Paul Sullivan on the Cubs

In the final 2003 edition of Ask Paul, Cubs fans sound off on the end of the road, and what could've been if only ...

Why? -- Logan Henderson, Pensacola, Fla.

Why not? The Cubs won Games 2, 3 and 4, but just as easily could've won Games 1, 6, and 7. They had a 4-run lead in Game 1, a 3-run lead in Game 6 and a 2-run lead in Game 7, so they should've taken six of the seven games. Florida repeatedly capitalized on the Cubs' mistakes -- and stole three wins. This is not a curse, and it doesn't even mean the Marlins are necessarily a better team. But they performed better in critical situations, and that's what made the difference in the series.

Why does some poor fan who did what most of us would have done if a fly ball was headed our way, carry the blame, when multimillionaire ballplayers like Gonzalez boot the ball in the same inning? Even if Alou makes the catch, the Cubs still had one more out to get . . . and history shows they didn't get it until it didn't matter! -- John Crawford, Terrace, B.C., Canada

The poor fan carries the blame because it's easier for people to find a culprit that fits the "curse" theory than it is to blame the player who actually booted the ball. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy for Cubs fans who believe they are "doomed." That's what happens when you haven't won in 95 years. The story turns into mythology, and the facts are obscured by the myth-makers.

A Cub fan all my life, but you have to admire those Marlins for their desire to win. -- Charles Book, Honolulu

Florida certainly was impressive in coming back in Games 1, 6 and 7, and Beckett was outstanding in Game 5. The Marlins offense is underrated, but I still believe this may be the worst pitching staff on a World Series team in my lifetime. Take away Beckett and maybe Dontrelle Willis, and there's no one else that really scares you.

Will this franchise EVER win? -- Tony DiClementi, Loreauville, La.

Depends. What's your definition of "EVER"?

Tell all these Cubs' fans that it's not this poor guy's fault they lost ... The team should have gotten it together and saved the game. -- Carol Corso, Fontana, Wis.

You are so right, Carol, but it didn't happen. So maybe now they can leave the poor guy alone and let him go back to his job without having to worry about getting abusive e-mails or phone calls. Baseball is entertainment. Just because you don't feel like you were properly entertained does not give you the right to seek this guy out at his home or office to abuse him. These people must get real and stop pretending a Cubs playoff loss is the end of the world.

Paul -- If Sammy decides to go free agent and no one wants him, can he go back to the Cubs and take the two years at $33 million? Also, didn't the Cubs get the option to trade him at some point in his contract? -- Chris Charnas, Wilmette, Ill.

No, if Sammy decides to go free agent, he has to exercise the clause that frees the Cubs from the contract. Don't expect Sammy to do this unless he is absolutely sure a certain pinstriped team will show him the money.

Paul, regarding Ron DeSantis' question of 9/7 about the team with the most ex-Cubs: According to the late Mike Royko, the team with at least 3 ex-Cubs was doomed. However, if you check the Diamondback WS roster, you will find, I believe, 4 ex-Cubs, Grace, Morgan, Gonzalez and one that slips my mind. Thereby rendering that theory (or curse) null and void. Now, let's work on the billy goat! -- Gary Kostka, Las Vegas

Actually, Paul, Glanville does qualify as an ex-Cub. In fact, back in '83 the Cubs -- saddled with ex-Cubs Jerry Morales, Rick Reuschel and Fergie Jenkins -- would have been doomed, had they bothered to reach the World Series. There's nothing more toxic than Cubness. Cheers. -- Ron Berler, New Rochelle, N.Y.

I'll have to take Ron Berler's word for it, since he is the inventor of the ex-Cub Factor that was made famous in Mike Royko's columns. The ex-Cub Factor does not come into play in the Yankees-Marlins Series. Not that any of you is watching it anyway.

Re: bad luck 8s -- don't forget Cubs planned first night game around 8s. it was to be played 8-8-88, but got rained out (curses!). I had tickets for 8-9-88, the first official night game. Bettter game too, Mets instead of Phillies. Rob Kurfirst, Niles, Ill.

