Ask Paul returns to answers your questions about the City Series, Marmol's breakdown, the ivy, Jim Edmonds' Q-rating and other hot topics:
The City Series is half over and again I'm struck by how unfair the "natural rival" system is. The Cubs' interleague opponents have a .531 win percentage and the Sox's have .525 as of June 23. Contrast that with St Louis' .508 thanks to two rounds with KC, and the Tigers' .459 (no natural rival and most games against the NL West). If I were a Sox fan, I'd really be irate. I say we cut the natural rival business to two two-game series and move it to Memorial Day weekend, then add another interleague series from whatever division matchup is scheduled for the year. The Cubs and Sox would then play 16 interleague games instead of 15. --Skip VB, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Yes, it's unfair that the Cardinals play the Royals and the Cubs play the Sox. It also looked unfair that the Cubs would get to play Tampa Bay and Baltimore, though the Rays turned out to be a strong team and the Orioles are better than expected. I do agree that the Cubs and Sox should play only once a year, but I think it should be a four-game series with two games at Wrigley followed by two games at the Cell, or vice-versa. This would add to the rivalry, and we'd only have to hype it once a year instead of twice.
Earlier this season, authorities thought the game was too slow and considered making umpires enforce the time rule for pitchers, and not allow batters to step out of the box between pitches. If they want to speed up the game, why are they considering instant replay rules? --Van, Mabank, Texas
Yes, it's a conundrum all right. Slow it down? Speed it up? How about if we just leave it alone for once since the game is fine the way it is.
Paul, you and other writers at times have reasoned that Cubs fans dislike for Jim Edmonds is because he is a former Cardinal. For this Cubs fan that could not be further from the truth. Case in point I'm thrilled to see Marquis do well when he is pitching. He has shown a lot of character in the way he has worked hard to comeback from a not-so-stellar ending of his time in St. Louis. Character is also the issue I have with Edmonds. He is a hot-dogging show off. He has years of history of making easy catches unnecessarily difficult just to make himself look good. Cub fans know all too well how one misplayed easy out can be the push that the ever-present teetering snowball needs to roll down the hill. Is the dislike by fans of Edmonds and the love shown for a guy who busts his butt like Reed Johnson a problem in the clubhouse and more specifically between the guys who platoon at the same position? --Eric Cooper, Shariki, Japan
The fans are starting to warm to Edmonds, despite his frequent hot-dogging and his long-time association with the Cardinals. A few clutch home runs will do that. They also love Reed Johnson for the reason you cited. I don't see any problem in the Cubs clubhouse. They both seem like nice guys. As long as both produce, everything should be hunky-dory.
A little bit, but lately he's been looking more like Steve Blass. Hopefully this is just a mirage.
Paul, is it me or is Mark DeRosa this season's Michael Barrett? DeRosa is media friendly much like Barrett was. DeRosa always seems to just miss just like Barrett - fly balls to the warning track, hard hit ground balls, etc. I don't understand the clamoring of Cubs fans that this guy couldn't be replaced. I will give DeRosa credit because he does play a lot of positions. But he seems to make his fair share of mistakes (fielding errors, missing the cutoff man). Do you have any thoughts on this? --Darwin, Sterling, Ill.
DeRosa is in a slump right now, but looking at his overall numbers it's ludicrous to compare him to Michael Barrett in '07. His outfield play isn't bad, except for the fly ball he messed up in Tampa last week, which was a very bad play. Everyone is replaceable, but DeRosa has been a solid player since his arrival, whether he's media-friendly or not. Cubs fans like him, and, yes, the media likes him too.
I was watching Cubs with my girlfriend and she pointed out we have not seen the Strawberry Shortcake backpack in the bullpen this year. Do we still have the young pitchers do that? And who's idea it was in the first place to do the hazing? --Anthony Schultte, Keokuk, Iowa
I've seen it on many occasions, so perhaps they're just not showing it on TV as much since it's lost its novelty. I assume Ryan Dempster introduced the hazing ritual, since it sounds like something he'd do, but I could be mistaken. As far as hazing goes, I've been through much worse than carrying a pink backpack around. Some of the relievers even seem to enjoy it.
