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Teddy Greenstein's answers
I keep reading and hearing that the Cubs' farm system is one of the best in the majors. Yet none of the farm teams is leading its league. Several are below .500 and few of their players are putting up big numbers. Also, few have made a significant impact at the major-league level. Who thinks their farm system is so good and why? What do you think? --J. Kestnbaum, Hickory, N.C.
The folks at Baseball America are the ones who ranked their farm system No. 2 in baseball last year and No. 1 this year. They based that on the quality of their best prospects, not the won-loss record of their teams.
You're right about the Cubs' farm system not producing much yet. Corey Patterson and Mark Prior have proven themselves in the big leagues, but Carlos Zambrano, Bobby Hill and Juan Cruz have not. And Hee Seop Choi, David Kelton and Nic Jackson have yet to get the chance.
First off, let me say that I really enjoy your writing; keep up the good work. Secondly, in Don Baylor's last game there was a play in the Cubs' eighth where Mark Bellhorn hit a ball back toward the pitcher (Hammond, I think) and the second baseman charged in but collided with the runner from first. The Braves wanted interference called but it wasn't. What no one has mentioned is that Hammond threw his glove at the ball. I thought there was a rule against a fielder throwing his glove at the ball. Am I wrong? Isn't that something like a three base penalty? I swear I saw it called in a high school game once a long time ago. Thanks! --Rich Brown, Moraga, Calif.
Thanks for the props. Here's the rule as I understand it: Interference was not called because Hammond made an attempt to field it. You're right about the second part. If Hammond's glove had touched the ball, Bellhorn would have been awarded third base. The same rule applies to a catcher who uses, say, his facemask to scoop a ball.
Remember, kids: Always use your equipment properly.
Am I mistaken in thinking that the revenues derived from the All-Star game are used to fund the players' pension fund? If this is not the case, was it ever? --Tom Kennedy, New Orleans
No, you're correct. That's part of the reason why the players didn't boycott the All-Star game. They benefited as much as Bud Selig did.
Harold Reynolds of ESPN passed a rumor that the Cubs are talking with the Phillies about Scott Rolen. Have you heard anything about that? Who would the Cubs have to give up? --Patrick Healy, Stockbridge, Ga.
I can't imagine they would trade for Rolen. With the Cubs way out of contention, it wouldn't make sense for them to give up prospects to acquire a player who will become a free agent after the season.
A payroll related question: Based on who will likely be free agents next year that the Cubs will not re-sign (Fassero, Bere, Gordon, McGriff, DeShields, Stynes, Lewis) they'll have freed up almost $20 million in payroll. If the Cubs release Bill Mueller ($3.5) and don't re-sign Joe Girardi ($1.5), that's another $5 million. Assuming the slight increase in Sosa's salary, Alou's increase of $3 million, and a few increases due to arbitration (Wood, Farnsworth), their existing players will probably make about $8 million more.
That means even if the Cubs' payroll doesn't increase from this year to next, they'll have $12 -$17 million available to fill the following positions: 1B (Choi), 2B (Hill), 3B (??), backup catcher, and two relief pitchers. Is there any reason the Cubs couldn't give a 6-year, $10-$15 million a year contract to Scott Rolen? --Michael Cross, Mt. Zion, Ill.
Only one: He's a little short of being a $10-$15 million-a-year player. Rolen is a perennial Gold Glover at third, and the Cubs will have a void there if they don't re-sign Mueller. But I can't see them going higher than, say, $36 million over four years for a guy who's batting .265 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs in 87 games. Would that be enough to get a deal done? Maybe.
I was watching the Home Run Derby last night and it made me wonder about Sammy. He didn't seem to have much fun hitting or joking around with the guys, as Jason Giambi did. Was he just locked into the competition, or is he just not liked by the players? If he's not liked by the players, does it in any way affect the Cubs' chances of building a cohesive team? --Mike Froehlke, Greenleaf, Wis.
Teddy, what is going on with Sammy? During the Home Run Derby and All-Star game he did not seem to have his usual zeal and trademark smile? Is he frustrated by the Cubs season? The steroids talk which is B.S.? Or is he sick of playing second fiddle to Bonds this year and last year, and McGwire in '98? --Steve Esposito, Charlotte, N.C.
Sammy would tell you that it's all about intensity. Sure, we're used to seeing him joke around and smile, but not during the competition. That's his persona during interviews and commercials. As you can tell, he takes the Home Run Derby very seriously.
1) Do you think Sammy would fare as well in the Home Run Derby if he had to compete with Cubs standing on the bases?
2) With Kimm now at the helm, will we see prospects coming up from Iowa before the September call-ups? --Rick Young, Kennesaw, Ga.
1) Pretty clever. Sosa is hitting .246 with runners in scoring position and .318 without. Then again, I'm sure you realize that he doesn't get much to hit when he's in an RBI situation.
2) Not any more than under Don Baylor. Sure, Kimm already has managed Bobby Hill and Hee Seop Choi. But he hasn't given the slightest indication that he'll push for them to replace Mark Bellhorn and Fred McGriff before September.