Ask Paul Sullivan

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Always looking at the bright side, Cubs fans ask Paul about Dusty Watch, selling off players, curses, and whether it's OK to declare the team dead:

Since this seems to be a lost season, do you think there is a chance the Cubbies will start trading their high-priced players? I think they could get some real value for players like Juan Pierre, Jacque Jones, and even Greg Maddux. This will also give us a chance to see Felix Pie play everyday. --Peter Krekonis, Des Plaines, Ill.

I'm not sure how much longer this can go on before Jim Hendry has to start thinking about Plan B: selling off and starting over. But I would imagine he'll at least wait for Wood, Prior and Derrek Lee to come back before he goes into a selling mode, and it wouldn't make sense to start dumping players until late July when the market heats up. Personally, I'd keep Maddux, even though he might be the Cubs' most valuable trading chip at this point.

It is way too early for a "Dusty Watch" but good management always has a list of possible successors for their best people. Who's out there today that could step in to the manager position and have a positive impact should the Cubs decide a switch is in order? --Steve Pahl, Chicago

I still think they trusty in Dusty, but the popular fan choice of the anti-Dusty crowd seems to be Lou Piniella, who already quit on the Mariners when he realized the team was going downhill, and then quit on the Devil Rays when he realized he couldn't turn them around, making sure he got his money before he left. Sweet Lou also acts like a lunatic and throws things and berates the umps and rips his players to the media. Nothing like a two-time quitter with anger-management issues to come in and turn things around.

You want Jim Belushi to write your column. Any chance we could get him and Bill Murray to just buy the team? --Kyle Karraker, Normal, Ill.

The Cubs would be better off to have Murray in the TV booth than in the owners' box. He can also bring his pal, Slurring Rick Sutcliffe, to make for some unforgettable TV.

My only question is why do Cubs and Sox fans have such a blind hatred for each other? --John Clennon, Chicago

If you have to ask, you really don't live here.

What's up with this report about Mark Prior having food poisoning, delaying his return yet again? Knowing the Cubs' track record of providing misleading injury reports, how do we know that this is not code for "he had another twinge in his shoulder"? --Mark Snyder, Los Angeles

When it comes to Prior and his injuries, there's no sense believing anything until you actually see him pitching on the mound at Wrigley Field, and even then, I'd check his fingerprints just in case.

Paul, at what point does Dusty Baker start chewing out his team? This slump is due to one thing: They have no heart. They, collectively, need a swat upside the head. --Luke Pascale, North Hollywood, Calif.

I don't think Dusty is a manager who chews out his team or swats them upside the head, but he told us in San Francisco last week that he and his teammates once after Braves manager Eddie Mathews threw over a food table. Think about all the bacteria on a clubhouse floor. Yikes. Maybe if Dusty threw over a food table and made his players eat the food that fell on the floor, they would develop food poisoning like Prior, but things would turn around. Just a theory.

Considering Carlos Zambrano completely has lost his command of the strike zone and has equally poor control over his emotions, what do you think about trading him for another frontline pitcher? I think he has about as much chance of winning a Cy Young award as you do, but some other GM might not. He could bring a pretty good pitcher in return, couldn't he? --Jeremy Richards, Las Vegas

Trading Carlos would be the biggest mistake the Cubs could make, even if they go into a selling mode later on this season. You don't trade that kind of talent unless you're getting a Miguel Tejada in return, and that one is not likely to come up again.

Hey, Paul, do you believe in Billy Goat and Bambino Curses or Baseball Gods, Bad Karma or the Hope Diamond Jinx? What possible explanation (besides front office miscalculations) could be provided for this long running drought? --Gary Kostka, Las Vegas

I don't believe in curses, but I do believe in karma. Perhaps this bad karma streak was brought on by the shoddy treatment of Steve Bartman by Cubs fans after Game 6, including the blowing up of the Bartman Ball by Harry Caray's restaurant. Everything seems to have gone downhill since Alex Gonzalez messed up that double play ball, but Bartman continues to get the blame. Perhaps a written apology to Bartman would turn things around. Send them to me and I'll forward them to Bartman.

