Often, during an odd season of long-distance soul-searching, Rangers management added special guests to the Zooms that have become staples of running a business in a life-changing pandemic.
They were inspired by Sharon Robinson, Jackie’s daughter. They were challenged by military officials. They were moved by some of their own players’ experiences. The idea was to inform and connect in a suddenly disconnected world. If a lesson learned could be applied to turning the Rangers around, all the better. It was interesting and innovative,and you never know where you are going to get your next spark.
Now, come the live demonstrations.
For the next week _ 10 days, if everybody is lucky _ the demonstration is coming to the front door of the Rangers’ offices. It’s called the World Series. And if the Rangers need any more guidance on getting back to contention, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays are perfect presenters.
It would be easy to say this based on the fact that, after all, this is the World Series and since these were the two teams with the best records in the major leagues this season.
But it’s not just about the records, it’s about how these teams were built. Which is to once again say: You don’t build through free agent spending.
“There is just incredible depth on both rosters,” general manager Jon Daniels said Monday. “The Dodgers have to be the poster team for player development. They’ve done a remarkable job of acquiring players from different avenues. They’ve done a great job in the draft but also in a number of other ways.”
And Daniels was just getting warmed up.
“A lot of times when you talk about players in different circles, you hear about what a player can do, but just as much about what the player can’t do,” he said, switching to Tampa Bay. “The Rays really focus on what the player can do. And then they put the player in a position to do what he’s really good at. It really stands out.
“And they are really willing to deal and make trades,” he added. “They are looking for what fits their roster and what may better compliment what they have or maybe what they don’t.”
Look around the Rays’ roster. October sensation Randy Arozarena: Acquired last fall from St. Louis as part of a deal for their 2018 first-round pick Matthew Liberatore. Ace Tyler Glasnow: Pried from Pittsburgh along with outfielder Austin Meadows for 2 1/2 years of control of Chris Archer. Big Pete Fairbanks, the man who recorded the last out of the ALCS: He came from the Rangers for Nick Solak because the Rays needed relief arms for their innovative approach to rounding out the rotation more than they needed a wealth of hitterish infielders.
The Dodgers? Glance at that magnificent pitching staff, which led baseball in ERA and WHIP. Of the 60 games the Dodgers played in the regular season, 44 of them were started by pitchers the team drafted; another 10 came from Julio Urias, signed as a teenager from Mexico.
NLCS MVP Corey Seager: A Dodger draftee. Reigning MVP Cody Bellinger: A Dodger draftee. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw: Say it with me _ a Dodger draftee.
Yes, the Dodgers have the second-highest payroll in baseball this year. And they will probably be one of the few teams whose payroll grows in 2021, but it’s because they’ve drafted, developed, produced and then locked up their own players. The biggest external free agent contract on the roster: A.J. Pollock, who is pulling down $55 million guaranteed over four years. He took a paycut in his first year of the deal and he pretty much plays only against right-handed pitching. He’s hardly the only platoon guy, either. Versatile Kike Hernandez, who tied Game 7 with a pinch-hit homer, platoons. Catcher Will Smith, who turned around Game 5 to start the Dodgers comeback, platoons.
The Rays are right there with them. They have virtually no roles in a bullpen stable full of guys throwing 98, as manager Kevin Cash likes to say. The Rays had 12 pitchers pick up saves this year. The Rangers, on the other hand, had 10 total saves.
“It’s a cultural thing,” Daniels said. “I’m sure there are some guys that don’t like being platooned or maybe aren’t initially comfortable playing in a certain shift or, but I mean these guys play all sorts of different positions, and you don’t hear guys complain about it. They get guys to platoon, and I think, ultimately, it’s different when you are a contending team and it’s clearly for the benefit for the tam. But it’s such a big piece of it. They’ve both been able to build a roster and a culture that speaks to really doing what is best for the team.”
It’s a Rays thing. It’s a Dodgers thing. It’s a World Series thing.
And maybe the Rangers can pick up a little something from it.