The playoffs in Major League Baseball have begun. Why do some franchises excel and head toward the World Series while others flounder? The key is the quality of the organization.
I fell in love with baseball in 1958 when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and spent my youth rooting for Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills and the gifted storytelling of announcer Vin Scully. The Dodgers could have folded this year with half the team on the injured list including their superstar Clayton Kershaw. Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers organization did a superb job in finding creative ways to add help, and the team played its best baseball. Their opponent in the first series is the Washington Nationals. Their organization has excelled in ways that could provide a template for struggling teams.
The Nats just won the National League East for the third time in the past five years. They have become a perennial winner without leaning toward the popular ends of the baseball spectrum, with mathematical based "moneyball" analytics on one end and heavy spending on the other. The teams that follow those respective blueprints usually do not win year in and year out the way that the Nats have recently. So what gives rise to this non-moneyball, non-break-the-bank success? The Nats scout well, keep young stars, are strategic in free agency, hire experienced managers and have created a vibrant game-day atmosphere. Here's how they are succeeding in those areas.
Signing Free Agents That Are Strategic Fits
Extending Proven Talent
Investing In Experienced Baseball Managers
As the playoffs get ready to take center stage, the Nats are an example of how to build and maintain an annual winner on the field and how to build a game day experience that keeps the fans coming back. They are playing a Dodgers team whose front office has been excellent. There is much to learn from the Washington game plan and they will be a contender for the World Series for years to come. Hopefully it will not come this year at the expense of the Dodgers.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.