Last November I returned home to Kansas City on a United Airlines flight from Chicago. As I placed my bag in the overhead compartment I noticed the guy in the window seat. I knew him. In fact I had known of him since I was in junior high school. This guy was a real loser.
This guy spent twenty years as an infielder for the Kansas City Royals. We all know that one of the primary functions of a ballplayer is to get hits. Yet over his career, this guy barely averaged three hits out of every ten times he came to the plate. One year he came very close to getting a hit in four out of ten plate appearances but that was still well less than half the time. Cleary everything needed to change about how the Royals recruited ballplayers. This guy was a real loser. His name was George Brett.
Now if you know anything about baseball, you know that George Brett was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame a few years back with much acclaim. He is considered one the best all around players to have ever played the game. Yet on average, he failed at the plate 70% of the time. That is better than all but a handful of the thousands of players who have played the game over the years.
So what was wrong with my assessment George Brett? What is wrong is I have merely presumed that it is possible for a player to get a hit every time they come to the plate. That is the objective after all, isn’t it? But have I fully appreciated the constraints to reaching that objective? Is perfect hitting a realistic measure of George Brett’s batting performance?
Near the start of this series I wrote a post called The Macrosociology Dilemma. I noted that structural-functionalist social theorists have a tendency to see society as an organism seeking equilibrium. Change happens through gradual evolution. Conflict theorists tend to see society as an endless power struggle between competing factions, each trying to make their interpretation of the societal narrative prevail (by coercion if necessary.) I pointed out then that these are truly flipsides of the human condition in that, as God’s image bearers, we were created for (and are inclined to) an organic interrelatedness. But as fallen human beings we are in conflict, joining with others in efforts to make our interpretation of reality prevail. Revolutionary change may at times be needed. We are not all knowing, we are limited by our personal contexts, and we are each corrupt in our own minds. How do we measure, in any given circumstance, what our situation is and what our response should be? At least three things.
First, we have to have some vision of what our ideal outcome would be. In this case, we want a guy who gets a hit every time.
Second, I think we compare present circumstances with past experience. How does George Brett compare with other ballplayers of the past 100 years or so of baseball? Are there historical examples of substantially better performance? If we look, we learn that Brett was exceptiona1! From this we conclude that there must be something in the nature of the game (to date) that makes exceeding a .300 batting average prohibitive.
Third, we have to ask if something fundamental has changed about present circumstances that would lead us to believe that we can obtain different results. To my knowledge, I’m unaware of any physiological changes, alterations to the laws of physics, or changes to the rules of the game, that would lead us to believe that batters can do significantly better. That being the case, we study people players like George Brett in the hopes of maturing more players who can play at least at his level.
As we move into discussing the prosperity system of Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change, I envision market capitalism being in the seat next to McLaren as he boards an airplane. He has researched why seven out of ten times market capitalism has failed to get a hit. If we look at his analysis, we will find much of it compelling. He will have correctly measured the shortcomings. So when he takes his seat should he grumble about his misfortune of being seated next to such a loser or should he be asking for an autograph? That depends on how he answers questions two and three.
I will tell you right now that not only does McLaren grumble but he stands up, points his finger, and condemns it. He then offers his answer to achieve perfect batting that is disconnected from the hard learned lessons of human history and from sound biblical anthropology.