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Rickey's ideology pulses through Dodgers, Cards

Impact on franchises -- and Bucs, too -- clear as teams match up in NLDS

The inscription on the Branch Rickey statute that stands near the entrance to Coors Field reads: "It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind."

Rickey's heritage is on center stage in baseball's postseason this year. The National League West champion Dodgers will meet the NL Central champion Cardinals in a best-of-five NL Division Series that opens on Friday at Dodger Stadium in a matchup of two franchises that, thanks to Rickey, are among the most storied in baseball.

Rickey also had a hand in the evolution of the Pirates, who host the Giants on Wednesday in a win-or-go-home showdown of the two NL Wild Card winners. The winner of the game advances to the NLDS against the NL East champion Nationals.

Baseball's spotlight is familiar to the Dodgers and Cardinals.


• There are 17 inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame whose primary team was the Cards, third among franchises behind the Yankees (24) and Giants (22), and one spot ahead of the Dodgers (15), according to the Hall of Fame's primary-team finder.

• The Dodgers' all-time .525 winning percentage is third, behind the Yankees (.589) and Giants (.538) and sits just ahead of the Cardinals, fourth at .519.

• The Cards have won 11 World Series championships, second in baseball to the Yanks (27) but the most in the NL, ahead of the Giants (seven) and Dodgers (six).

• The Cardinals have won 33 pennants, second to the Yankees (40) and one more than the Dodgers and Giants.

• And the Dodgers have won 13 division titles, second in the NL to the Braves (17), and one more than the Cards and Phillies.

Rickey, who passed away 49 years ago in December, would be proud.

Rickey invented the farm system when he was with the Cardinals. He oversaw the integration of baseball, created a permanent home for Spring Training and devised statistical analysis when he was with the Dodgers. He laid the foundation for the Pirates' 1961 World Series success against the Yanks, including using the Rule 5 Draft to select Roberto Clemente away from the Dodgers, and he introduced batting helmets and pitching machines during his Pittsburgh tenure.

And the Cards and Dodgers to this day are true to the values embraced by Rickey, who himself was inducted into the Hall of Fame as an executive in 1967.

The Cardinals regularly have six home-grown players among their eight starting position players -- catcher Yadier Molina, first baseman Matt Adams, second baseman Kolten Wong, third baseman Matt Carpenter, center fielder Jon Jay and right fielder Oscar Taveras -- and three of their five starting pitchers -- Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.

Adam Wainwright, who will start Friday's opener against lefty Clayton Kershaw, was a first-round Draft choice of the Braves who was dealt to St. Louis as part of the package for J.D. Drew and then pitched for two years in the Cards' farm system before joining the big league staff. And five of the seven relievers who made at least 30 appearances were originally signed by St. Louis.

The Dodgers carry on the strong emphasis on ethnic diversity that Rickey embraced, opening the door for African-Americans by not only bringing Jackie Robinson to the big leagues in 1947, but winning an NL pennant in 1949 with Robinson at second base, Roy Campanella behind the plate and Don Newcombe starting pitcher in Games 1 and 4 against the Yankees.

This year, the Dodgers will open the playoffs with a projected starting lineup in which catcher A.J. Ellis is the only player who is not of African-American or Hispanic descent. Second baseman Dee Gordon, left fielder Carl Crawford and right fielder Matt Kemp are African-Americans. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is of Mexican heritage, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and third baseman Juan Uribe are natives of the Dominican Republic, and center fielder Yasiel Puig is Cuban.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, the projected third starter, is a native of South Korea, and the bullpen is anchored by closer Kenley Jansen, a native of Curacao.

And both teams have weaved statistical analysis into their evaluation system, a staple for Rickey, who hired baseball's first full-time statistician, Alan Roth, with the Dodgers in 1947.

Among the myriad of Rickey's statistical creations were on-base percentage, and a formula using on-base percentage and extra-base power (deducting the total hits from total bases and dividing by at-bats) to determine the best hitters. The results? Babe Ruth beat out Ted Williams for the No. 1 spot all time.

It's all a part of Rickey's impact on baseball, underscored by the prominence of the Dodgers and Cardinals franchises.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy.