The Cubs are dialing up a wrong number for their 2014 payroll at somewhere around $80 million.
No, too high.
Google "2014 Cubs payroll" and the computer screen can be heard giggling at the estimates: Mostly between $85 million and $78 million.
Let's say $80 million just for the fun of it. That's about 23rd among Major League Baseball's 30 teams.
As recently as 2010 the Cubs' payroll was listed as $147 million. As recently as 2009 they ranked third in baseball in salaries.
But the outrage isn't that one of the game's most profitable franchises is investing in winning this year like it's one of the least profitable.
Nor is the outrage that the Cubs in a few years have gone from one of baseball's highest payrolls to one of its lowest.
The outrage is that the Cubs' payroll is too high for a team projected to finish so low.
The Cubs could lose 90 to 100 games for half the price and cut ticket prices by $40 million. Or they could use the extra cash to begin the Wrigley Field renovation that seemingly will never end. Or they could build a baseball academy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Seriously, $80 million is a pretty hefty sum for a team that would need a Ponzi scheme to win 80 games.
Think of it this way: The Cubs will be donating something like $3.2 million to each of 25 players on a roster that would have a better chance competing in curling in Sochi than baseball in Chicago.
The Cubs lost 101 games two years ago and 96 games last year. If they get lucky and everything falls in place maybe they'll lose a couple fewer this year.
Couldn't the Cubs win 62 to 72 games with a payroll down around $40 million?
Losing comes so naturally to the Cubs that they could lose 90 games without trying, which seems to be the front office's plan for now.
Didn't Cubs baseball chief Theo Epstein say, "There's no glory in 73 wins instead of 78. Who cares?"
Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer also say that they'll go for a playoff berth if they're in contention in July.
That's like me saying I'll ask a supermodel out on a date if I'm younger than springtime come April.
Ain't gonna happen for me; ain't gonna happen for the Cubs.
Sure, management will accept it if the Cubs qualify for the postseason. But winning isn't Priority 1 right now, and if it isn't Priority 1 it essentially isn't a priority at all.
Yet for some reason this season the Cubs will pay starting pitchers Edwin Jackson $13 million and Jason Hammel $6.75 million.
The intention always is to flip anyone doing well at the trade deadline.
Still, that's nearly $20 million -- about one-quarter of the Cubs' payroll -- for two guys who last season had a combined record of 15-26 and earned run average of nearly 5.
Give a couple of Norwegian lugers a couple of weeks of spring training and they could post those statistics for the Cubs and be happy with the major-league minimum.
Really, the Cubs should have a payroll down around $40 million while building for a future buried deep in the rubble.
Ballplayers do cost quite a bit, but the Cubs aren't in the business of buying major-leaguers these days, are they?
The Cubs are in the business of selling hope, and they could sell it for a lot less per ticket if the payroll was half of $80 million.
That seems to make more sense than to give, say, major-league wages to a minor-league outfield.