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updated: 11/29/2011 10:21 PM

Ricketts might want to keep close eye on Cubs' spending

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  • Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is in charge of all personnel decisions, according to team chairman Tom Ricketts.

       Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is in charge of all personnel decisions, according to team chairman Tom Ricketts.
    George Leclaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said Tuesday that all personnel decisions are up to baseball operations president Theo Epstein.

This was in response to reports earlier in the day that the Cubs are interested in acquiring either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder off the free-agent market.

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Meanwhile, there was this on the Boston Herald website about new Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington:

"He's smart, hardworking, and probably won't throw $140 million at (free-agent pitcher) C.J. Wilson like his predecessor surely would have done by now."

Ouch! Cherington's predecessor happens to be Theo Epstein, and the lasting impression back in Boston is he was a wild spender.

(The jilted Red Sox probably would like you to believe that Epstein was responsible for the national spending sprees on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.)

Epstein already dropped some cash to fortify the front office, keeping holdovers from the old regime while adding to them.

Now Epstein is at least exploring dropping $20 million to $30 million annually on Pujols or Fielder? While possibly eating millions left on Alfonso Soriano's contract? Where do I sign up for a ride on this money train?

New baseball owners tend to provide baseball operations with financial leeway for a while before realizing whose money is being spent.

As much confidence as Ricketts has in Epstein, he might want to stay vigilant on the spending side of the Cubs.

Much has been made of the comparisons between Dallas Green joining the Cubs in 1981 and Epstein arriving in 2011.

Green came to the Cubs after winning a World Series in Philadelphia and brought along some of his Phillies cronies.

Epstein came to the Cubs after winning two World Series in Boston and is bringing along some of his Red Sox cronies.

The mission was the same: Build for the future while contending in the present.

On the Cubs' charter to San Diego for the 1984 NLCS, Trib executives were giddy over the club's success to that point.

The Cubs' lost the series in ignominious fashion, but that wasn't a deal breaker. The expectation was that Green would keep spending and his team would keep contending.

The problem was that Green kept spending but the Cubs didn't keep winning, for a variety of reasons like injuries, bad decisions, curses and whatever else this franchise is inclined to suffer.

Now Epstein is Green, Ricketts is the Trib, and it'll be interesting to see whether the Cubs are still the Cubs.

After a couple more years the Trib tired of Green's bold nature and spending extravagance, so it fired him and essentially reversed the progress the Cubs had made under him.

So, how long before Ricketts starts thinking he can't expect a baseball man to keep mixing dollars with sense?

We don't know yet whether Epstein will be as liberal with the Ricketts family fortune, and he might not have to be.

The Cubs aren't in the AL East where Epstein had to compete with the Yankees. He can spend less and still spend more than the competition in the NL Central.

For now Ricketts professes to be comfortable leaving the financial aspect of baseball operations to Epstein's discretion.

Maybe the onus is on Tom Ricketts to find a way to print money at Wrigley Field for Theo Epstein to play with.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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