What the ’02 Athletics, the ’16 Cubs and the ’17 Dodgers have in common

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Justin Turner (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Justin Turner (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

Since the turn of the century, two teams have stood out as pioneers of a new baseball frontier and the 2017 Dodgers may just be the final piece of the story.

It’s October 2016. The Los Angeles Dodgers are two wins away from the World Series but fall shy of the NL pennant. The following spring, they’ve emerged as National League favorites, embarking on a journey, similar to that of the ’02 A’s and the ’16 Cubs.

The year was 2002. Billy Beane, the GM for the Oakland Athletics, was building a blueprint for a new A’s team, a plan that would later be known as “Moneyball.” Beane, along with Paul DePodesta and the rest of the A’s front office, changed the way we use analytics in baseball. Through finding players that are undervalued and affordable, they created a team that won 103 games. Though they did not win a postseason series that year, and there are still doubts as to whether Moneyball really works, it was one of the catapults for modern-day statistics in baseball.

Flash forward 14 years, to 2016. The Chicago Cubs are on the verge of breaking a 108-year Championship drought. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the rest of the Cubs front office built a team that, in five years, went from being lovable losers to curse-breakers, and winners. They introduced a complex way of rebuilding and recalibrating a ball club known as The Cubs Way.

When looking closely, both the ’02 A’s and the ’16 Cubs are pretty similar. Both clubs employed a new, analytical way of thinking that brought new norms to the game of baseball.

"“There was no question that Billy was the best in the game. The question was why. ” -Michael Lewis in Moneyball"

So, with two teams who stand as pioneers for a new age of baseball, what role do the 2017 Dodgers play?

In this story, the Dodgers are the final piece of the puzzle. They are the culmination of years of innovative ideas. The 2017 Dodgers are a big market team playing championship-worthy baseball, embracing and expanding a philosophy created in Oakland, and elaborated upon in Chicago.

Using a new age of analytics, the A’s were able to build a 103 win team. Using carefully planned out trades and signings, the Cubs were able to win the World Series. Through trades, analytics, and a front office filled with creative and innovative minds, similar to the Chicago Cubs, the Dodgers evolved into the team we see on the field today, playing in the 2017 World Series.

It would take hours upon hours to break down the complexities that make up the ’02 A’s, the ’16 Cubs and the ’17 Dodgers, but one thing unites them all; they are pioneers of a new era in baseball, each in their own specific way.

Since new ownership took over in 2012, the Dodgers have yet to need a full rebuild. What they did need was a new beginning, they got one, and that beginning is what got them to the World Series.

"“From loveable losers to champions, the five-year rebuild of the Cubs was complete, and it ended with the first player on which it was built; Rizzo.” -Tom Verducci in The Cubs Way"

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The 2017 Dodgers is what the effects of two teams, 14 years apart, look like. Each team is their own, and each team owns their accomplishments. The A’s went on to lose in the ALDS to Minnesota in 2002, delaying the fulfillment of “Moneyball.”

The Cubs went on to win the World Series in 2016, their first championship in over a century, finding success in “The Cubs Way.”  How history will remember the 2017 Dodgers, and what the name of this new narrative will be, has yet to be determined. But this team, this team, has built something impeccable.

In 2016, the Dodgers traded Zach Lee to the Seattle Mariners for Chris Taylor. At the start of the 2017 season, Taylor was in the minor leagues, working on his swing. 6 months later, he was named co-MVP of the NLCS. It’s stories like that that have narrated 2017 for the Dodgers.

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The ’02 A’s are the team who embraced statistics and changed how baseball looks at small market teams. The ’16 Cubs are the team who broke the curse.

The ’17 Dodgers? That story is in the midst of its final chapter, but it is far from over.