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Monday, July 6, 2009
Manic Monday

By Bruce Levine

It was a wild day at Wrigley Field with word of the team's sale, three roster moves and the Cubs' fifth win in the past six games.

There really was no buzz with any of the players when they heard about the sale of the team.

"It really doesn't affect me," said Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano. "I already got my money, but it's good for the city and fans."

Major League Baseball sources confirm that the sale would actually be only $850 million in cash, since Tribune owner Sam Zell will keep 5-7 percent ownership in the team in order to avoid a huge tax bite because of capital gains taxes. Zell will put most of the money that he realizes in the sale toward his debt of $8.1 billion that he paid for the Tribune Company, now in Chapter 11 receivership.

The Ricketts family borrowed $450 million from three major banks: JP Morgan, Bank of America and Citicorp. The rate of the financing will be between 5 and 6 percent annually; that means that the Cubs' new owners must come up with $25-30 million per year just to pay financing on the loan. An impeccable major league source told me that the Cubs netted $45 million in 2008. New revenue sources, including personal seat licensing (PSLs) will be a part of the aggressive way the new owners will look for more cash.

On the field, manager Lou Piniella had his regular starting lineup for only the second time in 80 games, with the return of third baseman Aramis Ramirez. The Cubs' top run producer went 0-4 in his first game since injuring his left shoulder on May 8. Regardless of the results of his first game back, his teammates were thrilled to see him back on the field.

"It felt great having Rammy hitting behind me," Derrek Lee told me. "That's the way it's been since I've been here. His presence in the lineup is huge. He puts fear in the other team. It's nice to have him back."

Lee has been the team's top run producer since Ramirez went out. He hit his fifth home run in the past six games Monday night.

Piniella confirmed my report in Friday's blog that outfielder Reed Johnson will lead off against left-handed pitchers.

"I'm really comfortable in that role," Johnson told me. "My goal is to be a scout in that spot, see a lot of pitches that not only will help me but my teammates. If I see a lot of those pitches, my teammates will be able to see that starter's entire repertoire. "