While Cubs fans live and die with each and every game, looking forward to the day that their beloved team is contending on an annual basis and finally winning the organization's first World Series in over 100 years, a dose of perspective is necessary after a tough start to the 2013 season.

The organization was extremely unhealthy when Theo Epstein and Co. arrived in October of 2011 to start the arduous task of building a championship-caliber baseball team. The major league roster was filled with bloated contracts for players who were not stars worthy of multi-million dollar paydays, the minor league system was non-existent with pitching depth the worst in all of baseball. Add in a constraining contract signed by Cubs management in 2003 with the rooftop owners that is hamstringing renovation efforts to this day and media rights deals that are far below what the best markets in the industry should command, and you had an organization that had a cupboard full of bad deals which were the recipe for one of the worst organizations in baseball.

That does not absolve Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer from blame as the bullpen that they put together for 2013 is woefully short of what the Cubs need to compete. Add in a gaping hole at third base that has not been addressed in two seasons and you have a couple of the major problems the current club is trying to overcome.

With the 2013 Chicago Cubs off to a 6-14 start amid reports that the team's finances are slowing progress on the baseball side, I decided to do some research on the sale process to the Ricketts family and to see if indeed the Cubs ownership group is hamstrung by debt from the purchase of the franchise from the Tribune Company back in 2009. Multiple sources with intimate knowledge of the sale have confirmed to me that when Sam Zell and the Tribune Company decided to sell the franchise, there were several bidders who were looking to buy the team with a minimum of long-term financing needed to make the purchase. That included the Ricketts family, who multiple sources have confirmed to me wanted to use much more cash in their offer than Zell would accept due to tax implications on the transaction.

Zell and the Tribune Company required anyone who was interested in buying the team to heavily finance their purchase and to allow the Tribune Company to maintain a five percent stake in ownership for several years going forward. One prospective buyer who quickly withdrew from the process told me "it was the most complex financial transaction he had ever seen," with another telling me that he wasn't willing to jump through all of the hoops that the deal required. However, the Ricketts family stayed the course before eventually reaching their breaking point. They told the Tribune and Zell in the summer of 2009 to either make a deal or they, too, were going to withdraw from the process. At that point, according to sources, the deal quickly moved towards completion.

"Minimizing tax liability with debt financing was the No. 1 goal of Tribune Company management and Sam Zell in selling this asset. That alone made it a tough deal for many of the interested parties to handle. Add in the fact that the world markets were on fire so financing was very difficult to obtain at that time. Whoever was going to buy the Cubs -- from Mark Cuban, to John Canning, to any of the other interested parties -- was going to have to play under those rules. That narrowed the playing field quickly. Plus, do you really think that [MLB commissioner] Bud Selig, who is one of the smartest guys around, would have allowed the Cubs, a premier franchise, to be operating under a risky structure? No way," a former ownership candidate told me.

Major League Baseball has long had strict rules on debt ratio and the complex Cubs sale required the approval of Selig before baseball ownership voted on the sale to the Ricketts family. A recent inquiry to Selig by the Chicago Sun-Times into the Cubs' debt service elicited this response from Selig's spokesman: “The Ricketts family worked closely with our office to develop certain financial structures designed to [ensure] the stability of the franchise at these debt levels. The structures have worked, the club is healthy and the Cubs have been very up front and clear with us since Day 1.”

Forbes magazine has listed the Cubs' debt at $580 million and multiple sources have confirmed that to be accurate. It also appears that the large debt service payments that the Cubs are responsible for have maxed out the money available for the rebuilding process that Epstein and Hoyer are in. Epstein himself admitted to me on Opening Day that the Cubs are maxed out on payroll, preventing them from making major free-agent signings that could accelerate their ability to at least be more competitive at the major-league level. It also appears that once a renovation deal is finally signed, as well as a new TV deal for the games that currently air on WGN TV is completed, more money will be available for Epstein and Hoyer to add to the major league payroll.