I do not love baseball. Sorry, America’s favorite pasttime, you just don’t do it for me.

What I do love, or to be more accurate, who I do love, is Clint Eastwood. Forget the empty chair. He can talk to himself and I’d watch. The man is a classic. (Side note: If you haven’t seen ‘Gran Torino,’ do so. Now.)

So, when I saw the trailer for his upcoming movie, ‘Trouble With the Curve,’ my first thought was that I want to see it. My second thought was that it sounds like the antithesis to a book I read — and loved — awhile back: ‘Moneyball.’ And since I haven’t had much time for reading this past week, I figured why not take a little trip in the wayback machine. So, here we go.

‘Moneyball’ is a book I never would’ve picked up on my own. But fortunately, I belong to a very cool book club, wherein we read a wildly random assortment of books. We once transitioned from Jane Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’ to Max Brooks’ ‘World War Z’ (about post-apocalyptic times when zombies overrun the world) in consecutive months. Anyway, someone recommended we read ‘Moneyball,’ so we did. (I later saw the movie. Also great.)

The great thing about ‘Moneyball’ is that you don’t have to love baseball. I may have mentioned I’m not really a fan. (Even less so at the moment when the Red Sox are stinking up Fenway in such spectacularly bad fashion.) The book was more about the sheer numbers of the game. Billy Beane, who is the subject of Michael Lewis’ book, contends that the only statistics that really matter are slugging percentage and ERA. This flies directly in the faces of the old-school baseball scouts, who all traverse the countryside in search of that certain intangible, the je ne sais quoi, if you will, that makes a great player great. Problem is, Beane finds that time and again those intangible qualities ultimately mean diddly.

Of course, Beane has more than his share of detractors, too. But his way worked in Boston (Theo Epstein was a subscriber of Beane’s sabermetrics theories. Actually, the theories weren’t created by Beane, but he brought them into the mainstream), and in Oakland, where he was a manager. In fact, Beane himself just barely rejected an offer to work for the Sox.

I can see why Beane’s demystification of the scouting process was unpopular. We all like to think 1) that humans possess certain incalculable qualities, and 2) that some of us are able to discern those. But to me, the cool thing about his theory was the fact that it meant that apparently imperfect athletes like Chad Bradford, a pitcher who basically threw underhand, and the Sox’ own (or at least, until recently) Kevin Youkilis, who, let’s face it, doesn’t look the stereotypical athletic God, got a chance to play in the Big Leagues.

I think I’d land somewhere in the middle. Keep looking for intangibles, but pay a bit more attention to those stats. Fortunately, I’m not a scout, so I don’t have to worry about it! But I will gladly go watch Clint do his thing…

Epilogue: See the movie!

Next chapter: I just got ‘Eat, Shoots and Leaves’ from the library, albeit in hard copy form. But I’ve heard good things about this book, so I think I’ll make an exception to the “only e-books” rule of this blog and give it a read.

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