Ask Paul Sullivan

Before he takes some time off from the Q&A, Paul addresses whether Dusty should be fired, cheerleaders should be hired and Bartman should be exonerated.

What exactly has Dusty Baker done this year or the previous two to earn a chance to continue managing this club? The only consistent thing the past three years has been poor fundamentals, a lack of clutch hitting, and untimely dry spells in the middle of the season that seem to last forever. Can we keep blaming the players -- especially when they're not always the same players -- forever? --James Karam, Columbus, Ohio

While Dusty Baker isn't blameless, when a team is in last place in almost every offensive category, including runners in scoring position, in addition to walks allowed, I don't see how he's totally responsible for the stunning lack of production by some very highly paid players. Look at the players' stats and tell me which ones are playing poorly because of Baker's managing. I don't think he deserves a contract extension until the season plays out and we see what transpires. But I still don't think he's the main reason why this team is playing so poorly.

Paul, the title character in Richard Ford's "The Sportswriter" says he thinks of sportswriting "not as a real profession but more as an agreeable frame of mind, a way of going about things rather than things you exactly do or know." The Cubs were swept by what is supposed to be the worst team in baseball, so tell me: How does a sportswiter maintain an agreeable frame of mind? More specifically, how does a Cubs sportswriter tread water these days? --Bob Mellin, Valparaiso, Ind.

Reading 150 or so e-mails from Cubs fans in a two-day stretch usually does the trick for me. They always have a positive outlook and never have knee-jerk reactions to any problem facing their heroes. By the way, have I mentioned I'm going on hiatus?

How is it possible for Michael Barrett to justify his cheap shot? Is it against the rules of Cubs players to take responsibility for doing something stupid? I'm stunned that he continues to suggest that what he did was warranted and justifiable. What a shame and who suffers the most? The kids who watch and read this stuff. It's embarrassing. --Jim Drost, Jacksonville, Fla.

Kids are pretty resilient, Jim. I'd be surprised if any of them are traumatized by the sight of an athlete slugging another athlete, or millionaire-on-millionaire crime, as I see it. Is there any kid out there who still hasn't seen the Pacers-vs.-Fans brawl a few hundred times? Michael was wrong for punching A.J., and he's already said he's sorry kids had to watch it. Enough already.

Hey, Paul, what are the chances that the coaches would be replaced? My opinion is that they all need to go except third-base coach Chris Speier and only because he hasn't had enough base runners to show his stuff. Does it depend solely on Dusty getting an extension? --Nich Spang, Edgerton, Wis.

I'd imagine some of the coaches are worried about being the fall guy, but the Cubs don't tend to fire coaches in-season, so I believe their fate is tied with Dusty, except pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who already got an extension last winter.

When will the Cubs promote Felix Pie? With the Cubs struggling would it not make sense to give him a chance to play? --Eric Linn, Plantation, Fla.

The Cubs say they won't promote Felix Pie until they're sure he's ready and know they can get him playing time. This is a reasonable decision, since it would do Pie no good not to play. Dusty doesn't use his bench much, as evidenced by Ryan Theriot and Freddie Bynum's at-bats. This is an area that needs improvement and never really gets talked about much.

I ask you, Paul, just what should the Cubs do? They are an embarrassment to Major League Baseball, so let's send the whole team to Iowa and bring the Iowa Cubs to Wrigley! With all that high-priced talent, they're sure to win 60 in ole Sec Taylor Park! --Frank Caldwell, Plano, Texas

I detect some sarcasm there, Frank. You know how .

Paul, thanks for this offer to make right a wrong to ostracized Cubs fan Steve Bartman. Please pass along a good word to the unfortunate Mr. Bartman for all of us naive enough to believe in curses. When the laws of probability fail, I think that a curse is worth at least some speculation. I blame Alou, in some ways, more than A-Gon, as the former's little tantrum sort of set the vibe into motion. So, Steve, you did what most any of us would've done. We're sorry. Please come back home to Wrigley. It's obviously the same without you, but come back anyway. --Marc Fagelson, Johnson City, Tenn.

