Ask Paul Sullivan

Ask Paul's season finale ends with a cliffhanger, and some parting shots for Kerry Wood, Aramis Ramirez and hyperventilating Cubs fans.

I found your recent article "Cubs' roster needs radical surgery" very interesting. My question is that you talk like Kerry Wood is a free agent who'll command a high-dollar contract in order to be signed. I thought his future career was in serious question because of injury concerns. What is Wood's prognosis? I have been suspicious of the injury status of both Wood and Prior since the end of 2003. --Robert Jump, Los Alamos, N.M.

Wood said he'll be ready by spring training, or at least he said that to WGN-radio. The very fact that Wood declined to comment to the rest of the writers and radio reporters who cover the team suggests he really has no clue about how his public relations image has suffered the last couple years. He seems intent on letting it get worse. If Wood is really that unhappy here, why would he want to come back? Beats me.

If Aramis Ramirez leaves, shouldn't that be grounds alone for the dismissal of Jim Hendry? After all, Hendry created this situation with the ridiculous contract. --Tom Kennedy, Minneapolis, Minn.

That certainly would be an embarrassing moment for Hendry, but Ramirez said when he signed the contract that he was planning on spending many more years here, so essentially they took him at his word when they gave him the opt-out clause. At the very worst they thought he might get a slight raise. Who knew Ramirez would use it as a sledgehammer against them?

Paul, what is the one move you think the Cubs will make prior to next year, either via trade or signing? --Gary Goins, Cincinnati

Carlos Lee, left field. He'd be crazy to go anywhere else.

In May I wrote Jim Hendry a letter asking for a refund for tickets I bought to an utterly miserable Cubs-Padres game in May. He never responded. Think I'm ever going to get that refund? --Stu Jones, Muskegon, Mich.

I think you know the answer to that one. You're not paying for the outcome, you're paying for the right to watch the game. Anyone who thinks they deserve their money back if the Cubs play poorly is deluded.

Obviously the Cubs need to add (at least) a couple big league starters for next year. However, giving up on all the rookies from this season makes no more sense than continuing to rely on them exclusively. So based on contracts and the current labor agreement, which of the rookie pitchers can the Cubs keep in the minors leagues, where most of them belong, in 2007? I love the idea of finally leaving some good arms in the minors until they are really ready to try the bigs. --Bruce Erickson, Fayetteville, N.Y.

Most of them will go back to the minors, with the exception of Rich Hill. The Cubs prospects, for the most part, failed to prove themselves at the major league level, and should not have been there in the first place.

It was during the Twins series in Minnesota that I realized the nexus of Jacque Jones' throwing problems. He had no throwing problems there because when he bounced it in to second (or home) it didn't lose speed or accuracy on the artificial surface. In Wrigley (and most other NL Parks) the high grass requires him to get it there on the fly as opposed to bouncing it halfway. If he stays, do you think the grounds crew would make an adjustment on the grass height to allow Jones to bounce 'em in? Also, did they fire the scout who neglected to pick up on Jones taking advantage of the artificial surface to enhanced his throws? --David Bradberry, Arab, Ala.

I'm not sure who the scout was, but considering the Cubs penchant for getting former Minnesota players--Gaetti, Aguilera, Coomer, Hawkins, Jones--I'm going to have to put this one on Andy MacPhail. Jones had a good offensive season, but his arm is a definite liability, as we quickly discovered at Wrigley.

Hey Paulo, do you have enough guts to ask Carlos Zambrano and Ozzie about Hugo Chavez's comments about President Bush? That would be interesting to hear. --Woody Almon, Marion, Ill.

I've discussed Hugo Chavez's relationship with Castro with Zambrano, but it was a personal conversation and you'll have to wait for the book to find out what he said.

Paul, the Cubs pitching staff leads the league in walks and strikeouts (and probably pitches thrown). Are these related? Do Cubs pitchers nibble too much in hopes of getting a K? Do they need a new pitching coach with a different philosophy? --Al Peissig, Oshkosh, Wish.

