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Paul, how do you feel about the Cubs "curse"? I used to be a non-believer but after this Lee injury, I'm beginning to realize this just doesn't happen to other teams every year. --Chad Fisher, Huntington, W.V.
It's a little freaky, but I'm not buying the curse excuse. Scott Rolen, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Barry Bonds... a lot of stars have been lost to their teams for extended periods the last few years. The Cubs have had some bad luck, maybe more than other teams, but they do not have a monopoly on star injuries. The "curse" is that the Cubs seldom made the right personnel decisions for the last 100 years with players and managers.
Do you think Cubs made the correct move in extending G.M. Jim Hendry's contract before the team proves it has improved? --Joseph Hendrickson, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
I do think Hendry deserved an extension. He's one of the better GMs in the game, despite some moves last year that didn't work out. With Lee out, the decision on Jacque Jones will be more scrutinized, and you have to wonder how long he can keep Felix Pie in the minors without much offense up here.
Paul, now that we're in the market for a first basemen -- what about doing something crazy like pursuing Miguel Cabrera? He's more than likely out of Florida before the All-Star break, and he could fill in for D-Lee until he gets back and then move to the outfield? -- Jimmy Genslinger, Louisville, Ky.
Paul, with the Cubs looking for first base options to replace Derrek Lee for the next few months, is there any chance the Cubs might look at Aubrey Huff with Tampa Bay? He has experience at first, and is flexible enough to play some outfield as well. At this point, his stock is low, so the price to get him might not be as high as would have been in the off-season. When Lee gets back, the Cubs could then move Huff out to right field. --Jeremy Roe, Northbrook, Ill.
The Pirates' Craig Wilson has been rumored to be traded for months. He would be a great fill-in for D-Lee, hits great at Wrigley and would be valuable after D-Lee gets back. With Lee signed for five years, how about packaging Brandon Sing with Jerome Williams and another player for Wilson? Works for me. --Mike Lerner, Biloxi, Miss.
Why hasn't Mike Sweeney's name been mentioned as a possible replacement for Derrek Lee? He's off to a slow start, but he hit .300 last year and is a proven commodity. The Royals would surely like to get rid of his salary! --Keith Knepp, Nappanee, Ind.
Jimmy, Jerome, Mike, Keith, and all others who have sent in their ideas for replacing Lee--while some of your suggestions have merit, especially Sweeney, GM Jim Hendry already has said it's unlikely he'll be able to make a trade for someone in April. Let's wait a few weeks and see how this pans out. Some decent players should be available by June.
I had planned to stay in Texas only five years, but now it's been 12, and I have a wife and kids who insist that Chicago is too cold to relocate to. I'm very fond of them. What's a guy to do? --Marvin Goodman, Austin, Texas
Marvin, this is really a question for my teammate, Ask Amy. I'll forward it to Amy and get back to you next week.
Paul, I was one of those people over the last few months who said 1.) the Cubs should extend Derrek Lee's contract as soon as they could, and 2.) the Cubs would be crazy to trade Mark Prior for Miguel Tejada. Sure would be nice to have that bat now. What was I thinking? --Brad Hem, Boise, Idaho
You were not alone, Brad. I was surprised at the negative reaction to the proposed trade of Prior and prospects for Tejada and Erik Bedard, who is off to a great start in Baltimore. Cubs fans are so attached to Prior it's mind-boggling.
Dominic Dallesandro was called "the little fireplug" and Stan Hack had a restaurant in Grand Detour. Ill., which is where John Deere started his first implement manufacturing company. --Mac W. Base, Bend, Ore.
Thanks to all the people who mentioned "Dim Dom," but Mac was the only one to know about Stan Hack's restaurant. Please, people, no more trivia questions.
Paul, what are the chances Kerry Wood will be back with the Cubs next year? If he's healthy for the bulk of this season and can make 25 starts with 10-12 wins, I'd like to see them sign him to an incentive-heavy deal. Your thoughts? --Mike Cullen, Madison, Wis.
It's hard to imagine Kerry Wood in another uniform, and if he comes back and pitches well, I imagine the Cubs would try to sign him to such a deal. But the $13 million option for '06 is definitely un-doable, especially since they'll have to cough up some big bucks now to bring Maddux back.
Hey, Paul, when the Tribune Company hired Dusty Baker all I heard was everybody wants to play for Dusty and he will attract big-time free agents. I didn't realize that Jacque Jones was of that mold. Where's all the help? --Larry Vonlinger, Westville, Ill.
A lot of players do want to play for Dusty. Unfortunately, more players value getting huge contracts than playing for Dusty, and the Cubs aren't inclined to give them out to free agents, preferring to reward their own guys, like Lee, Ramirez, Wood, etc.
You piqued my attention when you said that the boo-birds at Wrigley have gotten worse. This disheartens me. Why do you think the boos have gotten worse? Do you think this may have to do with the proliferation of sports talk radio and the belief that with ever-increasing ticket prices a fan has the right to be as mean as he/she chooses? I for one will be the first to admonish someone for booing a home player. You may have a right to boo a struggling player like Jacque Jones, but it doesn't make it the right thing to do. Can you put a stop to this disappointing trend? --Rob, Champaign, Ill.
Sorry, I just work there. Derrek Lee castigated the fans for unnecessary booing last year, and that didn't stop them. Cubs fans have always considered themselves the most loyal in baseball, if not all of sports. Now they're just like Philly fans, waiting to pounce on the first player who doesn't live up to their expectations.
Three years ago, Baker and Larry Rothschild were in charge of what was generally considered the best, young pitching staff in baseball. Since that time, the two brightest stars on that staff have spent the better part of each season on the DL, yet I have seen no repercussions from the front office or Cub fandom, in general. It seems to me that if I had two employees that allowed this kind of disaster under their watch, one or both would be gone by now, especially considering how much the company has invested. --Marlin Wilson, Ann Arbor, Mich.
What were Baker and Rothschild supposed to do about Wood and Prior being injured? Blaming injuries on the manager and the pitching coach is incredibly lame. Should Pat Riley get fired because Shaq is always nursing some kind of injury? The rush to blame someone for a player injury is ludicrous.
Am I to believe that the Cubs will make it to and win the World Series this year simply because the other drought teams have recently made it? There is no evidence to indicate any other reason for why they might do it. --Campbell Reddick, Chicago
Well, the law of averages is certainly in their favor.
Thanks for all the relevant e-mails, and please, no more suggestions on how to replace D-Lee. By the way, I'm hoping to find some celebrity Cubs fans to pinch-hit for me again this season, as we did last year with Jeff Garlin and Billy Corgan. If you have any suggestions, please let me know and I'll have my people try to get in touch with their people.