Tuesday, May 5, 2015

REVIEW: 'In Pursuit of Pennants' by Armour and Levitt

Every team longs for a chance to add to the legacy of their franchise. How can they get another flag to fly over the stadium and become a part of baseball's legendary past?

This is the premise behind the recent book release, In Pursuit of Pennants: Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball by Mark L. Armour and Daniel R. Levitt. These two authors take the reader on a journey through the annals of baseball history to find what made front offices successful throughout each era.

Armour and Levitt have written together previously and both authors have quite the extensive history of writing and editing baseball books. Armour is the author of Joe Cronin: A Life in Baseball, the editor of The Great Eight: The 1975 Cincinnati Reds, and a co-editor of Pitching , Defense, and Three-Run Homers: The 1970 Baltimore Orioles. 

Levitt is the author of Ed Barrow: The Bulldog Who Built the Yankees' First Dynasty and The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy. He is the coauthor with Armour of Paths to Glory: How Great Baseball Teams Got That Way.

The authors use 504 pages to illustrate the important factors teams used to change the way franchises functioned. Scouting players, introducing farm systems, and the integration of black players all played a role in revolutionizing the sport. Some teams were better than others in many of these areas and that lead to many successful years for key franchises.

The Yankees of the 1930's and 1940's, the Big Red Machine in the 1970's, and the San Francisco Giants of more recent years have all found a way to win while other teams fell by the wayside. It's always about finding a competitive advantage.

According to Armour and Levitt:
As the sport evolved, most successful baseball owners understood the importance of professional management, both on the field and in the front office. Perhaps no other action could be as influential in the success or failure of a franchise as hiring the right person as GM... The relationship between the owner and his GM arguably became the most important one in a baseball organization, with the potential to create a first-rate organization and consistent on-field success.
The baseball owner, the general manager, and the rest of the organization need to work in harmony for a team to reach its ultimate goal. Talented players on the field get a lot of attention but a talented front office was needed to get all of the right pieces in place. It's up to the men at the top to put the organization in a place to succeed for multiple generations.

From the most avid baseball fan to someone that knows little about the history of America's Pastime, In Pursuit of Pennants has a little bit of something for everyone. With the amount of historical content locked in this book, it is impossible for the reader not to come out a smarter fan with each turn of the page.

In the end, "to create a long-term successful organization, management must also discover and institutionalize a competitive advantage, either by creating or by responding to an inflection point in the way the business operates." Competition between teams continues to get stronger and the teams that make the right choices are the ones with the flags that fly forever.

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