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Sale Of The Cubs... Into Extra Innings

Many of you are waiting for the final installment of my "Building a Cubs Champion" series -- what I'd do to improve the team on the field (and I'll have something to say about the coaching staff, too).

This is a really important post and I'm not finished yet -- may not be, in fact, till early next week. I want to make sure I get each and every thought I have exactly the way I want it.

So you'll have to be patient a few more days (after all, it's still only mid-October and free agents haven't filed yet and can't till the WS is over).

In the meantime, today we can talk about something that may affect how Jim Hendry goes after players this offseason -- the current economic crisis may cause further delays in the sale of the team:

With banks reluctant to make loans, Tribune Co. faces increasing risk of prospective buyers dropping out of the auction or being unable to close a deal in the next few months no matter how creditworthy they are. In addition, the higher costs of borrowing could trim the size of the bids.

To address some of the concerns, company officials have tossed out the idea of keeping more than 5 percent of the franchise, said three sources close to the bidding process. In this way, the buyer would have to come up with less cash but still gain controlling interest in the team. When lending markets open up, the buyer would have the option to buy Tribune Co.'s ownership interest.

The original reason for keeping less than five percent, which was part of the original proposal, was to reduce the taxes that Sam Zell would have had to pay on the transaction because the Cubs were purchased 27 years ago from the Wrigleys for $20.5 million and now may be sold for up to a billion dollars. In any case, it doesn't appear that anything's going to happen soon:

Now, it could be weeks or months before money flows freely again to finance such a deal. One bidder, Mark Cuban, owner of the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks said last week that, "Even if we wanted to close the day after tomorrow, the banks might not be able to close."

Cuban suggested that in the current turmoil it might not make sense for Tribune Co. to sell the Cubs. A Tribune Co. spokesman declined to comment.

My guess is: this deal gets delayed several months. In that case, it's business as usual for Jim Hendry & Co., and current team chairman Crane Kenney, who along with Zell have given Hendry approval to do whatever he feels he needs to in order to build a winner, give the same approval for the 2008-09 offseason.

That ought to give you enough to "discuss amongst yourselves" for today.