In Pursuit of Pennants: Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball

In Pursuit of Pennants: Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball

In Pursuit of Pennants: Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball

In Pursuit of Pennants: Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball


The 1936 Yankees, the 1963 Dodgers, the 1975 Reds, the 2010 Giants- why do some baseball teams win while others don't?

General managers and fans alike have pondered this most important of baseball questions. The Moneyball strategy is not the first example of how new ideas and innovative management have transformed the way teams are assembled. In Pursuit of Pennants examines and analyzes a number of compelling, winning baseball teams over the past hundred-plus years, focusing on their decision making and how they assembled their championship teams.

Whether through scouting, integration, instruction, expansion, free agency, or modernizing their management structure, each winning team and each era had its own version of Moneyball, where front office decisions often made the difference. Mark L. Armour and Daniel R. Levitt show how these teams succeeded and how they relied on talent both on the field and in the front office. While there is no recipe for guaranteed success in a competitive, ever-changing environment, these teams demonstrate how creatively thinking about one's circumstances can often lead to a competitive advantage.


When the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox met in the 2013 World Series, the twenty-five players on their respective rosters rightfully took center stage. The composition of these rosters, though, was the result of the efforts of dozens of people in baseball operations positions who had scouted, drafted, developed, signed, or acquired the players. All of their decision making is analyzed and graded like never before by fans and writers, many of whom feel comfortable secondguessing not just Major League trades but also the drafting of high school prospects. In the end—at least for 2013—the Cardinals and Red Sox front offices found the right players more effectively than their counterparts on the other twenty-eight Major League teams.

Building a championship baseball team, 140 years after the start of the first professional league, remains a challenging task. Regardless of the strengths of any Major League organization, its management is generally competing against other smart, well-motivated people with significant resources of their own. In a direct competition, where every action draws a reaction, there can be no easy recipe for success. Moreover, in an industry where people shift between organizations on a regular basis, it is not possible to maintain trade secrets for more than a short period of time.

Organizations are also dealing with imperfect information when constructing their teams. Which eighteen-year-old draftee will add five miles per hour to his fastball, and which will hit for more power? Which player is ready to be promoted to the Majors, which declining player is over the hill and which will rebound, and which free-agent pitcher is least likely to break down due to arm troubles? The list of things one cannot know, at least precisely, is endless. Nevertheless, teams must make decisions.

Robert R. Bowie, a Harvard professor and a former director of Harvard’s Center for International Affairs, discussed the problem of hav-

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