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If you were writing a recipe for success in the baseball cookbook, you would probably want to start with a single staple.

Money.The All-American greenback solves a multitude of problems.

It attracts free agents from other franchises and keeps your own in the fold. It gives you a scouting budget which makes life exceedingly easy for the general manager and the rest of the front office. It is simply a very good thing to have around.

And yet, there is ample evidence that even if your dollar pantry is down to petty cash levels, you can succeed. If you have a limited fan base population to draw from, if you don't have some fancy cable television contract, if you're viewed as an also-ran in your own geographical area, you still can make waves.

For example, there are Pittsburgh and Oakland, busy this weekend in baseball's pennant playoffs.

Together their media income for 1991 - the most recent figures available - was $48.9 million, $21.9 million for the Pirates, $27 million for the A's. And that includes everything, their share of the national TV contracts, their own local rights. Everything.

Both teams reported operating losses - $4 million for the Pirates and $1.7 million for the A's. All figures are according to QV Publishing, which tracks income for sports teams.

Compare that balance sheet with the $50 million George Steinbrenner gets every year for New York Yankee cable rights alone. That's because Steinbrenner does business in the country's No. 1 market. Pittsburgh's market is ranked No. 12. Oakland is No. 5, only because it sits next door to San Francisco, whose citizens modestly refer to their town as The City.

Still, the Pirates reached the playoffs for the third straight year and the A's for the fourth time in five years. The Yankees, by the way, haven't won anything since 1981.

Money, you see, can't buy everything.

If the Pirates take all their media income and put, oh, perhaps another $10 million to it, they might be able to sign free agent-to-be Barry Bonds. And then if they can come up with perhaps $30 million more beyond that, they could probably keep Doug Drabek around, too.

Expect neither to happen. The numbers don't add up for a team that dropped 235,907 in home attendance. Just as they didn't for first baseman Sid Bream, who left after 1990, right fielder Bobby Bonilla, who left after 1991 and pitcher John Smiley, who was traded in 1992 before he could depart.

Still, the Pirates win. They found enough loose change in the coffers to sign some nucleus players like Mike Lavalliere and Andy Van Slyke. They fill in the blanks. When Bream left, they came up with Orlando Merced. No Bonilla meant more Lloyd McClendon and Alex Cole.

"That's why you have to have a strong and productive farm system," said general manager Ted Simmons. "We have product in our farm system. We have product and people have seen that product already and people will see it more in the future."

The Pirates aren't afraid of plugging in replacement parts. Waiting in the wings are youngsters like Carlos Garcia, Albert Martin, Kevin Young and William Pennyfeather. Mystery names, sure, but then you never heard of Tim Wakefield before this season and he won eight games and started Game Three of the playoffs for Pittsburgh.

There are always choices to be made. Oakland is looking at 14 free agents, perhaps 15 if they do not offer arbitration to pitcher Mike Moore. The team is committed to cutting its $40 million payroll by 25 percent, understandable after attendance dipped more than 219,000.

Of course, for their $40 million, the A's won the AL West. The New York Mets' payroll was $44.4 million. They finished fifth.

Do the A's sign Mark McGwire coming off a $2.65 million contract in a year he hit 42 home runs, or Reuben Sierra, a $5 million man for whom they traded Jose Canseco?

Do they keep Dave Stewart, cornerstone of their pitching staff for so many years, coming off a 12-10 season at age 35? Or do they invest in Moore, their leading winner at 17-10, who is two years younger. Both made $3.5 million this year.

Decisions. Decisions.

The theory, when free agency became a permanent part of the baseball landscape, was that players would flock to big cities, high visibility franchises - the places where the money was most plentiful. And that would upset the competitive balance of the game. Instead, the opposite has been true with 23 of 26 major league teams winning division championships since 1976.