The paper ….“Prospect Theory”… spawned a sub-field of economics known as behavioral economics. This field attracted the interest of a Harvard undergraduate named Paul DePodesta. With a mind prepared to view markets and human decision-making as less than perfectly rational, DePodesta had gone into sports management, been hired by Billy Beane to work for the Oakland A’s, and proceeded to exploit the unreason of baseball experts. A dotted line connected the Israeli psychologists to what would become a revolution in sports management. ..
I soon realized that Tversky’s son had been a student in a seminar I’d taught in the late 1990s at the University of California, Berkeley….My former student Oren Tversky put me in touch with his mother, Barbara, who put me onto the papers left behind by her husband…..Then one afternoon I came upon a letter dated June 4, 1985, from Bill James. The baseball analyst whose work was then being blithely ignored by professional baseball people had wanted help answering a question that vexed him: Why were baseball professionals forever attempting to explain essentially random and therefore inexplicable events? “Baseball men, living from day to day in the clutch of carefully metered chance occurrences, have developed an entire bestiary of imagined causes to tie together and thus make sense of patterns that are in truth entirely accidental,” James wrote. “They have an entire vocabulary of completely imaginary concepts used to tie together chance groupings. It includes ‘momentum,’ ‘confidence,’ ‘seeing the ball well,’ ‘slumps,’ ‘guts,’ ‘clutch ability,’ being ‘hot’ and ‘cold,’ ‘not being aggressive’ and my all time favorite the ‘intangibles.’ By such concepts, the baseball man gains a feeling of control over a universe that swings him up and down and tosses him from side to side like a yoyo in a high wind.” It wasn’t just baseball he was writing about, James continued. “I think that the randomness of fate applies to all of us as much as baseball men, though it might be exacerbated by the orderliness of their successes and failures.”