaluate their own systems. They don’t have the mechanisms to let in the good and get rid of the bad.[v]"