Paul Sullivan's answers

Cubs fans are full of wacky theories. E-mail them to Paul Sullivan so he can pass them on to other Cub fans. It's Paul's great pleasure to do so in the latest edition of Ask Paul:

Paul, I think George Krogstie is on to something with the goatee thing. I've said all year that Matt Clement's struggles were because he shaved his goatee, as ugly as it was. Now he's growing it back and pitching well. Sammy was doing well clean-shaven, and now is struggling with the goatee. Granted, the shot to the head may have had more to do with his struggles, but I still think shaving the goatee is worth 15 points in BA and an extra HR per week. --Adam Silca, Chicago

Half the team has had a goatee at one point in the first half, as has manager Dusty Baker, and the Cubs are exactly .500 at the break. So maybe George Krogstie's wacky goatee theory isn't as half-baked as it sounds.

The Cubs seem to have a real problem recognizing talent. With 11 pitchers on the staff that all throw 95 the opposition will learn to hit 95 m.p.h. They needed Rod Beck to throw at a slower pace and add some variety but they let him go. Maybe getting Dave Veres back will help. What do you think about all the pitchers throwing at about the same speed? --Willard Zoerner, Sarasota, Fla.

Veres has been a big plus since his return, and Beck might have been a good set-up guy for Borowski, but the Cubs love those power arms and most other teams would kill to have so many guys throwing in the mid-90s. The problem in the bullpen is the lack of execution by some of the relievers, not the actual speed of the pitches.

In comparing 1998 to 2003, what is the percentage of balls hit to the right side, including outs, in comparison to the left side by Sammy Sosa? It appears he is not going to right as much as he used to. --Jack Hoehnle, Iowa City, Iowa

No, Sammy is not going to the right side as much as in the past, though I don't have those stats to prove it. Still, he seemed to be getting into a groove on the last homestand before the break, and he's capable of putting up big numbers in August. Going to the opposite field would help him stay hot, but it all depends on how they pitch him and what the situation is in each at-bat.

Hi, Paul! I asked this previously but being the persistent sort I am, I'll try again. Damian Miller was recently taken out of a game because of an injury. If Paul Bako would have gotten hurt who would come in as the emergency back-up catcher? Thanks in advance for your reply and also for the great column! --Randall Stojan, Platteville, Wis.

I have been trying to ignore this controversial subject since you first e-mailed me, but now you have forced me into confessing that I have never asked Dusty Baker this question. But e-mail me it again and I'll try to remember to ask him by the next time I answer my mail.

Paul, with Patterson done for the year there's been talk of trading for a center fielder to replace him. I personally think they should hand the job over to David Kelton because the boy can hit. He probably won't make amazing plays like Corey, but he'll hit as good if not better. Would this be the best option and use players they would have traded for a center fielder to get a third baseman and/or a better lefty than Estes? I think so. --Ryan J. Sparks, Lewistown, Mt.

Kelton might be able to handle CF, but considering he's never played there before and spent half the season at third, it's a gamble the Cubs can't really afford to take right now. If he messed up one play, he'd be dubbed the next Don Young, and Hendry and Baker would be ripped for trying him there in the first place. I'd rather have Kelton up as a reserve outfielder and pinch-hitter so Alou and Sosa don't wear out with all the day games in August.

Paul, with Eric Karros playing so well at first base, and Corey Patterson now out for the year, is it possible for Hee Seop Choi to play CF? I know it sounds crazy, but Choi seems to be a good athlete, and if Lance Berkman can play center...well, why not? --Caprice Perez, Aurora, Ill.

You're right. It sounds crazy ... Why? Well, because. It just does. Trust me on this one.

I am a big supporter of Eric Karros. I know he is not hitting the home runs he used to but to be leading the team in batting average really makes me happy for him. What is your reaction to his great first half? --Dave Potter, Upland, Calif.

Sorry, I have no immediate reaction to his great first half.

Paul, thanks for the time you take in answering the e-mail questions. Unlike some, I miss your smart-aleck comments. My question is: Have the Cubs talked to Zambrano about hitting right-handed? I'm concerned with his right arm being exposed while at the plate. --Carlton Martin, St. Louis

Zambrano is a switch-hitter and he's only one behind Kerry Wood in the Cubs Pitchers Home Run Derby and he had a good first half, so let's just leave him alone, OK? As you can see, I'm having some separation anxiety since the no smart-aleck rule went into affect.

Hi, Paul. I was just reading this column for the first time and realized how sorry I felt for you. How much of this mindless drivel do you have to sort through every week? Well, add another one to the pile. --Dan Nicholson, Madison, Wis.

I get an average of about 30-40 of these e-mails a day, and I automatically delete any that don't provide a surname, and the ones that rip Alfonseca, and the ones with inane trade suggestions, and the ones that rip Tribune Co. and then add "I know you won't use this." So the mindless drivel I actually read only amounts to about 3-4 e-mails per day.

Come on to Dallas and take Blackie Sherrod's place. He is retired now and we miss him. Hate the Astros, but fear the Cardinals!! --Larry Plunkett, Plano, Texas

We all know no one can take Blackie Sherrod's place. He's one of those living legends like Jerome Holtzman and Bob Verdi. Hate the Cubists, but fear the Surrealists!!

