[Is this man the new owner of the Chicago Cubs? Tonight, $500 mil is the buy-in.]

As I write this, the Cubs are currently 6-1 over Houston.  Milton Bradley, his agents, and Cub GM Jim Hendry (on speakphone) stated Bradley’s case to MLB “director of discipline” Bob Watson today in Houston.  Bradley left the meeting expecting a reduction on the suspension for contact during his toss-out by umpire Larry Vanover.  As Phil Rogers reports for the Trib, Bradley said:  “A reduction would be warranted, but a reduction to zero would be justified,” Bradley said before the Cubs played the Houston Astros. “Any suspension I would serve just wouldn’t be fair.”

The only real news out of Wrigleyville today is that Cub owner-prospect Tom Ricketts is not getting the ball anytime.  As written up here in January, the “exclusive” 60-90 day window Ricketts received to come up with $900 million dollars had all the teeth of an “order by midnight tonight!” tv ad.  Ricketts needs to secure $500 million in loans  from the same banks currently haggling over their  Obama stress test grades.  I know how they feel, as getting that “D” changed to a “C” makes all the difference.

To his credit, Ricketts is reportedly putting up $400 million of his own cash, a lot more than Mark Cuban offered at $100 mil out of a reported billion offer.  In a Trib statement, neither the Trib nor Ricketts will put a timetable on closing the deal.  Hm, what do you think the odds are of GOP donor Ricketts and the GOP bullhorn Chicago Tribune getting that half-a-billion in loans while a South Side Democrat sits in the White House and David Axelrod is screening his calls?  Not that they’d be an obstacle, but without Bush-Cheney in office, the Trib is all out of favors.  The Cubs MLB site and the Chicago Tribune, both owned by the same parent company, Tribco, offer essentially the same non-detailed joint statement, here:

Spokesmen for Tribune Co. and Tom Ricketts, a Chicago investment banker who is leading his family’s bid for Cubs, declined to comment.

Sources blamed the slow pace of negotiations on several factors. The recession and a financial-sector meltdown has made it difficult for the Ricketts family to secure financing. The family raised $400 million for the deal by selling personal stock holdings and planned to borrow the rest.

The need for loans is being partly being driven by Tribune Co.’s desire to minimize taxes in selling the Cubs, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago, a regional sports network. Tribune Co.’s plan also requires the company to carry a small ownership interest in the package of assets going forward, further complicating the documentation of the transaction.

Finally, lawyers on both sides need to make sure the complex deal will gain approval from a bankruptcy judge. Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune, filed for Chapter 11 protection in December.

Still, the longer negotiations drag on, the more chance there is for the unexpected. Zell knows this firsthand. The lengthy auction for the team got sidetracked by the unexpected financial meltdown last fall and the bankruptcy filing, which probably hurt the value of the franchise. When Zell put the team up for sale in 2007, many predicted that team might fetch more than $1 billion.

Now, both sides are reluctant to put a timetable on completing the deal.