Paul, Do you know when the netting between the home plate screen and the former press box level was removed? --Ted Groat, Crystal Lake, Ill.
Sorry, but that's top secret, Ted.
Paul, when the Cubs finished the bleacher renovation a couple years ago, they were trying to get the vines to grow on the exterior walls, facing Sheffield and Waveland. Every time I walk by I notice that there hasn't been much progress. Has there been any further effort to get them to grow? I think that's a great way to bring the ballpark out to the street. --Jason, Chicago
The ivy never grew, as some people predicted from the very start. The east-west wall on Waveland doesn't get enough sunlight. The concept was a good one, but I think it's an idea that really wasn't thought out much. The one idea I want to see is fencing off Waveland and Sheffield a couple hours before the game and letting fans go in and out of Wrigley until gametime, creating a festival on the street like Yawkey Way in Boston.
Maybe a silly question but do the players ever hate the fact that they miss other major sporting events because they are playing, like the NBA finals and such. And honestly because of their careers they are more than likely to miss watching basketball or football for their entire careers. Do they just not think about it or am I missing something? --Andrej, Denver
If I was making a few million dollars, I don't think I would mind missing other major sporting events. Besides, they do have TVs in the clubhouse, and except for the time a few of them were watching "The View" before a day game in Cincinnati, they usually are watching sports. (By the way, Larry Rothschild, to his credit, chided one of his pitchers for watching "The View").
Hi, Paul, I was hoping you may be able to give an update on Rich Hills' progress, or lack of it. Has his problem been pinpointed? Is it mental/physical or a combination? --Jim P., Tucson, Ariz.
No one is really sure of what Hill's problem is, which is why he's being sent to Arizona to work with the Rookie League pitching coach. It's probably mental, but it could be physical. It's really a perplexing story because we all saw how good Hill can be last year. Hopefully he gets it back together and pitches the way he's capable of, and the Cubs will move him to another team to get a fresh start. I'm afraid it's not going to work out in Chicago, which is a shame because he's a good guy and potentially a very good pitcher.
Paul, Carlos Marmol has been great all season but lately he has been coming into games and getting behind 2-0 with mostly fastballs. The next pitch tends to be an off speed pitch for a strike. I know off speed is where Marmol thrives but do you think scouting reports will begin to tell players to expect him to fall behind and then wait for the off-speed stuff? Could be a problem in the future? --Don Aleshire, Park Forest, Ill.
It's already a problem. Let's hope it's a correctable problem, because Marmol was the bullpen MVP the first two months of the season. Everyone goes into a slump at some point, but Marmol was so dominant that his recent streak of control problems is a cold slap in the face. As Lou said, no one expected this (including Lou).
Why do they bat Pie third in the line up in Class AAA when they should work with him at slapping at the ball to make more contact? So bat him first or second. --Mike, LaPorte, Ind.
I'm not sure, but I'll let Iowa manager Pat Listach know and I'm sure he'll put Felix in your preferred spot in the order.
Since so many batters are hit on their hands and since they all wear gloves why not insert a thin layer of Kevlar on the back of their lead hand to protect the tiny bones? --Sarge, Georgia
Good idea, but I believe baseball is committed to a being a Kevlar-free sport. We don't want to see Jason Giambi walking to the plate covered from head to toe in Kevlar.
Why did the games start seven minutes after the hour in Toronto? Why isn't your email address easy to find on this Web site? --Jayme, San Francisco
I assume the currency conversion rate in Canada is the reason they started at :07 instead of :05, as most American teams do, and pretty soon it will be down to :06. Second, I never email myself, so I wasn't aware that my email address is hard to find. Most of the people who complain to me about my articles seem to be able to find it rather easily. Now that you mention it, the complaints have gone down this year. I thought it was the writing. My bad.
Thanks for all the relevant questions, and next week we'll be doing a special Ask Paul on the Cubs-Sox series, so please limit your questions to the City Series.