In the year-end edition of Ask Paul, he addresses the Cubs' resurgence under Mike Quade, the Ricketts' offseason spending, Big Z's comeback and other issues
To what do you attribute the Cubs' resurgence after Lou Piniella's departure? It can't be just that the pressure is off, because the Cubs were out of it long before Lou left. Andrew PDX, Portland
It was the pitching, pure and simple. The Cubs hit .232 after Sept. 1, but continued to win. Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Andrew Cashner and the staff as a whole did the job down the stretch, making things a lot easier for Mike Quade, who admitted the final weekend, "We're not an offensive juggernaut."
Does anybody realize how much the Cubs have improved since trading Derrek Lee? He and Aramis Ramirez killed us in the first half. I think it has nothing to do with Lou quitting and Quade taking over. Bob Holleman, Muskegon, Mich.
Agreed that D-Lee and Ramirez were significant factors in putting the Cubs in a hole. But the Cubs didn't become a better hitting team after he was traded and his replacement at first, Xavier Nady, was no improvement, hitting .238 after Sept. 1 with one home run and six RBI. Lee's absence was not the difference.
Hello Paul, Love your work and your one-of-a-kind Facebook photos from covering the team. I think Mike Quade is just the right fit for the Cubs at this point. Thought this right from the start, even prior to this good run of games. Why not a year or two without a "big-name" manager? Quade has done his time and seems to be a much more positive and energized leader than Lou ended up being. It's not like a marquee name and another bum free-agent signing by Jim Hendry is going to solve all the problems by next season anyway. Any chance for Quade? Paul Zanke, Chicago
Quade has a very good shot at being the manager, and after all the players endorsed him, it'd probably be an upset if anyone else got the job. The Cubs don't need a marquee name to draw fans. They need to win. And if the last six weeks were any indication, they can win under Quade. But no one knows what Ricketts is thinking, so we'll have to wait and see.
Hey Paul, why do the Cubs seem in such a rush to sign a free agent for first base, like Adam Dunn? The Cubs are more than one or two pieces away from contending, and signing the free agents first tends to put the Cubs in a bind. Why not see who can play next season, then start making other moves? Scott, Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Cubs have no one to play first outside of Nady, who did not have a particularly good season, and Micah Hoffpauir, who didn't hit in the rare opportunities he got after being called up. They have no choice but to sign someone, though four years for Dunn probably would be a mistake, and that's apparently what he's looking for.
I was just wondering if you think because Tom Ricketts said the team will be young, does that mean they are not going to try and upgrade this team at least a little bit this offseason? I understand they were hampered with a huge payroll mess when they bought the team but this team does need a couple of upgrades to be true contenders next year like some bullpen help, a first basemen, and I would like one more high-quality starters like Ted Lilly. Nathan, Omaha, Neb.
I don't see Lilly returning, but yes, they need a first baseman and another veteran reliever, and maybe a starter. But if they don't plan to spend any money, they can promote Cashner to the rotation and I don't think anyone would be upset.
Can you get your old mailbag columns put on this page? I enjoy your work and don't always catch the column when it first comes out. Thank you for answering all the stupid/silly questions. This column has kept me going through the last two years. Rick Lein, Byron Center, Mich.
Thanks, but I'm not sure if there is an archive of old Ask Paul's somewhere on our Web site. I just write them and send them in and wait for more e-mails. Hopefully. they will make an archive next season. (Ed. note: We've included a few of Paul's most recent bags on the left side of the page.)
I was hoping that Ryne Sandberg would get the Cubs manager position. But the way the Cubs played lately, it's almost a lock for Quade. I know it would be the new manager's choice, but I think Ryno would make a great third base coach. Derick Betts, Lee's Summit, Mo.
If Quade is the pick, I hope they let him bring in his own bench and base coaches, though Ivan DeJesus did a fine job at third and Bobby Dernier at first the last six weeks and could be brought back. Either Ken Macha or Jerry Manuel would be a decent bench coach, and Quade is friends with both. I'm not sure Ryne would want to coach since his goal is to manage in the majors. I expect Alan Trammell to go to Arizona and be the bench coach for Kirk Gibson, who was his bench coach in Detroit.
What's your take on Darwin Barney? He appears to be one of those players who have a certain intuitive feeling of the game. Dan Erbach, Scottsdale, Ariz.
I liked what I saw of Barney, but didn't really get to see enough to make a definitive opinion. I think he's got a great shot at making the club as a back-up, or else in a platoon role with Blake DeWitt at second, though he's much better at short.
Do you think the Cubs ever will invite Lou Piniella back to lead the seventh-inning stretch? If they do, can you see him accepting if family matters are not an issue? Steve Baratta, Murphysboro, Ill.
I don't think Lou would be up to leading the seventh-inning Stretch. It would be like President Obama coming back to Chicago and running for mayor. He'll probably be working for the Yankees as a consultant, since Hal Steinbrenner has told friends for years he'd like to have Lou in the organization.
Do you think Lou left for the reasons given or was that devised as a face-saving firing? And Bob Brenly's removing his name from managerial contention for personal and professional reason? He was been outspoken in his criticism of Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano (well-deserved). Did that have anything to do with it, in your opinion? Bill Drozdik, Mesa, Ariz.
I do believe Lou left to be with his ailing mother, and there was no way Hendry was going to fire him. Whether Lou was nudged to go spend time with his mother, I don't know. As for Brenly, he didn't have much of a chance with Sandberg waiting in the wings and Quade doing so well. Hopefully, he'll get a shot managing in Milwaukee, which would be a good move for the Brewers and make the Cubs-Brewers rivalry that much better.
Someone needs to explain to me why everyone is in such a rush to get rid of Zambrano. Despite all the controversy surrounding his move to the bullpen and his anger-management therapy, he's put together a pretty solid year. Has the guy worn out his welcome in the clubhouse? Jim, Chicago
Zambrano finished up strong and had a great second half, and has put to bed any idea that he will waive his no-trade clause. But he'll always be a controversial player, and he will never be beloved in the Cubs clubhouse because of the tirades, and the way he disrespects teammates, like glaring at Bobby Scales after a couple misplays in his final start. If he pitches like he did the last two months, no one will care whether he disrespects his teammates -- except his teammates, and writers like me who consider it bush league.
Why doesn't the Tribune have you and the Sox beat writer change teams at the All-Star break like they did in the old days. It seems it would give you guys a fresh perspective and us readers a fresh column. F.B., East Chicago, Ind.
The Trib used to switch writers at the break, but haven't done that since the 1980s. We used to switch beats every few years, but Ozzie Guillen told me there's no way I could come back to the Sox, so I'm afraid the Cubs are stuck with me. Thanks for the relevant questions this year. The Ask Paul e-mail box is now closed for the winter, but you can still reach me at email@example.com.