POSTED BY Jared Bishop
The process of constructing a Major League Baseball (MLB) team took a drastic turn after Oakland Athletics’ General Manager, Billy Beane, decided to concentrate on advanced statistics known as “sabermetrics” to construct his team. Beane was so successful that his grossly underpaid team made the playoffs and ultimately inspired a motion picture, Moneyball.
Sabermetrics has been around for decades thanks to Bill James, a baseball statistician, but was not made famous until Beane bought into the system. Sabermetrics deals with a wide range of advanced statistics that are calculated based on virtually every detail of a play in baseball.
While theses statistics are available to the public at websites such as ESPN, the question becomes whether these statistics, or strategies should be protected to some extent. If Beane’s theories and strategies were further protected, perhaps Beane Athletics’ would have won multiple World Series. If organizations can use these statistics to develop a strategy on how they develop their respective team, shouldn’t their strategies be protected as a trade secret? After all, the goal of any sports organization is to win, and to do that, they need to find the best form of a competitive advantage they can get both on and off the field.
In depth sports analysis on statistics should be protected in the manner of trade secrets. Trade secrets are designed to give companies a competitive advantage over their competition. When companies come up with a strategy or pattern of information, they do not want to share that information with their competition or make it public for obvious reasons. Trade secrets, like other intellectual property, gives businesses incentives to develop their own strategies and better promote innovation.
What Beane did as far as using sabermetrics to develop his own strategy of creating a winning team was not based on the fact that his information would be collected, but it was because the Athletics’ were on a stricter budget than almost all of the other teams in the MLB. The lack of a deep pocket was the reason Beane changed the game, not because he knew this information would be protected. Beane forever changed how MLB teams look at players, but because other teams are able to use Beane’s strategies, the Athletics are not able to fully use the competitive advantage Beane developed. The question remains open on the possibilities of innovation in sports if these sorts of analysis could be protected. Teams such as the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Boston Red Sox would have an incentive to not only use their money to form the best team, but they would have an incentive of creating a well-thought out, and economical strategy to put a better product on the field.