Colts GM Chris Ballard says he's learning from Theo Epstein's example, Cubs model
Ballard is reading 'The Cubs Way,' a book about Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations
The Indianapolis Colts hired a new general manager this offseason, replacing Ryan Grigson with former Chiefs director of football operations Chris Ballard. Ballard has spent this offseason attacking his team's biggest weakness, signing a plethora of front seven players to rectify the Colts' problems stopping the run and rushing the passer.
These days, Ballard is reading a book called, "The Cubs Way," which he says is teaching him a lot about Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein's vision of team-building, and that he's trying to institute that vision in Indianapolis.
"Theo -- baseball was getting flat in terms of the analytics and the edge that they were getting from the numbers -- so he kind of took a different approach with character," Ballard said, per ESPN.com. "We want high-character guys that love football, that will hold each other accountable, that will be good teammates. It stuck out like a beacon light.
"Look at the teams that win in this league. It's culture. Culture wins. It absolutely wins. Football is the greatest team sport. It really is because guys want to have individual success, but they can't have individual success without their teammates. They can't do it. Not in this sport. It's too hard."
It's certainly arguable that Epstein went after high-character guys to rebuild the Cubs as quickly as he did, but the balance of that team was actually constructed through the baseball version of tanking. Epstein traded a ton of veterans for draft picks and young position player prospects, many of whom -- Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Wilson Contreras, and more -- all happened to bloom essentially at once.
The Colts haven't exactly enacted that strategy, but they have adopted the Cubs' tactic of signing moderately-priced veterans to supplement their young core. As mentioned above, Ballard went out and spent $79.1 million ($34.5 million guaranteed) on Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Margus Hunt, Al Woods, Johnathan Hankins, Barkevious Mingo, and Sean Spence this offseason alone.
Even while doing that, though, Ballard cautioned that the team he's building is not done yet.
"It takes time to build a team," he said. "... Do we have work in front of us? Yes, we do. But it takes time. And the biggest thing that I want to make sure that we're emphasizing is that competition and they have to earn it. It doesn't matter where you come from and how we build it or where, from first-round pick to undrafted free agent to street free agent, guy that was cut at the 53-[man roster], future signing."
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