A fan's observations on the Washington Nationals, from across the virtual divide.

About This Planet…

Everyone has an opinion, and especially, it seems that everyone has an opinion about the Nats. I decided that I would create a place where we could have a civilized discussion about the team, while we (for now) suffer with rebuilding.

Lets hope that’s short-lived!

I attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a school with a good academic reputation, and a few obscure but important athletic achievements. The Alaska Nanooks have won nine of the last ten NCAA Rifle Championships. Alaska was also the first Division II basketball team to win a fall pre-season Division I tournament, winning the Top of the World Classic in 2002. The school also has a Division I hockey program, and the Nanooks play in the CCHA.

My academic training is in organizational communication. I have a Masters of Professional Communication from UAF… and this is a field of study that I really enjoy. Much of my academic training is in teambuilding in organizations, training and development, organizational change and development, and organizational culture.

I mention my academic training because this background colors a lot of my opinions about the Nationals. I’ve watched perhaps 95 percent of the Nationals games since 2005, read much of the media coverage, attended quite a few games of my own, and met and corresponded with fans, players, and a few of the senior officers of the organization. Winning and losing is important, but what has fascinated me is the way the organization has changed and developed over the years as a cultural entity.

People like me believe that almost everything in organizations is tied to their culture – part of that is how we define organizational culture – but I believe that there are ways to be successful, and there are organizational dead-ends. Most fans look at a baseball team’s performance in terms of the individual players on a team and their specific performances. Certainly it is important that a team assemble the best possible talent, but if talent (and performance) were the only criteria that mattered in fielding a winning baseball team, it would simply be about evaluating the talent and putting them under contract. This is the approach that a number of teams take (think Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, etc.), and the results are mixed, at best.

I have my ideas. I have my favorite players. I think the Nats should get this player and get rid of that one. But I don’t claim to have any knowledge about baseball, or skill at evaluating baseball talent, that goes beyond what any avid-to-rabid fan might have. What I do know is how organizations and teams achieve success – not specifically in baseball or any other professional sport – but in business and life. Baseball is no different… at least, I don’t think so.