Cubs

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer hopes momentum translates into payroll boost

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Cubs GM Jed Hoyer hopes momentum translates into payroll boost

ST. LOUIS — Crane Kenney explained his relationship with Theo Epstein in an unforgettable quote for Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story on the Cubs.

“Basically, my job is fill a wheelbarrow with money, take it to Theo’s office and dump it,” Kenney told the magazine before this magical season began.

The business vs. baseball tension between the team’s two presidents won’t go away — because it always exists in professional sports — but both sides clearly need each other.

The Cubs hope to keep riding this tidal wave of momentum and lift the major-league payroll closer to where it should be for a big-market franchise.

A team that relies heavily on box-office sales has already drawn 2,566,057 to Wrigley Field with 10 home games remaining, including two weekend series against the two teams ahead of the Cubs in the National League Central — the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.

[MORE CUBS: Joe Maddon's Wrigley problem with next year's schedule]

The Cubs haven’t hit the three-million mark in attendance since 2011, or right in the middle of what turned out to be five straight fifth-place finishes.

“I expect that it will (translate),” general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday at Busch Stadium. “The lack of success on the field pushed the attendance number down, and I think we’re getting that number way back up.

“It’s been a lot of fun (to) go to the ballpark and know there’s going to be roughly 40,000 people there every day. It’s been a great atmosphere — and that atmosphere should translate into increased revenue.

“I think it will definitely go into the product on the field.”

[MORE CUBS: MLB Power Rankings: NL playoff picture coming into focus]

The rough shorthand for this year’s major-league payroll is $120 million — $100 million plus the $20 million leftover from the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes. The Cubs already have internal forecasts for 2016 that would certainly be boosted by a strong playoff push.

“We don’t know exactly yet,” Hoyer said, pointing to a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks that drew 118,005 before the Labor Day holiday. “Weekends like that against Arizona can’t hurt us going forward.

“It only helps our projections for next year. We have an idea, but the better we play …”

Though the Wrigley Field renovations will also create steady, incremental revenue, Epstein has repeatedly identified the upcoming TV megadeal as the game-changer for the baseball-operations budget (assuming the cable bubble doesn’t burst).

[MORE CUBS: Message sent: In fight for playoffs, Cubs beat up Cardinals]

There are also complications with the leveraged partnership between the Ricketts family and Sam Zell’s Tribune Co. That $845 million deal closed in October 2009 and included a piece of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, which holds exclusive cable rights through the 2019 season.

Selling minority non-controlling ownership shares to six investors helped finance the Wrigley Field renovations. Internal valuations of the franchise — including real-estate plays in Wrigleyville and the potential for multimedia growth — are estimated at north of $2 billion.

So are the Cubs going to make a splash again this winter?

Whether or not it’s David Price, Epstein’s front office will be in the market for another frontline starter to join Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in what would be a powerful playoff rotation.

“What you really want is the flexibility to make good decisions,” Hoyer said. “Whether it’s one move or a series of moves, I think that’s what you ultimately want — the ability to continue improving something that we think has a really good future.

“But, obviously, we’re not a finished product. The ability to go out and make some moves to continue improve areas of weakness would be great. And I think we expect that.”

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below: