The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team is a 2016 book co-authored by Ben and Sam, and is an account of their time working for the baseball operations department of the Sonoma Stompers during the 2015 season. At the time, the Stompers were one of four teams in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, an independent league based in Northern California.
The book was published by Henry Holt and Co., and was released on May 3, 2016. It became a New York Times bestseller and made several "best of 2016" lists. The paperback edition was released on May 30, 2017 and includes a new afterword by Ben. The audiobook edition was narrated by Kirby Heyborne and John Pruden.
During the Stompers season, Ben temporarily resided in the Sonoma area, while Sam would commute daily from his home near San Francisco. They continued the podcast's normal schedule, which was then five days a week.
It’s the ultimate in fantasy baseball: You get to pick the roster, set the lineup, and decide on strategies—with real players, in a real ballpark, playing in real time. That’s what Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller got to do when the Sonoma Stompers, an independent minor-league team in California, offered them the chance to run the team’s baseball operations according to the most advanced statistics. Their story is unlike any other baseball tale you’ve ever read.
We tag along as Lindbergh and Miller apply their number-crunching insights to all aspects of assembling and running a team. We meet colorful figures like general manager Theo Fightmaster and boundary-breakers like the first openly gay player and the first Japanese manager in American professional baseball. Even José Canseco makes a cameo appearance.
Will sabermetrics bring the Stompers a championship, or will they fall on their face? Will the team have a competitive advantage or is the old folk wisdom really true after all? Will the players be able to maximize their talents and attract the attention of big-league scouts, or will this be a fast track to oblivion?
It’s a wild ride, as the authors’ infectious enthusiasm and feel for the absurd make the Stompers’ story one that will speak to numbers geeks and traditionalists alike. And it proves that you don’t need a bat or a glove to make a genuine contribution to the game.
Related Inside References
- Burn the Ships
- Five-Man Infields
- Honda Fit
- Ignition (Remix)
- Lindbergh Burrito Method
- The Closer Is the Closer
- Episode 619: 2015 Season Preview Series: Baltimore Orioles (And an Announcement) - Ben & Sam first announce their plans to work for the Stompers.
- Episode 635: 2015 Season Preview Series: Texas Rangers - Ben visits Sonoma and records his first episode with Sam in person, but not in the same room.
- Episode 888: Meet the Minor Leagues' Latest Recruit - Interview with former Stompers pitcher Santos Saldivar.
- Episode 951: THE ONLY RULE Book Club Companion Podcast - Interview with Stompers GM Theo Fightmaster, Stompers GM.
- Episode 954: Two Inside Looks at Minor League Life - Interview with former Stompers pitchers Santos Saldivar and Dylan Stoops.
- Episode 1527: The Only Rule Revisited - Reflections on the book five years later
- Official book website
- 2015 game audio archive
- Effectively Wild Episode 619
- Effectively Wild Episode 635
- Effectively Wild Episode 888
- Effectively Wild Episode 951