- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs hope to build a championship-caliber organization that emulates the “Cardinal Way” of winning baseball titles.
The term goes back to the 1930s, when legendary baseball executive Branch Rickey helped establish the farm system concept. His use of controlled contracts forever changed the way players were obtained by major league clubs.
Cubs management has changed the direction it was going in, opting to build through the farm system for a period of years before plugging in the high-priced free agents. The risk-reward of this type of approach can be tricky.
Player development and winning go hand and hand for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“You look at their roster and most of their players have come through their organization,” said Cubs manager Dale Sveum. “They have always seemed to build through their organization and then add key free agents, like the Beltrans or the Berkmans.”
Great baseball people make up great organizations.
The Cardinal minor league instructors all have the training of George Kissell. The legendary minor league guru was revered as the sage of the St Louis system for more than 50 years.
“The George Kissell way was different because he taught the reason why you do things a certain way on the field,” said Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo.
“George taught coaches, as well as players, what would happen if a play wasn’t run the right way. He would show you the bad result of a mental or physical mistake. He taught baseball men to be sound coaches. Great coaches like Dave Ricketts and Johnny Lewis, who were taught by George, taught other coaches and players how to do it the 'Cardinal Way.'"
The Chicago franchise is hoping to build the “Cub Way” under their new group of baseball executives.
“It is not easy to remain competitive for a long period of time,” said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak.
“You see what the Cubs are doing now by investing heavily in their infrastructure. They want their farm system to be strong.
“When you do that, there may be growing pains at the big league level. In the end it will pay dividends if you stay disciplined to it.”
Mozeliak points to commitment by ownership as an essential tool to building a championship organization.
“Our ownership led by Bill DeWitt has given us the resources to keep our system functioning,” Mozeliak said. “That is where it all starts with: great ownership.”
Sveum and the rest of the Cubs club can only hope for the same success as the Cards have had in the near future.
“As an organization, they have always been very consistent,” Sveum said. “They have done a great job scouting over the years, as well.”