Talking about the importance of winning on the farm

Several days ago, I posted this entry, gleaned from my interview with new Orioles director of player development Matt Blood. The 34-year-old comes to the Orioles from the Texas Rangers. He’s also worked for USA Baseball and was a scout with the St. Louis Cardinals, working in the same front office where the Orioles’ Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal once toiled.

We covered a lot of ground in that last entry and ended it with a promise to discuss where winning fits in amid all the new data, technology and analytics. Every major league organization’s first priority on the farm is to produce players for the big league team. That effort can sometimes be at odds with winning a game on a given night. Or winning generally.

Matt-Blood-Sidebar.jpgHere is the back-and-forth with Blood in terms of winning on the farm:

Where does winning fit in all of this? We know developing players is job No. 1 for the minors, but how important is it to have winning teams that excite fans and make the playoffs?

“We’re all competitive and we all want to win. A winning environment is where you are more focused and where you learn more and have more, I guess, motivation you could say. But we’re not going to preach winning. We are going to do our best to develop players and our hope is that we will win. And we’ll win because we’ve developed better players. That is a result of the process. It is not going to be what our coaches will be evaluated on. They will be evaluated on players getting better. But if players get better maybe that ends up with more wins.”

Matt, fans might wonder about a quote of, “We’re not going to preach winning.” Now I have covered the minors long enough to understand what you mean about developing players coming first. But can you address that further?

“Well, OK, I will say we want a winning culture. But we aren’t going to preach to our staffs that they need to try and win every game if that comes at the expense of developing a player. For example, we have a lefty hitting prospect that we want to get at-bats against left-handed pitching and we’re late in a game and the other team has a tough lefty on the mound. We could have a right-handed hitter in place of him and maybe that gives us a better chance to win the game. But we’d rather have the left-handed hitting prospect get that experience against that left-handed pitcher than potentially a better chance to win that game. Does that make sense?”

It makes total sense. Have seen it time and again in the minors and other examples like that. That goes with development where things are done differently than the majors. I think some fans that don’t follow the minors may not know that.

“Right, and don’t get me wrong. It’s not going to be a de-emphasis on playing winning baseball. We’re going to want to play winning baseball in terms of the fundamentals and the effort that we give. It’s just, to me, winning is a result and we’re going to be more focused on the process. That process of developing players. That is, ultimately, our job. We’d love to have a winning culture and to teach these players how to win. And our hope is that will happen through development.”

In 2019, the Orioles’ overall minor league record was 421-393, the 10th-best mark by organizational winning percentage (.517) among all 30 clubs.

Baseball America ran this list of the clubs with the best win percentages on the farm. It included only domestic affiliates, and with this ranking the Orioles were ninth at .526. Here are the top five.

.573 - Tampa Bay Rays
.562 - Los Angeles Dodgers
.559 - Texas Rangers
.557 - Arizona Diamondbacks
.539 - Minnesota Twins

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