Saturday, October 29, 2011

Climbing the Mountain.....Again

Today, the Texas Rangers organization faces the toughest challenge in sports. How to get BACK to the top!

That's right, while each and every baseball club has the same goals, that is to win a championship, they will spend time on organizational meetings, planning, developing metrics for success, etc. As you read this now, I'm quite sure that Theo Epstein and his new staff members are busy plotting and planning for how to turn the Chicago Cubs into a franchise that can compete, and win, in the National League. Compared to what faces the Rangers organization, this might actually be the easier task.

Today, while celebrations are in full swing in St. Louis, and anywhere in Cardinal-Nation, quietly the Rangers organizations reflects on coming oh so close to winning it all, winning that final game that Oakland Athletics General Managers Billy Beane said in the movie Moneyball, "that all of us are measured by".

The Rangers are now 0-2 in World Series appearances. Just getting there twice in a row is something special in baseball. The Phillies of 2008 and 2009, were the most recent, the Yankees of 98-2000, the Braves in 95-96 and Blue Jays of 1992-93 the others in the last 20 years.

The challenge for the Rangers, is one of leadership. In sports, when your organization comes this close to winning not one, but two World Championships, there is a tendency to tell yourself, "We're on the right path, we're just missing a piece here and there". Teams rarely step back and make big changes.

However, is that right? What makes executives think that what propelled them to the level that is one step below the championship is good enough to get them all the way the next time? It may be that just like in NASCAR when the crew chief of the best team knows that while his car his good "over the long run", what really matters is how fast the car is in the final segment of the race. The one that ends with a checkered flag.

In terms of baseball, the Rangers now face long, long odds. Going to the World Series three times in a row? The aforementioned Yankees of 98-2000 did, but they won all three times they were in it. The Oakland A's of 1988-90 were the only team in recent history to get to the World Series three straight years, and only win once.

Looking ahead, the Rangers will be a lesson in leadership and challenge. If there is a sense of urgency, they may be the best team for that NASCAR-esque finishing segment. If they are focusing on being the best over the long run, what if Lady Luck does not want to ride along?

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