Second Best is First Loser

Second best is first loser.

I HATE this phrase…and here’s another.

No one remembers the team that loses the championship.

We are always looking for a GOAT to glorify and worship. It’s be the best or you’re worthless.

The idea that success is a curse, because those who have it are lionized and the constantly pestered is the original version of #firstworldproblems. Dave Dombrowski is a victim of this detrimentally simplistic mentality on the concept of success.

“Dombrowski took over a moribund Tigers franchise in 2002 and has led the team to four straight AL Central division titles. Detroit won the pennant in 2006 and 2012, and made three straight ALCS appearances from 2011-2013.

The San Francisco Giants may have won three championships over that span but those intervening odd years were rather heart-breaking. The St. Louis Cardinals may be a candidate in this regular season comparison but didn’t quite make it happen. However, it’s besides the point. What’s worrisome is that you have a guy, in Dombrowski, who ran the front office well. Someone whom everyone believes is about to catch lightning in a bottle. Once over the hump, this is the sort of guy that could very well create a dynasty. Yeah, let’s give him the axe because it just hasn’t happened yet.

Dave Dombrowski was good but wasn't good enough. (

Dave Dombrowski was good but wasn’t good enough. (

Perhaps I’m being over the top. A lot of our top World Series winning General Managers did it early in their careers and rode them into retirement (maybe not with the same team). Almost invariably, they had a decent career as a General Manager for another club before going to a team that was ready to get it. Perhaps Dombrowski will get his chance to run a front office for another team who wins it all for him.

But this got me thinking about trumpets.

I studied music as an undergrad student and learned quite a bit about perceived value. You learn things like how the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), amongst the classical brass instrument playing community (trumpets, French horns, trombones, tubas, etc), is synonymous with the pinnacle of trumpet performance. For half a century, CSO was dominated by a figure, the principal trumpet, Bud Herseth. If you wanted to be a classical trumpet player, you wanted to be him because he was, arguably, the best.

But you couldn’t learn from him because he never gave lessons. He also didn’t perform much outside of the orchestral repertoire decided by the CSO’s musical director at the time. This wasn’t the norm. His contemporaries, such as Arnold Jacobs and Vincent Cichowitz, who completed the brass section of the orchestra were musical masters in their own rights. Cichowitz was second trumpet to Herseth but gave lessons and influenced an entire generation of trumpet players. It’s not like Cichowitz couldn’t have been principal trumpet of another orchestra. He liked being in Chicago with everything else going for him, it could be argued that he was as successful as Bud Herseth.

Vincent Cichowicz was better than his second trumpet seat would indicate. (

Vincent Cichowicz was better than his second trumpet seat would indicate. (

What I’m trying to say is that Vincent Cichowitz was a badass but if you look at his position in the orchestra, you might think he wasn’t. He was “second best” but that doesn’t make him a second rate trumpet player. One of his students, Allen Bachelder, had a great career as a musician and eventually taught where I went to college. Some of Dr. Bachelder’s students have been very successful as soloists and band members.

The idea of shaking things up because a team may have become complacent seems appropriate only when you’re in a decline or wallowing in or at the bottom. I ran some numbers about place in the league standings and World Series appearances. Since 1969, the first place team in league went to the World Series 24 times and won it 11 of those times. Third place in the league had similar numbers. We’re also seeing the rise of more wild card winners but that’s also due to the expanding pool. Numbers don’t lie. However, we need to understand what they’re telling us. Dombrowski was on the cusp of having that championship. Maybe his next team will make that happen.


One comment

  1. Pingback: 2016 New Year’s Resolution for the NL East « The Winning Run

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