Taking a long look at the Cubs payroll

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Taking a long look at the Cubs payroll

MESA, Ariz. One day, Theo Epstein will hold up a Cubs jersey at a stadium club news conference and wonder if this really is the right player at the right time.

The megadeal didnt fit into Epsteins plan this winter, as the Cubs tried to reload and assemble as many young players (and years of club control) as possible, scaling down the big-league payroll to almost mid-market levels.

The financial picture came into sharper focus on Monday when the Cubs agreed to contract terms with all 24 players on their 40-man roster with less than three years of service time in the majors.

That group included Jeff Samardzija (2.64 million), Starlin Castro (567,000), James Russell (512,500), Travis Wood (505,000) and Darwin Barney (500,000).

The rest will make less than 500,000, including expected first baseman and cleanup hitter Bryan LaHair. The major-league minimum is set at 480,000 this year.

It depends on how you do the accounting. But the Cubs are projected to spend around 112 million in major-league payroll this season, according to information gathered from a variety of sources.

That estimate includes the more than 15 million the Cubs are paying the Miami Marlins to take on Carlos Zambrano, the final installment on Carlos Penas pillow contract (5 million) and the 2 million buyout for Carlos Silva (part of the Milton Bradley write-off).

The actual 25-man roster that will be at Wrigley Field on Opening Day could cost around 90 million. Again, these are not exact figures, and should not be confused with the overall budget for baseball operations.

But heres a snapshot of how the Cubs have spent on the big-league team the past several years, according to the USA Today salary database:

2005: 87 million
2006: 94 million
2007: 100 million
2008: 118 million
2009: 135 million
2010: 147 million
2011: 125 million

Chairman Tom Ricketts restructured the organization this offseason to give Epstein a president of baseball operations title. Epstein recruited general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president Jason McLeod, part of an effort to expand what has historically been one of the smaller front offices in baseball.

The Cubs believe they will have to add more manpower and pay scouts better because of recent changes to the collective bargaining agreement, which will restrict the amount teams can spend in the draft and on international signings.

The roughly 19 million former general manager Jim Hendry pushed the Cubs to spend in those markets last year represented the final talent grab before the labor deal put a cap-and-tax system into place.

Epstein will have to redistribute resources while restocking the farm system. The Cubs could have even more flexibility with the contracts of Ryan Dempster and Marlon Byrd which are worth 20.5 million combined in 2012 falling off the books after this season.

There is also an opposite reaction. Castro who reached the All-Star Game and led the National League in hits at the age of 21 will be eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player and start to see his salary multiply.

Castros agent, Paul Kinzer, was spotted at HoHoKam Stadium over the weekend. The Cubs could consider a long-term extension for their franchise shortstop. Epstein had a track record of buying out arbitration years (see Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz) while running the Boston Red Sox.

Cubs executives used to be obsessed with winning one World Series. They're now trying to build a more sustainable team.

Patience is important, but (so is) urgency, Epstein said at the beginning of spring training. The goal of the 2012 Cubs is to win the World Series. Our goal as an organization is to build an organization that competes on an annual basis in the postseason and gives ourselves a chance to win a World Series.

There arent going to be any shortcuts. Were looking at the big picture and were building this thing the right way.

Catch a glimpse inside 'The Cousin Eddie,' Joe Maddon's tricked-out RV

Catch a glimpse inside 'The Cousin Eddie,' Joe Maddon's tricked-out RV

We finally have a full glimpse inside the "Cousin Eddie."

Joe Maddon's luxury RV has been name-dropped ever since before the celebrity manager became embedded forever in Cubs lore.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer tell the story about sitting with Maddon down in Pensacola, Fla., outside the "Cousin Eddie" as the trio discussed Maddon coming to manage the Cubs.

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Maddon has since mentioned the RV several times as his offseason oasis.

Nearly two-and-a-half years later, we can now catch a glimpse inside the "Cousin Eddie" as Maddon was recently profiled on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel:"

The pimped-out RV has four TVs, a fireplace, heated floors, a sweet kitchen with a regular-sized fridge and on and on.

His RV is better than most apartments in Chicago.

Essentially, it's good to be Joe Maddon.

The Maddon profile airs Tuesday night on HBO at 9 p.m. CT.

Check out a full trailer:

Why Sammy Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ in candid interview

Why Sammy Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ in candid interview

For more than a decade, Cubs fans probably thought Sammy Sosa could walk on water.

They weren't alone in that respect.

In a recent tell-all interview with Chuck Wasserstrom, Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ being accused of being a witch when the Cubs icon was asked about being accused of PEDs.

"Chuck, it’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem," Sosa says. "Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) – and he was our savior. So if they talk (poop) about Jesus Christ, what about me?"

Talk about a God complex.

It's been 10 years since Sosa last suited up in the big leagues — and 13 years since his Cubs career ended — but the slugger is still just as polarizing as ever in the candid interview. Wasserstrom was let go by Theo Epstein and the Cubs in 2012 after spending 24 years in the organization in the media relations and baseball information departments.

[RELATED - Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture]

Sosa talks a lot about his pride and it's very clear from his answers about coming back to Chicago and being a part of the current Cubs product that his pride is a major factor steering his ship even still.

He even drops a line in there:

"When nobody knew who Chicago was, I put Chicago on the map."

I'm not sure exactly what he means by that, to be honest. I would venture almost everybody in the world knew what Chicago was before 1992. It is the third biggest city in America.

If he means the Cubs, well, the Cubs were Lovable Losers and a draw for so many people well before Sosa got there. 

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Of course, Sosa did do some absolutely incredible things for the Cubs and the entire game of baseball. Many believe he and Mark McGwire helped put baseball on the map again in a resurgent 1998 season that helped make the strike of 1994/95 an afterthought. Count me among that group, as well.

He deserves all the credit in the world. People would show up to Wrigley just to see Sosa run out to the right field bleachers and camera bulbs flashed by the thousands every single time he came up to the plate for the better part of a decade. Waveland was sometimes so packed with ballhawks that there wouldn't be room to walk.

I also agree wholeheartedly with Sosa when he says, "you're never going to see the show Mark [McGwire] and I put on [again]." He's right. That was an event that transfixed the nation and will absolutely be something I tell my kids and grandkids and — hopefully — my greatgrandkids about.

Sosa continued to push the onus of any possible reunion with the Cubs on the orgainzation, saying he would absolutely say "yes" if they ever extended an invite to join Wrigley Field.

But he wants to do it "in style."

"If one day they want to do something, I want to do it in style. If it’s going to happen, it’s got to be the right way. Don’t worry, one day they’re going to do it. I’m not in a rush.”

Sosa also said he would rather have all the money — he earned more than $124 million in his career — than be in the Hall of Fame.

Go read the entire interview with Wasserstrom. It's as transparent as you'll see Sosa, especially nowadays.