Fribble Foolish Baseball

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By jbedell@kpmg.com (Bedell, Jason J)
October 16, 2000

Having recently finished The Motley Fool Investment Guide and currently working on You Have More Than You Think, I was sitting around two nights ago watching the American League Division Series between my beloved New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics when I came to a realization: The A's played baseball Foolishly.

The A's were trailing 2-0 at the time, which might necessitate panic and brash actions similar to those that I read about every day in the financial papers. However, the A's believed in their system, demonstrated some patience, and made the most of their opportunities, waiting for their pitches and getting a hit and a walk to put two runners on with no outs.

Now, baseball Wisdom states that you play for one run at a time, especially in the playoffs. So when the A's had runners on first and second with no outs, Wisdom dictated a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, a low-risk, low-return choice (see where I'm heading?). So our Foolish A's, anticipating the Yankees' adherence to baseball Wisdom, made an intelligent decision that went against the norm and had their next batter swing away. The result? A base hit past the Yankees' drawn-in infield, which would lead to a three-run inning and a lead that Oakland would never lose again for the evening. A fine example of an intelligently calculated risky move paying higher dividends (figuratively) than the traditional strategy.

If you're still not a believer in the Foolishness of the A's, consider this: Baseball Wisdom also states that you currently need a payroll in excess of $80 million per year to field a winning team. My Yankees' payroll topped out at $112 million this season (no wonder I can only afford to go to two or three games a year). What, might you ask, was the A's payroll this year for a team that produced four more regular season wins than the Yankees? $32 million.

So, as I sat there and watched the A's break all known conventions regarding America's pastime and do it successfully enough to beat my Yanks, I understood how full-service brokers must feel when one of their clients becomes Foolish.