Tearing it down to the studs, losing badly for several years, acquiring as many prospects as possible, and not spending in free agency is not the only way to create a good team. See, for example, the World Series runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers, or the ALCS runner-up New York Yankees, or the playoff Boston Red Sox or Arizona Diamondbacks.
Neither is the tear-down approach necessarily a sufficient way to create a good team. You still have to draft well, make thoughtful trades, develop that young talent, and the supplement well with free agents and acquisition trades when the time is right.
But there can be no doubt that, if you are going that route, the last two World Series winners are the model of how you do it.
The Houston Astros won the World Series last night, besting the Los Angeles Dodgers in an uncompetitive Game Seven to cap off what had otherwise been a completely thrilling Fall Classic. Yu Darvish once again looked like a batting practice pitcher, yielding five runs before the end of the second inning, and those were the only five runs the Astros scored, winning the game 5-1.
The Astros did it with their core of young talent, with thoughtful free agent additions, and with impactful trade acquisitions. No two teams and approaches are exactly alike, but the similarities with the 2016 Cubs are certainly there.
Each organization happened to go through ownership and front office turnover at a time when the realities of the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement were setting in, and the just-buy-a-bunch-of-free-agents approach, even in a large market like Chicago or Houston, was not going to be the best way to winning a title. And so each organization leveraged that ownership and front office turnover to do a deep, deep rebuild. Things were new all over, so a new approach – one that called for patience – just felt more sellable.
Of course, the Astros’ rebuild was quite a bit deeper and, at times, almost perversely miserly.
In the end, though, as with the Cubs, it worked. The Astros created a foundation for sustained success. They succeeded long enough to get themselves close enough to win a title, and then they won a tightly-contested World Series in seven games.
Again, the story shouldn’t be that this is the ONLY way to win a World Series, and the two organizations deserve more credit for the player evaluation and development part than the “dump ’em all” part. Still, when you see – for one example – the Philadelphia Phillies rise up in the coming years, the twin arcs of the Cubs and Astros will be referenced heavily.
Congratulations to the Astros on a title well-earned and well-deserved, and a future that looks very bright.
And just think: they could have had Kris Bryant, too.