This is regarding an article I wrote on the bizarre coincidence of the 8-run 8th in Game 6. I believe 8 is the unluckiest number in Cub history. Of course we all recall when Moises Alou was on the Astros in the summer of 2001 and hit a line drive that deflected off the '8' on the Enron Park scoreboard, then went straight up and over for a home run, defying the laws of physics and sending the Cubs to defeat.

Hi Paul, in the flurry of suggestions for the 2004 Cubs, I haven't read anyone suggesting that Corey Patterson should be the one who takes over for Sosa if he leaves. I just hate the idea of letting Lofton go, even though he's only got a few years left. This team needs Lofton at the top and Patterson hitting towards the middle. -- Michael O'Connor, Oxford, Pa.

If Sosa leaves, it will definitely mean Lofton has a better chance at sticking, but Sosa is not going to leave, so they'll have to come up with another solution.

It didn't say who wrote the article "Casting Call for '03 Cubs", but I know right away it's not gonna work. Why? To get that kind of cast you'll need a payroll of at least a billion dollars! -- Walbur Salcedo, The Woodlands, Tex.

Alas, the movie of the 2003 Cubs has been taken off the table. Hey, that's Hollywood. At least there will be a movie about the fan interference play, and I'm betting it will go straight to video.

Why didn't Dusty Baker bring in Matt Clement or Carlos Zambrano when Prior and/or Wood obviously ran out of gas? Using starters in the pen worked really well for the Marlins. -- Tim Peklo, Fishers, Ind.

Baker trusted Prior and Wood, just as he had all season long. Whether it was misplaced or not is arguable, but for the most part, those two carried the team for long stretches in the second half. McKeon didn't trust some of his starters, and still doesn't. They are different people and different managers. It's amazing how many people blame the fan's deflection and Baker's managing rather than the error by Gonzalez or Mike Mordecai's three-run double off Farnsworth that put Game 6 out of reach. Gonzalez is a good fielder and Farnsworth a good reliever, but they both failed in the clutch in Game 6.

The real reason we wound up with a Marlins-Yankees World Series? Sports Illustrated had Pedro and Wood on last week's cover. Forget the Babe and the Goat. Nothing beats the SI Cover Jinx. Didn't SI put Wood and Prior on a cover back in June right before they each lost a start to the Cardinals? -- Mark Ribick, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Is there any Cubs fan in the world that thinks they lost for any reason other than a curse or a jinx or a fan? Just wondering.

I'm a Buffalo, N.Y., resident who just loves the Cubs and I was wondering if by some chance they win a World Series, am I allowed to open up a bottle of the bubbly and celebrate with the people of Chicago although I'm not from there? -- Michael Sessum, Buffalo, N.Y.

Buffalo, we feel your pain, but the answer is 'no.'

I have a bottle of champagne purchased in 1984 after game 2 of the NLCS. It remains unopened and will stay that way until the Cubs win an NL Pennant. My question is: Drinkable or sprayable? -- Mark Erickson, Pittsburgh

Put it in your will and let your grandkids decide.

If the Cubs do win it all, what will it mean to be a Cubs fan then? Can you be a loveable winner? -- Dennis Dimond, Henderson, Nev.

This is the eternal question and I have no answer for it. Please consult with a higher authority than Ask Paul to find your answer. If the Cubs do win it all, I just hope we are all around to see it happen, though I'm not placing any bets.

In a Top 10 list in the Oct. 4 paper, you wrote that Dusty Baker "Was once served a subpoena by a dwarf." Please give us the details! -- Sam Lapin, Burlington, Ky.

Wish I had the time, but that's it for the final 2003 edition of Ask Paul. Thanks for all the relevant questions this year. No matter the outcome, you have to admit there was much more pleasure than pain involved in watching the 2003 Cubs, so have a nice, relaxing off-season and don't dwell on what might have been or you'll just go nuts.

See you down the road. Semper fi.