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Tigers exec Dave Dombrowski has advice for Cubs: Be patient

Updated: July 15, 2012 3:34PM

No one knows the ups and downs of rebuilding a baseball franchise better than Dave Dombrowski. And after 24 years, the president and general manager of the Detroit ­Tigers, a Chicago native, knows this: Losing is no fun, but it is part of the process.

“It’s a hard question to answer because every situation is different,’’ he said of “the growing pains’’ of rebuilding. “Every situation is different, every franchise and city is different.

“But nobody likes to lose, and when you’re at the big-league level, you really don’t like to lose. But at times even though it’s a negative, it’s necessary.’’

Dombrowski, 55, has reshaped three franchises.

He was 31 when he became general manager of the Montreal Expos in 1988, at the time the youngest GM in baseball. He spent three years making the Expos competitive before taking over the expansion Florida Marlins for 10 years.

He won a World Series there in 1997, and it was mostly his players that repeated the feat in 2003 after Dombrowski had gone to Detroit.

Theo Epstein was 28 when he became general manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2002, but that team hardly was the rebuilding project he faces at age 38 as president of the Cubs.

Dombrowski isn’t one to tread on another’s turf, but there are travails Epstein, the Cubs and their fans might be facing that Dombrowski has navigated.

The rockiest might have been in 2003, his second year with the Tigers, when the team set an American League record with 119 losses.

A franchise-record losing season is an ominous possibility facing the Cubs. But the consolation to consider might be this: the 2006 Tigers won the American League pennant.

“It’s amazing what a difference 10 losses can make,’’ Dombrowski said. “We knew we were going to lose probably 100, but there’s that old saying that you win a third and lose a third. The problem became we didn’t win a third.

“Suddenly you’re getting all this extra attention,’’ he said. “We managed to win a few at the end to avoid [the all-time record of 120 losses by the 1962 New York Mets].

“It wasn’t pleasant,’’ he said. “But we were in the World Series in 2006. There were a lot of steps in between — the farm system coming together and some free agents and trades you make.’’

Each of his franchises were different, but there were some constants: “In general, it’s knowing who you are and having patience, weighing how many years you haven’t been successful and being willing to take a step back to move forward.”

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