Paul Sullivan answers (almost) all your questions about the future of the Cubs, in a special, Dusty-free edition of Ask Paul.
Paul, if Jim Hendry does wise up and begins the fire sale, what teams might we expect him to deal with and can we expect players like Jacque Jones to be dealt for major league players or is Hendry going to look for younger talent, say Triple A guys? --Phil Mayo, Chicago
Certainly most of the garage sale items would bring only minor league talent in return, but the idea is to dump players and open spots for next year, as the Sox did in 2002 when they dumped Sandy Alomar, Ray Durham, Bob Howry and Kenny Lofton in one week's time. I don't think they're looking to trade Jones, whom they seem to like and is under contract for two more years. Trading Pierre makes more sense with Pie on the way. Guys like Williamson, Walker, Nevin, Rusch, Mabry, Perez should definitely be on the block, and Maddux if he wants to leave.
I would be interested in your view on how the Cubs can build a contender. I'd agree that the Cubs aren't going to get a load of high profile prospects for the players they might want to upgrade. And there is no guarantee that a desired free agent will choose the Cubs over other bidders. --Rod L., Nanimo, B.C., Canada
Funny you should ask. When the Minnesota Wild hired the Boston Globe's Red Sox beat writer to be Director of Hockey Operations, I immediately scratched out a contending 2007 Cubs team on a napkin, just in case I get a call from the Tribune Tower: Zambrano, Zito, Prior, Marshall and Guzman in the rotation. Make Marmol the closer. Pair Eric Patterson at second with Ronny Cedeno, but teach Cedeno how to bunt. Get Miguel Cabrera for Ramirez and Rich Hill and eat some of Ramirez's contract. Overhaul the entire outfield and stick Felix Pie in center between Alfonso Soriano and Mike Cameron. Keep Barrett and groom Jake Fox as his protégée. Build around Derrek Lee and Zambrano, the only real untouchables.
This question has to do with Jeff Samardziia, the Cubs' pick from Notre Dame. How is it possible to play in a professional minor league game (I assume he's getting paid), yet still have amateur status for the upcoming college football season? As a Cubs and Irish fan, this one has me concerned. --Michael Brenner, Chicago
I asked Charlie Weis this in the Cubs dugout, and he told me as long as "Shark" doesn't endorse a product, he's OK, at least by the NCAA's convoluted rules. Same as "Tommy Z" becoming a pro boxer. It doesn't make much sense, but it's nice to see Notre Dame have some celebrity players again.
When was the phrase "Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field" first used? --Josh A. McCall, Henderson, Nev.
I'm pretty sure it was Sox manager Ozzie Guillen who coined the phrase last summer after seeing his first rat run through the batting cage under the bleachers.
With the dismal hitting this year, one would think that the obvious change would be to bring Von Joshua up from AAA to become the new hitting coach. I think that would help. If they are not going to do that, sending Murton and others down is certainly a good idea if they cannot get the help they need at the major league level. What do you think? --Don Geiselman, Arlington, Texas
Murton shouldn't be on the bench, coming in late in a game when he should be the one being replaced by a defensive replacement himself. If he's not ready to start, let him get some at-bats in Iowa. Von Joshua deserves a major league job, but probably not a good fit on this current staff.
Dear, Paul, I wonder if the best thing that the Cubs could do for Maddux would be to trade him soon to a true contender. I do, however, also wonder how he would truly feel about it. Thoughts? --Bill Theiben, Geneseo, Ill.
The sooner the better. Maddux deserves a chance to pitch in October again, and I really don't think any Cubs fan would begrudge him if he gave the Cubs his permission to seek a trade. They don't need his permission, but Hendry has too much respect for Maddux not to ask him.
About what would the Cubs have to be the rest of the season to make the playoffs? --Craig York, South Bend, Ind.
They'd have to be the Mets.
Andy MacPhail was at Minnesota this weekend and saw how poorly the Cubs as a whole are. Do you think he will do anything to jump-start this battery dead team? We've waited long enough for something to be done, but, as always, nothing happens! New players, new manager, new ballpark, start over and become a winner! --Mike Sherman, Springfield, Ill.
A new ballpark? Has it come to the point where the ballpark is considered part of the problem? Maybe it's time to get a new Ronnie Woo, too.
Paul, I think you answered one too many disgruntled questions and it has now wrongly affected your opinion of the Cubs fan. You said, "the Cubs aren't allowed to rebuild like the Tigers and Sox because Wrigley Field is almost always sold out and they'd be accused of pocketing the money with a low-payroll team full of kids. It's the curse of Wrigley." Cubs fans are knowledgeable and can discern between being cheap and investing in the future. If management did what was in the best interest of the Cubs fans and decided to rebuild from scratch, the Cubs fans would only be too happy. --Mark Gaponiuk, McElhattan, Penn.
I believe that's a very naïve view. If the Cubs sliced payroll to even Brewers territory and tried a semi-youth movement, the ballpark would still be filled and people would accuse the Cubs of going young to increase their revenues. Their history works against them, because no one has the patience for a youth movement after a lifetime of waiting. They can't go "Florida" and rebuild from scratch, as fun as that sounds right now.
Paul, regarding your story of , how do you not include the 1981 Cubs? They hit .236, scored less than 3.5 runs per game, gave up the most runs and had the second most errors in the NL. This team was painful to watch! --George Krogstie, Charlotte, N.C.
I agree the pain was palpable as far away as Yum-Yum Donuts, but the players' strike ruined their chance to prove themselves as truly horrific over the long haul, so I didn't include them. And thanks to so many observant readers for pointing out I incorrectly referred to 1960s starter Dick Ellsworth as "Don," confusing him with Don Elston, just as I often confuse Elston Ave. with Clybourn Ave.
Rich Hill seems to dominate in Double and Triple A. Take away one bad outing where he gave up 6 runs and 10 hits, he is sitting with an era of 1.55 and 80 K's in 58 innings. Question--Why can't the Cub coaches get him to do similar in the Majors? --Frank Mazur, Henderson, Nev.
Not sure what the deal is with Rich Hill, but he doesn't throw strikes when he comes up, and he apparently talks too much for their liking. He went to Michigan after all. Hill is a good kid and does seem to dominate in the minors, so the talent is in there somewhere. Maybe he should go to Florida with Prior in a package deal for Cabrera, and they can join Willis and Nolasco and Pinto in an all ex-Cub rotation.
Do sportswriters have problems with occupation-related injuries? That is, we know that Kerry Wood is fine as a pitcher until he has to pitch more than a few dozen pitches. What's your "pitch count" before you lose your best stuff? --Bob Mellin, Valparaiso, Ind.
By the time I've read about 100 e-mails from disgruntled Cubs fans, my testosterone levels decrease significantly, I start craving Frosted Flakes and I forget where I put the clicker. I'm OK at 60-70 e-mails. Anything more makes my brain heavy.
Which event do you think contributed more to the Cubs fans' voicing their displeasure so much more over the past few years at Wrigley--was it coming so close to the NL pennant in 2003 or the White Sox winning the World Series last year? --Jason Green, Temple Terrace, Fla.
Higher ticket prices.
What are the chances the Cubs would do something radical like go with a total youth movement and bring in an unknown commodity like Vance Law as manager? It would certainly be thinking outside the box. --Brent Borchardt, Washington, Iowa
The only time the Cubs have thought outside the box was the towel drill with Prior, so I'm not sure they're ready to go so outside the box they can't even find the box. Besides, the Cubs like the inside of the box just fine. It's dark, but very comfy.
Thanks for all the relevant, non-Dusty-related questions. Please send more.
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