Yes, because most of them are looking for strikeouts and wind up walking as many guys as they strike out. The stats suggest the Cubs should go in a new direction when it comes to a pitching coach. Larry Rothschild doesn't deserve all the blame, but enough is enough.

What should the Cubs do with Jacque Jones next year? I'd trade him for a hot dog and bag of peanuts, if I could. But I don't know if the Cubs can find a left-handed bat with some power to replace him. --Jay Neil, Berkeley, Calif.

They should trade him to a West Coast team, but I doubt they will. The Cubs seem to think Jones had a great year because of his offense, forgetting his arm cost them many runs. With two years left on his contract and with 28 homers, now is the time to trade him, hoping no one remembers his arm is so unbelievably weak.

Why does Baker play Freddie Bynum at second? Can't he just let Ryan Theriot and Ronny Cedeno fight it out? Bynum's defense is horrible and certainly not the second baseman of the future. --Steven Fritsch, Oceanside, Calif.

I can't answer that one. Bynum is definitely not a second baseman, and there's a question of whether he can be a major league outfielder, as well. The Cubs wasted a lot of time leaving Theriot on the bench during his early call-ups. He proved to be as good as any of the rest of the bunch.

Now that Dusty is all but gone (and Joe Girardi all but in), what are the chances we could get Chip Carey and Steve Stone back in the booth? I think Len and Bob do a good enough job, but Steve Stone is about as good as they come and I think Chip did a great job during his time in Chicago. Your thoughts? --Mike Bauer, Tulsa, Okla.

Girardi is not all but in, and Chip will never return, but Stone could come back if Brenley gets a managerial job. He has already begun improving his relationship with the Cubs.

Paul, I don't think you're an idiot. In fact, I think your ideas are definitely a viable option, as seen in the fact that the SF Giants are perennial contenders in the (admittedly weak) NL West, and their average age is somewhere north of 75. I do think it's risky, though, in that while age may equal experience, it also usually equals slower bats, dimmer eyes and weaker joints. Now if the Cubs do go with an age movement, will Wrigley start to smell more like Ben-Gay and less like stale beer? And will there be room in the budget to replace the Gatorade with Metamucil? These are burning questions that frustrated Cub fans need answers to. --Warren Taylor, Chico, Calif.

I sense some sarcasm at play, and you know how Jim Riggleman and I feel about sarcasm.

Paul, any chance of seeing Greg Maddux in a Cub uniform next season and serving a dual role as a starter and pitching coach? --Ray Kirkpatrick, Hastings, Neb.

Wake up, Ray. Maddux is gone and not coming back. Time to move on.

Can someone, anyone, please explain to me why Dusty whines about the bullpen being overused when he's the one doing it? In two recent games, the starters came out after five innings and giving up one run or no runs. Then the parade starts, using one reliever an inning or one reliever a batter, who most invariably is walked. How can anybody get any consistency? Nobody would be over-pitched if they just pitched strikes! --Holly Hanks, Portland, Ore.

Wherever he goes, Dusty needs to rethink his pitching philosophy. Instead of using five guys in relief in games the Cubs are getting blown out of, he should use one or two for two or three innings apiece. He was definitely part of the reason the bullpen was overused, though his starters were more to blame.

Will you be responding to e-mails next year? Your analysis of the Chicago Cubs was the best that I have read this year. Instead of watching winning ball games I have read all this Cub analysis. Yours is one of the best and should give Hendry and top Cub brass some pause. Let your readers know if you will be back! --Keith Mueller, Tucson, Ariz.

Imagine waking up every morning and having 50 or so e-mails in your box from disgruntled Cubs fans. I'm constantly amazed at how many people let the Cubs make them so miserable, and how those people always seem to have Internet access. I appreciate the comment, but I can't answer that question now, so stay tuned and you'll find out.

Anyways, thanks for all the relevant e-mails this season. Hope I didn't offend too many people along the way, and if you learned anything about the Cubs, don't blame me.