My request for mass apologies to Steve Bartman fell on deaf ears, so I'm afraid Marc's e-mail will have to suffice. I also apologize to Bartman, so that makes two of us. Several other people went for the ball, and it easily could've been one of them that touched it, making them infamous instead of Bartman. People conveniently forget there was a Game 7, and the Cubs blew it, not Steve Bartman.

Who do you blame for Paul McCartney and Heather Mills breakup? --Wade Lucas, Chicago

Either Yoko or Dusty or Bartman. I'm not sure yet.

I think that the Cubs will turn it around. We are only talking about a month and a half of the season. Obviously, you have forgotten about the 2003 Marlins and the 2005 Houston Astros. There is still time. Why fire sale all of the players that have propelled the Cubs to actually beating the St. Louis Cardinals on a regular basis. There is plenty of time left. O ye of little faith. What do you expect the Cubs to do, go undefeated? --Mark Wheaton, Hudson, Fla.

Sometimes Sox fans write in to Ask Paul and pretend to be Cubs fans just to make them look bad. This appears to be one of those times. Has my hiatus started yet?

Paul is there still faith, can we dream? Kerry, Wade, Mark (ok, maybe not), Carlos, Greg, Sean; and add a hit or two by Derrek. Houston, is it possible? --Orde Duplessis, Chicago

I believe this Houston comeback/tombstones analogy is officially played out. Dusty, Jacque Jones, Juan Pierre and Jim Hendry have already alluded to the Astros rise from the dead in '05. Does the Tribune really have to conduct a Cubs wake to outdo the Houston Chronicle? Has it come to that? And can Bill Murray give the eulogy?

A.J. Pierzynski pointed to the sky after hitting a homer, supposedly to mock the Carlos Zambrano who does sky-pointing after a large personal accomplishment. It seems nowadays that all the players, but especially the home run hitters, point to the sky after a personal accomplishment. It seems so phony to see all these monumentally egotistical guys trying to show that they are really humbler-than-thou at heart. Do you know why or have an opinion on why there is so much sky-pointing in this era? --Berton J. Barr, Alameda, Calif.

I have no problem with players pointing to the sky to give thanks to a Higher Being or a loved one who has passed away. But just once I'd like to see a player point to the ground. Let's face it, not all of their relatives wound up in heaven.

Are the Cubs even considering J.T. Snow? I know he's left handed, but I think he'd be better than nothing right now. --Kevin Mikaloff, Warsaw, Ind.

I like J.T. Snow's glove, but he's not the solution to the offensive woes, and everyone would bring up his infamous save of Darren Baker in the 2002 World Series, blaming Dusty for that one, too, I suppose.

Maybe this losing this year is a good thing. We get rid of the bandwagon, whiney Cubs fans and the true fans will be here when the dust settles. What do you think? --Charles Goyer, Ames, Iowa

I'm confused. Are you saying the bandwagon whiney Cubs fans aren't true Cubs fans? Please elaborate.

I don't understand. A fan throws a ball, nearly hits Jacque Jones, and she is "detained but not arrested." If she had hit him, perhaps disabling him, would she have been arrested, or signed for the Cubs bullpen? --Darrell Holtz, Leawood, Kan.

The Cubs explanation is she was inebriated and thought throwing a ball at a player was OK because she saw them do it after an opposing home run. My theory is they didn't want her to be Bartmanized by fans and the media.

How about cheerleaders to brighten the mood during the losing streak? Marketing can have Binocular Day with the logo on them and Cub fans in the stands will always have something to smile about at the games. Let's make baseball FUN again! --Jim Hoekstra, Joshua, Texas

I thought you were crazy until seeing a Florida Marlins cheerleader unsnap her top in front of the visitors' clubhouse after Monday's game in Miami. Yes, Jim, I have eyewitnesses to back me up. I'm currently working on a plan to get the Cubs to add cheerleaders for the second half, and I'll update you on my progress.

Thanks for all the relevant e-mails. I'm going on hiatus, if you didn't catch on, and hopefully some celebrity will pop up soon to answer your Cubs e-mails until I return in a few weeks.

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