TALENT DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN TITLES

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While the San Francisco Giants were parading down Market Street on Halloween, Adam Kilgore, Nationals beat writer at the Washington Post, was trying to explain how the “wickedly” talented Nats fell short — again.

On paper, the Nationals appeared to be a team of reckoning; Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Drew Storen. The Nationals have won 280 regular season games since 2012, sporting a .642 winning percentage. No Major League Baseball (MLB) team has compiled more wins or a higher winning percentage.

Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo:

I was really proud of the roster we constructed. We had great talent at a lot of different positions. We had great depth. I see a team that is constructed for the long haul.

All that talent and all those wins aren’t good enough. In 2012, the Nationals lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in a best-of-five series, 3-2, and in 2014 lost the National League Division Series in four games to the eventual World Series champion Giants.

In reflection, Rizzo summed up the 2014 season this way:

I thought we had a tremendous season. It was extremely successful, and it ended poorly. We were disappointed the way it ended, but I was very proud of the way we played. I think I would take the same scenario going into the playoffs next year if you let me. If you tell me next year that we have the best record in the National League … I’ll take my chances again. With the talent that we have on the roster and another year of experience under our belt and a couple more playoff games under our belt, I’ll take my chances against anybody.

From 1991 through 2005 the Atlanta Braves were one of the most successful baseball clubs in history, winning 14 consecutive National League East division titles. The Braves won 90+ games seven times and 100+ six times during the run. Great roster. Great talent. Great depth. Disappointing outcomes.

The Atlanta Braves — maybe the most talented teams of the 1990s and first half of the 2000s — had a playoff record of 58-54 and one World Series title in five appearances.

Over the last two decades the postseason has evolved to two Wild Card teams, a five-game division series, a seven-game league championship series and, of course, the World Series. It is a short season within a season. Talent is only a component to winning a World Series ring. As both the Giants and Royals have proved, getting to the World Series is one part talent, one part timing, one part pitching and a dash of luck.

Did the Nationals have a better team?

Yes, but talent alone doesn’t win titles.

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John Strubel

Hi. My name is John Strubel. Thanks for visiting my website. I write primarily about my passion: baseball. In addition, I occasionally publish posts and podcasts related to sports media, journalism and technology impacting the industry. You can also connect with me on social media @johnstrubel.

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