So, around this time last season (maybe a little later) the Houston Chronicle put a headstone and flowers on the front page of the sports section to mark the death of the Astros. We all know how that worked out for them. Any chance the Tribune would allow such a page, and if so, what are the odds it would lead the similar, if not duplicated, results? --Campbell Reddick, Chicago

Actually, the Tribune was thinking of one-upping the Chronicle and holding an actual wake for the 2006 Cubs. But we can't find a funeral home that can hold 800,000 mourners, so the plan is currently on hold.

After how many lost games would you consider the Cubs out of the race? It seems that two six-game streaks did the trick last year. Right now the streak seems endless. --Rosie Romano, Johnston, Iowa

I believe they have already fallen so far back there is little hope of them catching St. Louis, unless the Cardinals have a complete fold and Pujols gets injured. But there's always the wild card!!

So much for "small ball" Hendry. This year's team is pathetic and boring. --Ken Stakis, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Please, the column is called "Ask Paul," not "Tell Paul."

This is the third year in a row that we've heard the battle cry, "disabled list." Injuries are a part of the game. Who is to blame for this mess? Even if healthy, it's a fundamentally unsound team. --Peter Bianco, Shanghai, China

I blame the beat writers. They are always bringing up some kind of since they've lived through so many failed Cubs regimes. Time to back up the truck on them and bring in some writers with a fresh perspective.

Paul, you have covered the Cubs and professional baseball for quite some time. What in your opinion is the main problem with the Cubs? Is it poor ownership holding back management, is it poor judgment of talent by the GM and front office, or is it just underachieving players? Why is it year after year the Cubs perform so poorly? What do they need to do to turn the franchise around? --Bob Preusz, Converse, Indiana

I blame the fans. They complain the payroll isn't high enough, then the Cubs spend a lot of money to pad the payroll and appease the fans and subsequently can't dump the high-priced players when they underachieve. It's a vicious cycle. Time to back up the truck and bring in some fans with a fresh perspective.

The Cubs owe their fans a World Series even if they have to go out and buy it like the Yankees. The organization is a disgrace! I am a Cub of 55 years and I have had it. I quit! --Dwight Allen, Findlay, Ohio

See what I mean?

As a Cubs fan there is always something to hold your interest. Will Fergie win 20? How many home runs will Kingman Hit? I bet Sutter gets 40 saves. Will Ryno win MVP? Sammy or McGwire? Does Lee win the triple crown? What will it be this year? I'm voting for fewest runs in a season. --Brian K. Stilts, New Castle, Ind.

Will Prior and Wood stay healthy? Will Dusty get his extension? Will there be a fire sale? This may be the most interesting season in years.

I moved to northern Wisconsin 30 years ago to get away from eternal losing and the Wrigley bleachers--when they were only $1. Now my local radio station carries Cub games even though I'm 350 miles north of Wrigley. Just when you think you're free of them they drag you back in. I now believe the only way Cub fans can get relief is for the Cubs to take a few years off. Like divorce, it will be painful but in the long run it will make us all more whole fulfilled people. Are you with me? --Joseph Augitto, Hazelhurst, Wis.

Sorry, but just turn off the radio if it's that painful. I've heard quite enough of the "pain" of being a Cubs fan when they're losing. It's just a baseball team.

Paul, in your May 9 article about the Cubs loss to San Diego, you wrote, "Considering the Cubs had scored more than two runs in a game only once in their previous nine games, overcoming that three-run deficit was as daunting as climbing a mountain wearing flip-flops." Have you ever tried such a daunting task? --Carl Baumeister, Salt Lake City

No I haven't, and I'd like to apologize for using that bad metaphor, which was written under deadline stress. Thanks for all the relevant questions. I'm looking forward to hearing from you for the next 4 1/2 months. No, really--I am.

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