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Business as usual: Cubs to bump payroll in 2008
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 10/31/2007 12:11 AM

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The answer is $115 million, give or take a million or two.

The question is, of course, what's the Cubs' payroll expected to be next season?

Every year around this time, it's a subject that gets more attention than just about any other, and even more so this off-season as ownership is in a state of flux.

However, that uncertainty exists only outside the organization, where fans wonder if there's money to spend.

That answer is "yes,'' so the real questions ought to center around how the Cubs will spend, rather than how much.

In the past, it's never really been a question of amount, only whether the Cubs knew how to allocate resources.

And that's where the Cubs are again, not wondering if ownership -- current or future -- will prevent them from doing what they need to do but instead wondering how to take the next step.

The general feeling is that the sale of the club can't possibly occur before the 2008 roster is completed, so management is operating under the normal rules and with a boost in payroll -- enough even to go after a big name like Torii Hunter.

It should be in the neighborhood of $115 million, or a roughly 15 percent jump.

Just for the sake of argument and to lend perspective to the payroll situation, assume the following roster:

Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, Rich Hill, Kevin Hart, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Marmol, Bob Howry, Scott Eyre, Kerry Wood, Mike Wuertz, Alfonso Soriano, Jacque Jones, Darryl Ward, Derrek Lee, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Theriot, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto, Henry Blanco and Matt Murton.

That's 21 players for about $100 million. Add in a few more first- and second-year players/pitchers and the number barely moves.

That leaves plenty of money to find both a left-handed hitting outfielder and a starting shortstop if the Cubs decide Ryan Theriot can't handle the day-to-day duties.

Or, if they move veterans like Dempster and Jones, that's another $10 million freed up, giving GM Jim Hendry $25 million to find perhaps one tremendous center fielder (Hunter?) -- or a very expensive third baseman -- and an upgrade to a better, left-handed hitting right fielder.

So, you see, there's enough flexibility there and money available to be creative, and no one's untouchable.

The Cubs aren't handcuffed by anything other than their previous spending, long-term commitments and perhaps some stubbornness.

And, no, they're not meeting with new owners and getting instructions. The perception that they can't do what they need to do is as inaccurate today as it was a year ago, when they were quite active.

The pictures of the giant bulldozers at Wrigley Field right now are proof enough.

Yes, it's business as usual at Wrigley Field.

Whether that's good or bad depends entirely on your opinion.

Ivan Boldirev-ing

The Rocky Wirtz influence is starting to dissolve the nonsensical Hawkspeak that has gone on for the last few years at the UC.

Generally, everything is sold through rose-colored Plexiglas, and it's always that the Hawks played great, just didn't get the bounces, deserved to win, Adrian Aucoin is really coming around, they're going to make the playoffs, Sergei Samsonov's going to revive his career, things are so much better than they used to be, and so on and so nauseating.

It's so off the charts it's insulting, as is having the director of public relations, Jim Blaney, serve as the television pregame, postgame and between-periods "analyst.''

Think that poor soul is keeping his job by telling you what he really sees?

In any case, thankfully those days are coming to an end, and if you start to see more honest answers emanating from within, you'll know Rocky's in the house.

Stage fright

From the laughable overreaction, you'd swear Scott Boras killed someone, but the agent's announcement that Alex Rodriguez was opting out of his contract wouldn't have been an issue at all if the announcers calling Game 4 of the World Series hadn't decided to make it the focus of their broadcast Sunday night.

Bad timing and a terrible public-relations move by Boras, absolutely, but after seeing the media response, MLB jumped in with its own angry denouncement and expressed its horror that someone would try to "upstage'' baseball's premier event.

Here's some news for you: If that can upstage your event, it can't be much of an event, but the truth is it didn't hurt anyone and Red Sox nation didn't miss a minute of celebrating, or enjoy their title one ounce less.

Yankee slipper

N.Y. Post's Joel Sherman: "Joe Torre did not take the money and Alex Rodriguez refused to even discuss it with the Yankees. The items that made the Yankees the Yankees -- swelling payroll and the stockpiling of fame -- are vanishing. The Yankees can't give their money away right now, and they are bleeding legends."

Best headline "Vikings expected to miss entire NFL draft due to shorter time between picks.''

And finally …

One of David Letterman's Top Ten Colorado Rockies Excuses: "Forget us, someone want to explain the Jets?"