I was watching you on the rain delay the other day. You're a nerdy looking guy. --Paul Anderson, Austin, Texas

I think you're mistaking me for Chip Caray. I was the slug in between Chip and Steve Stone.

Having lost the series at home to the Cardinals shows me that the Cubs aren't ready to win their division. What do you think the chances are that Hendry may entertain having a "fire sale", and make a deal similar to the Sox's "White Flag" trade? I could see unloading Karros, Grudzielanek, Sosa & Alou, and go young. Certainly you could get some real talent for those guys. --Stephen Flesch, Chicago

After seeing what it did to the perception of the White Sox in '97, the Cubs would be the last team in baseball to White Flag it with the team only a few games out of first. The uproar would be too huge to even contemplate. Plus, Karros makes too much to trade and Grudz is too valuable, even if he's not back in 2004.

There is no doubt Dontrelle Willis is the biggest story in Major League Baseball heading into the All-Start break. The Cubs have received a lot of criticism in some media outlets for having traded Willis, when arguably no one in professional baseball had any reason to believe Dontrelle would become such a dominant pitcher, especially this soon. I wish Willis all the best, but can't help thinking that people are overreacting mainly because he's a lefty. Do you think folks would be second-guessing Jim Hendry and the Cubs had Willis been a right-handed pitcher? Has all the media exposure of Willis put extra pressure on Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca to perform, so as to justify the trade? Alfonseca's performance has been in a downward spiral ever since the Dontrelle media circus began. Coincidence? Thanks! --Miguel Kercado, Columbus, Ohio

I think people would be second-guessing Hendry and the Cubs if Dontrelle were ambidextrous. It's the nature of a fan to second-guess management, and that's what makes following sports so much fun. But when someone like Dontrelle pops up and looks like the next Vida Blue, there's nothing management can do but suck it up and hope it doesn't happen the next time. No one seems to remember that Ryne Sandberg was a throw-in, and turned into the best second baseman of his era.

Paul, keeping in mind your plea for fewer complaints about a specific pitcher, I'd like to ask you a hypothetical question. If the Cubs had one really bad relief pitcher, and let's say, he was polydactyl, how much would they have to pay another team to take him off their hands? Thanks! --Larry Vaught, Portland

Hypothetically speaking, his salary and cleaning bills.

Dear, Paul, your last Q&A column had as much playfulness as an Alfonseca curve ball. What gives? Are you tiring in all of this hot weather? --Bob Mellin, Valparaiso, Ind.

Actually the Irish love hot weather. Just ask my mom. By the way, my ancestors are from County Cork. Google up County Cork sometime and e-mail any Sullivan in the phone book there and ask them if they like the hot weather.

Paul, I know you said you're boycotting Alfonseca topics (wish during games Dusty would, too) but I'm just wondering if had Jim Hendry ever considered in the past shipping Alfonseca to the Padres for Loretta and keeping the Shooter in Chicago. Oh, and George from the mailbag may be onto something about the goatee: Sosa has been decidedly un-Sosalike (except for the strikeouts), Alou was slumping with it (he shaved it and belted 4 homers in three days), then Corey grew one and tore his ACL. And, of course, Alfonseca has one... --Frank Alog, Skokie, Ill.

Too many goatees? I'm starting to detect a new excuse for a possible Cubs collapse, along with too many day games, the Billy Goat curse, Don Young's dropped fly, the black cat, Popeye's revenge, and all the other wacky theories I've heard through the years.

Paul, why can't the Cubs win on Friday? The Cubs have dropped their last nine Friday games (through Independence Day) and are 3 - 11 on Fridays this year. The Cubs have not won a Friday game since May 2. We would be in first place if we could win those Friday games. --B. Torben, Rockford, Ill.

Probably because it's Casual Friday in the Cubs clubhouse, and the players take it too literally. After losing to the Braves after you sent this, they're now 3-12 on Fridays, so your wacky theory may actually have some legitimacy. Please send more.

Paul, is it possible that the Cubs and Jim Hendry are blinded by their love for the team's young talent? Shouldn't the Cubs deal some of this "talent" before the rest of the league figures out that they are overrated? Wouldn't it have been nice had the Cubs gotten a power-hitting third baseman for Bobby Hill when everyone thought that he was the next Rogers Hornsby? Was Juan Cruz the next Rick, or for that matter, Paul Reuschel? I'm sick of hearing about "mortgaging our future" with flashes in the pan! --John Napoleoni, Crystal Lake, Ill.

Dontrelle Willis... oh, never mind.

Hey, Paul, please spend more time in the TV booth. You're an understandable voice. Witness the other day as Tom Goodwin was blocked off home plate by Pudge Rodriquez. He wasn't blocked off the plate, according to Caray. He was "embargoed from the Pentagon." Huh? --Lawrence Arendt, Chicago

Sorry, I don't have time to translate Chip Caray. Call your local cable outlet and ask for the Spanish version.

Why don't the Cubs' GMs past and present understand they need an everyday major-league third baseman? The Cubs' GMs don't seem to realize -- a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush leagues. --Richard I. Larson, Wilmington, N.C.

Hey, is that you, Chip?