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WINNERS SPEND, LOSERS SPEND MORE

By Murray Chass

September 28, 2014

When I encountered a fellow I know the other day, a baseball fan, I expected him to begin complaining about the Chicago Cubs, the team with which he grew up as a Chicago native. He has since moved elsewhere, out of the country, in fact, but he has taken his roots with him.

His love for baseball, that is, not for the Cubs. I quickly learned that he has forsaken the Cubs and now roots for the Cleveland Indians, the team from his wife’s home town.

“What happened to the Cubs?” I asked him.

“They don’t want to win,” he responded. “They don’t spend any money.”

The Cubs have finished in fifth place this season for the fifth consecutive season, averaging 69 wins and 93 losses per year.

My friend was right. The Cubs have stopped spending money. Their payroll this season was $89 million, their lowest since 2005, four years before the Ricketts family bought the Cubs from the Tribune Company.

The Ricketts eagerly and expensively recruited Theo Epstein to run their baseball operation at the end of the 2011 season, and three years later they continue to wait for results.

Having no interest in defending the Cubs and Epstein, I nevertheless understand their reluctance to add millions to a payroll that still couldn’t produce a winner. The Cubs figure that they will spend money when their good young prospects are ready for the majors.

Cubs’ fans, however, have reason to be skeptical of that strategy. Those plans fail at least as often as

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BRAVES’ WAY IS NOT YANKEES’ WAY

By Murray Chass

September 24, 2014

When the Atlanta Braves fired Frank Wren as their general manager Monday, John Schuerholz invoked the term “the Braves’ way.” In 14 years of writing about the Braves’ unprecedented run of consecutive division championships, with Schuerholz as general manager and Bobby Cox as manager, I never heard about “the Braves’ way.”

Whether or not the term was used, though, there was at least an unspoken or unwritten Braves way of constructing and maintaining a championship-caliber team. No one can produce an unparalleled perennial winner without having a system.

The New York Yankees have a system. It is signified not by words but by a symbol: $

Add another $ and then another $ and a few more $$$$$, and there you have the Yankees’ way of planning for the post-season. Sometimes it works, most seasons it doesn’t.

As I write this, the Yankees are on the verge of …

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THE DUKE OF BALTIMORE

By Murray Chass

September 21, 2014

The Baltimore Orioles are American League East champions for the first time since 1997, and that’s not all they have accomplished under Dan Duquette, their chief baseball executive.

In his three years in that position – don’t dare call him general manager because the team’s principal owner, Peter Angelos detests that title and becomes irate if anyone uses it in relation to the Orioles but more about that later – Duquette has headed the once glorious but fallen Orioles back toward their many years of glory.

The Orioles have attained winning records in each of Duquette’s three seasons. The franchise had gone through eight – excuse the expression – general managers since the last time it had three full seasons with more wins than losses. The Orioles didn’t even achieve a three-year winning streak in the three-year term of Hall of Famer Pat Gillick.

Angelos, who won the Orioles in a 1993 bankruptcy auction, has gone through nine general manager types, one before Gillick and six more between Gillick and Duquette.

The last general manager to oversee three consecutive winning 162-game seasons was …

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