Do you want to pick up success principles as you enjoy baseball? One need not look far! Every season produces great stories from the on-field performers and those behind the scenes. 2021 was no exception. We can learn from players, front-office folks, and broadcasters.

Think Like a General Manager

Capping the amazing 2021 season, the team with the fewest wins of any playoff qualifier won it all! Atlanta lost its All-Star right fielder to a season-ending injury in July.    The Braves had struggled to win more games than they lost from April through June.  Yet the team’s General Manager, Alex Anthopoulis, did not give up on the season. 

He saw reasons for hope.  Despite a poor won-loss record, the team had a positive run differential (scoring more runs than they had allowed).  Several injured players were about to return to action.  The team was built to win with a great mix of young talent and veteran leadership.  Instead of trading players away, Anthopoulis picked up four accomplished outfielders.  In doing this, the GM shows us five principles that all good leaders employ.

Truist Park just prior to World Series Game 3 on October 29, 2021. (Photo credit = Julia Mancuso)

Principle One: Change of Scenery

A good leader will recognize that an underperforming player on one team may thrive on another team.  This is not to find fault with the player or with his old team.

  Teams have unique cultures, often finding that players who fit well often have success with a change of scenery.

Principle Two: Helping Everyone Improve

A good leader will recognize that bringing in NEW team members can raise the performance of the existing team, helping everyone improve.  Conversely, NOT adding help when it’s needed can discourage the players and weaken their resolve. 

Many pointed to the Padres collapse in the second half of 2021 as connected to their inability to add reinforcements after many of their pitchers went on the injured list.

Principle Three: The Right Move

Great leaders realize that the right move isn’t only right when it works within a series or even in an individual season.  Had the Braves lost the NLCS or the World Series, the move to replace the injured Acuna would still have been a success, because it got the Braves back to the playoffs.  Winning this championship puts an exclamation point on the wisdom of the General Manager. 

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Principle Four: Strategy in New Settings

Great leaders realize that a proven strategy will work in new settings.  It’s notable that Anthopoulos had taken a similar approach in a past role (2009-2015) with Toronto.  He built a Blue Jays team that reached the America League Championship Series two years in a row.  In 2015, as in 2021, he recognized opportunity and added players through late-season trades, allowing the Blue Jays to grab a playoff position for the first time since 1993. 

Principle Five: Everyone Wins

Great leaders realize that a good move can allow everyone to win.  What is breathtaking about Anthopoulos’ success in Toronto is the number of good players he traded AWAY. The end result was good for those players and for both teams involved.  One example is Roy Halliday, a Hall of Fame pitcher who won a World Series in Philadelphia after Alex traded him from Toronto.

In 2021, higher than expected attendance put the Braves in a financial position to go out and sign more good players in July.  Opportunity met with preparation and a talented GM whose teams have reached the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons.