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How the Cubs can reach the Fall Classic
While Paul Sullivan takes a week off to loaf, here are your responses to his request on how the Cubs can reach the World Series (insert joke here). Oh yeah, no Mike Lowell trades allowed per Mr. Sullivan's rules.
Next week, we're back to the regular Q&A, so send Paul a Cubs question using the form on the right.
Now, on to the responses:
Good defense, staying healthy and proper management of the pitching staff. The Cubs offense is not outstanding by any means, but it isn't that bad either. Sammy has been a non-factor all year and the Cubs are still leading the pack. By September we will see the Sammy of old, Moises Alou and Corey Patterson will continue their good seasons, and the rest of the Cubs lineup will provide enough pop and good defense will provide the pitching staff with enough runs. Finally, management of the pitching staff, I believe, doesn't come down to just switching to the right guy in the right situation or limiting pitch counts. It means that by the end of the season if someone like Angel Guzman is ready to enter the rotation and somebody already in the rotation isn't pulling his weight, you make the switch. -- Chris Schultz, Sioux Falls, SD
I think Jose Vidro would be a great fit for the Cubs, assuming the Expos are looking to deal someone. He's got a great average every year, decent power, and doesn't strike out much -- something the Cubs do way too much of. If they go after Mike Lowell (which would also be great), they might end up overpaying due to his power surge this year. At least with Vidro you can be pretty sure of what you're getting. And assuming Grudzielanek can still play third base it would work out just fine. -- Fat Tony, Arlington Heights, Ill.
Prior, Wood, Patterson, and key bullpen guys like Mike Remlinger, Joe Borowski, Kyle Farnsworth and Antonio Alfonseca need to stay healthy. This alone doesn't guarantee anything, as the Cubs in years past have trotted out many healthy, last-place ball clubs, but it's an obvious ingredient for success. Kerry Wood must find a consistent groove on the mound. Finally, the Cubs offense needs to make a concerted effort at scoring at least four runs a game. I heard Chip Caray, on last night's broadcast (6/16), tell Dusty Baker that the Cubs are something like 30 and 9 when they score four runs or more. -- T. Miga, Schererville, Ind.
Sammy needs to start scaring opposing pitchers with his bat again. Moises Alou needs to maintain his pace. Mark Grudzielanek needs to start hitting again. Pitching needs to not give up five or more runs per game. Alex Gonzalez needs fewer strikeouts. And the Trade Whose Name We Dare Not Mention needs to happen. (or at least something similar). In '84 it was the mid-season move of trading for Rick Sutcliffe that made the difference. Picking up Gary Gaetti was the move in '98. The Cubs need a steady third baseman that can hit. -- Micky Govern, North Hollywood, Calif.
The Cubs need to make a trade with the Florida Marlins, but the trade they should make does not include Mike Lowell. They need to trade P Juan Cruz for 2B Luis Castillo. The Cubs have a bevy of pitching prospects and no leadoff guy. Todd Wellmeyer has taken Cruz's previous spot as the next great Cubs pitcher. Then they could acquire a veteran utility infielder and make Ramon Martinez the starting third baseman and bat him second. That would provide the Cubs with a legitimate lead off guy and with Martinez batting behind him you have a fundamental player who can take the ball to the opposite field or bunt. -- Chris Sinclair, Greensboro, NC
I think the chance for the Cubs to get to the World Series is as simple as executing fundamental baseball, i.e. less errors, especially from pitchers; better situational hitting and better base running. Doing that will get the Cubs the extra four or five victories they might need to win the division which is necessary because I don't think the wild card will come out of the Central. -- Jim Cross, Okinawa, Japan
Play Bobby Hill at third and put him at the top of the order! Teach Sammy how to hit again, and, for that matter, Mark Bellhorn. Hope all the pitchers remain healthy and don't break down. These things will help the Cubs reach the World Series. -- Brian Longly, Lincoln, Ill.
They have to do two vitally important things -- STOP STRIKING OUT and take some walks! I know everybody has been pressing a little with Sammy out of the lineup, but when opposing pitchers know they don't have to throw strikes to get you out, they won't. Dusty has to be aware of this. -- J.D., Chicago
To win the pennant then the Series, cut Troy O'Leary, Tom Goodwin, Lenny Harris and Mark Guthrie. Bring back Todd Kelton, Bobby Hill, Phil Norton and one of the better catching prospects to create youthful energy and less lethargy that comes with veterans. -- Rob Wall, Ph.D., Carlsbad, Calif.
They need to take a page out of the Billy Beane book and change their approach at the plate. A team with very little power needs baserunners, and they aren't getting them. Most of the Cubs hits are singles. In order for runs to score on singles, you need runners in scoring position. If Patterson could draw two or three more walks per week (he has seven on the year right now, which is pretty terrible), that would go a long way to helping the club win the tight ballgames. -- Dan Sheetz, Chicago
They must have three things: offensive third baseman, offensive outfielder, and consistent fourth starter. To fill these voids, the Cubs need to look at teams trying to unload salaries for youth or have given up on the season (see Mets, Rangers, and Marlins). Mark Teixeira could be had for the right package of prospects and/or veterans (Harris, O'Leary) and some pitching. Carlos Lee and Carlos Beltran are said to be on the market. Why not put together a package for one of them. Shawn Estes is not consistent at all. Why not bring up Andrew Sisco, and trade Shawn Estes and a few prospects back to the Reds for Ken Griffey Jr. (who, by the way, looks like he's on his way back to form). Maybe even Mike Piazza is available. Trade Eric Karros and prospects for him, then you have an offensive catcher, and a backup first baseman. -- Aaron Fiet, Omaha, Neb.
Kerry Wood will have to start pitching like a true ace of a major league staff. He cannot continue to throw the ball to the backstop and allow hits on 0-2 counts. I realize the offense is lacking when he pitches, but if you're the ace, you're probably facing the opposition's ace, so get over it. I also believe that his teammates are convinced that he'll self-destruct even if they have a four-run lead. Wood has to win the "semi-big" games before we worry about the BIG games. -- Greg Wanstreet, Herrin, Ill.
Get a handle on their middle relief. Everyone seems to think run production is the issue, and to a point it is. But I think the hitting will come around and perhaps (but only perhaps) the Cubbies will sort through their baserunning troubles. I think the danger is that either 1) Baker will try to have the starters go too long through the course of the season and they'll have dead arms by the end of the year, or the middle relief guys will get too much work, or both. If Baker can manage that equation well, I think they will make it. -- Ben Grassly, Chicago
I think the Cubs seriously need a leadoff hitter if they want to reach the next level. Grudzalaniek runs in streaks, and he doesn't take enough walks and isn't a threat to steal any bags. He would make a heck of a #2 hitter behind a pure leadoff guy. It seems those are hard to come by these days. We may need another left-handed power bat in the lineup as well to really juice our hitting. -- Justin Webb, Daleville, Ind.
Dusty Baker boasts of how well his bench has played. I find that hard to believe, with exception of Karros and Ramon Martinez. The rest are hardly hitting their weight. In 409 total at-bats, you have six homers and 45 RBIs for four players with the highest average of .215 and the lowest .170. If something doesn't change, they won't stay in first place in the second half. -- Tom Wolfenden, Pensacola, Fla.
What do the Cubs need? Nothing, they've got all the parts. They just need to keep playing like they are now. A fan since before Leo Durocher [was manager], I have never seen a Cubs team as resilient. Every time I expect them to crumble -- as usual -- they surprise me! The difference is Dusty. Sure, we could use a Santo-caliber third baseman -- who couldn't? But we've got the starting pitching, bullpen, and a deep bench. Take a look at the 1988 world champion Dodgers roster if you don't think the Cubs have the talent! -- Mick Hartz, Springfield, Va.
I know this may seem a bit unorthodox as the Cubs have just acquired another shortstop in good 'ol Jose Hernandez, but I think the guy to go after is Miguel Tejada. Billy Beane isn't going to re-sign him next year and wants young talent that is already ready for the show, so he probably would go for a trade for Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs should only do it if they could get a commitment for next year from the MVP shortstop. The Cubs get a true gamer and a MVP who is going to get hot eventually this year. Then they plug in one of their great pitching prospects -- Wellmier or Cruz in the 5 spot and we got a serious team with two former MVPs. -- Noah Graff, Olympia Fields, Ill.
One way to strengthen the Cubs would be to remove the one weak link in the starting rotation -- Shawn Estes. His lollypop tosses miss the strike zone as often as not, and when he does throw strikes, they get blasted all over the ballpark. My suggestion: Bring back Cruz from Iowa and give him a regular turn in the Cubs' rotation. -- Jay Richards, Las Vegas