They used to say, "there are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics..."

Today, the code words are Metrics and analytics.

You hear those words often these days. Well, you do, if you watch professional baseball games, or do almost any reading -- or browsing -- of how data-driven we have become in everything from "the shift" to deciding who gets in to college.

Yes, data. The stuff that pushes high stakes standardized test scores to the fore in the minds of the mindless, and takes the manager out of the play on the field in any given ballgame.

Gone are the days when the manager had to actually use his head and make a decision as to whether to shift the infield and bring in the outfield, this in defense of a particular hitter. No, now a computer, probably based somewhere north of Des Moines, is crunching the numbers, reckoning the averages, calculating the risks, and, for better or for worse, making that executive and presumably life altering decision.

Not exactly sure whether the computer (HAL, perhaps?) has a better track record on calling the shift than, say, Joe Girardi... I suppose time -- and those statisticians in the booth -- will tell.

And I can't say, with any degree of college admission certainty, whether those metrics and analytics will produce a better crop of students, a more balanced class of graduates, more productive citizens, or greater civic and community engagement. In all likelihood, not.

I can, and will say that taking those all too human ingredients out of the equation (including, dare I say, that most human of characteristics -- error), this so as to, in effect, standardize, quantify, and absolve one of blame for making what may turn out to be the wrong decision, diminishes each and every one of us.

To be data-driven, bound by metrics, analytics, and the drone of a computer-activated voice telling us to turn right at the next corner, move your shortstop five feet to the left, or admit student "A" and defer student "B", weakens us as a society, destabilizes us as a civilization, and (though I have no scientific evidence to back this up), will lead to the inevitable shrinking of our brains. No longer having to think for ourselves, to make decisions, to parse that box or burst that bubble, we sadly attain that "goal" of standardization known as mediocrity. And that once powerful computer inside our heads? A shriveled vestige of its former self, reduced to the size of the Appendix, now capable of making few decisions on its own, other than, perhaps, turning on the iMac in the morning and checking the iPhone for text messages.

While metrics and analytics surely have their place -- invaluable, no doubt, in medicine, engineering, and scientific pursuits (don't attempt to send a manned mission to Mars without them), they have, in my humble opinion, limited value when it comes to determining either the best play on the baseball field or the best fit for a particular college.

We have become quite adept at the study of numbers and statistics, and, unfortunately, accustomed to accepting them as having a greater meaning than should be so attributed. Test scores. College acceptance rates. On base percentages. You name it.

In so doing, we tend to miss out on the human element (which, by the way, necessarily includes failure -- quite often the most compelling force behind ultimate success). 

In baseball, as in the college admissions process, metrics, analytics, the emphasis of data over daring, testing over teaching, not only dulls the excitement (whatever happened to taking a chance?), it numbs us, dumbs us down, and leads us to conclude, I believe erroneously so, that the only thing that matters in our lives are the numbers -- from Apgar scores to SAT scores, rankings to seedings, acceptance rates to salary scales -- that some computer has ascribed to us.

They also do one more thing -- and the impact of this is immeasurable. Whether on the playing field or in the classroom, from shifting the infield to teaching to the test, this over-reliance upon metrics and analytics takes the fun out of the game. 

Remember, you are more -- so much more -- than a test score. And the true value of your life on this good earth cannot be quantified by a computer, standardized by Common Core, bastardized by College Board, or measured by your net worth.

Don't let the numbers, or the statistics, scare you. And certainly don't let metrics and analytics deter you from applying to a college (or several) likely to be a good fit for you.

Play ball!

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