Bernanke Says Nationals Offer a Lesson for Washington

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said America’s capital city should take a leadership lesson from the Washington Nationals after the hometown baseball team won the National League East division title.

Many in Washington “could learn a thing or two” from the season in which the Nationals defied conventional wisdom to finish with the best record in Major League Baseball, Bernanke wrote in a Wall Street Journal essay yesterday.

“People decry the absence of leadership in Washington these days,” Bernanke wrote. “My response: Look no further than the home-team dugout at Nationals Park.”

The Nationals captured the NL East on Oct. 1, the team’s first division crown since moving to Washington in 2005. It’s also the first major-league title for the nation’s capital since the former Washington Senators won the pennant in 1933.

Bernanke, who said he’s been a Nationals fan since 2005, cited the reliance of the team’s manager, Davey Johnson, on statistical analysis to spot and nurture talent. Johnson, who took over in June 2011, understands how to apply statistics to determine lineups and pitcher-hitter matchups, the 58-year-old Fed chief wrote.

Johnson’s use of so-called sabermetrics to identify the best players appeals to an economist because it submits the “conventional wisdoms of baseball to rigorous statistical tests,” Bernanke wrote.

Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Trinity University in San Antonio in 1964, according to the school’s website. He played for 13 seasons in the major leagues, hitting .261 over his career with 136 home runs and 609 runs batted in and being named to All-Star teams four times.

‘Early Proponent’

Johnson has led five big league teams -- the Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Mets -- over 15 seasons to achieve a career-winning percentage that ranks second to Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles among living managers with at least 10 years of experience, the Nationals said in a 2011 statement. Johnson was manager of the Mets team that won the 1986 World Series over the Boston Red Sox.

“He was an early proponent of the use of statistical analysis in baseball decision-making, and it is clear in his tactical management of games that he is very conversant with sabermetric principles,” Bernanke wrote in the Journal.

The Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of the National League Division Series tomorrow.

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