Winning makes things easier. Preparation makes winning easier. Promises fulfilled creates trust. Trust creates a winning environment.
The success of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 is no excuse or lucky situation. In a season where the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are built to compete and have the third and fourth best records in the National League, and the fifth and sixth best records in all of Major League Baseball, it was not convenient for the Dodgers to play mediocre baseball. The Dodgers, for where the franchise sits this Sunday, August 6, 2017, are playing the best baseball in its storied history.
We would like to focus on some key points on why the Dodgers have been so successful this season. What makes them tick? Why is the team playing its best baseball now? We will highlight the reasons here.
Commitment to the Farm System and the Baseball Development Department
Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and many more. All of these players were once the subject of trade rumors for pitchers like Chris Sale, David Price, Jose Quintana, and many more. Good thing the Dodgers held onto them and believed in the process. The mutual trust and respect has been reciprocated in the best record in baseball and best stretch of any baseball team (43-7) since the 1912 New York Giants. Management’s belief in Yasiel Puig has been rewarded with the outfielder’s best and most consistent season to date. Finding and developing Chris Taylor? A lesson in patience and commitment.
Commitment to Re-Signing Free Agents
Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Justin Turner. The current front office re-resigned all three important franchise players. No questions asked. No drama. Just a commitment to winning and keeping the core team together.
Commitment to a Clubhouse Culture of Selfless Team Baseball
The old adage of “practicing what you preach” applies to the Dodgers team, management, and the front equally. Since Stan Kasten and his front office conglomerate of minds came along they have preached depth, longevity, and competing for years and every year. Their commitment to depth over individual records, teamwork over individualism and sharing of the load has led to four straight division championships and on the way to a fifth this season. The players have bought into each other and their vision.
Commitment to Instilling the Clubhouse Culture with an Untypical Managerial Hire
A man who clawed his way onto a Major League roster and stole an infamous second base to score the tying run in the 2004 American League Championship Series knows grit. He knows hard work. He knows it takes more than talent to win. The Dodgers have had talent, but he was the leader the Dodgers players could respect and relate. Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts did not have “managerial” experience with a baseball team before getting the job to lead the team, but he had “experience” and the franchise is lucky to have him.
Commitment to the Fundamentals of Winning Baseball Games: Pitching, Defense, and When All Else Fails, Offense
With the franchises resources, the benefit the Dodgers have is that they can play small ball, Money Ball, and Home Run Derby ball. Interestingly, however, the Dodgers payroll has gone down every year Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have led the front office behind President Stan Kasten. In the above sense, sometimes the greatest display of character and leadership is when you have the power, you also utilize the discretion of when not to use it.
The Dodgers have resisted trading away the farm, to win last year. The Dodgers have resisted buying the farm, to win yesterday. Alternatively, the Dodgers have focused on saving the farm to win now and for a long time in the future by instilling a culture of commitment to each other and the team, focusing on keeping and obtaining good pitching, acquiring and keeping players who play great defense, and when all else fails guys who can mash home runs.
The greatest acquisition the Dodgers made before acquiring Yu Darvish, Tony Watson, and Tony Cingrani on July 31, 2017, was a steady flow of talent from their farm system. Character guys who can play well on and off the field. As a scout might say, guys with a “great makeup.” Truly, the team’s great makeup has spilled over infectiously. Infectiously enough to be in August with the franchise’s best record, ever.