There is value in developing a winning culture.
No matter how many stars you have, unless the team knows how to win, it won’t matter. There are plenty of examples. The 2012 Red Sox looked stacked after bringing in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford the year before with David Ortiz, Jon Lester, and company already there. They finished in dead last in the A.L. East that season and manager Bobby Valentine was shown the door. The 2015 Tigers had Miguel Cabrera, David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez on the roster, and finished in last place.
Superstars do not guarantee success. Winning is a habit that is learned and taught.
The 2017 Padres had three minor league teams in the playoffs. The El Paso Chihuahuas just advanced to the Pacific Coast League Championship against Memphis. The San Antonio Missions just lost a tough series in the Texas League Division Series. Lastly, Fort Wayne is in the Eastern Division Championship Series in the Midwest League. One of the teams that didn’t make the playoffs, the Tri-City Dust Devils, still finished above .500 at 40-36. The system is deep.
“Who cares.” you say “It’s just the minor leagues. ” Well, think again. It matters. There is some proof behind organizations who are successful in the big leagues having winning teams down on the farm. Let me explain.
In 2011, Columbus, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, won the International League Championship. They had players like Jason Kipnis (2-time All-Star, hit .290 with two homers in 2016 World Series), Corey Kluber (2014 Cy Young winner, and a candidate this year as well) and Lonnie Chisenhall (9.1 WAR in seven seasons) on their roster.
The team that defeated Columbus in the Triple-A championship that year was the Omaha Storm Chasers, of the Kansas City Royals. That team featured Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Jarrod Dyson from the back-to-back World Series trips.
In 2012, Pawtucket (Triple-A Red Sox) won the International League. The next year, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. Jose Iglesias, Alex Wilson, and Junichi Tazawa were part of both Championship clubs.
There are several other examples. The Padres are building a similar resume. While winning minor league championships does not ensure the same results down the road for the big league club, it certainly can’t hurt to get that type of experience. San Diego has one of the most impressive farm systems in baseball and it has shown during the minor league postseason.
Building a winning culture takes time. The major league club is even starting to learn how to win. The Friars are 6-4 to start September, with those games coming against the likes of the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks. The comeback victory in the ninth inning on Saturday, in Arizona, was an indicator that these young Padres are learning how to fight back and come through in the clutch. This experience is extremely valuable as San Diego builds towards contending in the coming few years.