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Paul Sullivan's Cubs mailbag
In another edition of Ask Paul, our Cubs beat writer answers your questions about Marmol's slump, Marquis vs. Marshall, whether the Fukudome factor is obsolete and other pressing issues.
I have noticed that the Cubs starting pitching may not be as deep as everyone first thought. The most consistent pitchers that I see are Dempster and Big Z. Now what do you think about them getting one more good starting pitcher before the trading deadline? I was thinking of maybe Harden. -- Timothy Pfingsten, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Sounds like a good idea, Tim. I'll inform Hendry pronto. Actually, Hendry stole the thunder for my annual wacky trades column by making a perfectly sound trade for Harden. I believe it was a pre-emptive strike, and a good one at that, since I've decided to cancel Wacky Trades week. By the way, the Cubs lead the league in starting pitching, even before Harden's second start tonight.
What is Lou doing to get these guys out of their road slump? Are the players going to blame the bad record on too many night games following day games? Two runs in two games from the worst team in the division. What is going on? -- Mike T., Fort Carson, Colo.
What do you suggest he do? They're not hitting much on the road, and that's why they haven't won much on the road. Why do people assume the manager always has the magic touch and can cure any problem by waving his hand? When the Cubs start hitting consistently on the road, they'll start winning more consistently. It's as simple as that.
As I listen to the Cubs losing yet another road game, what in your opinion is the problem? Where is the offense? -- Kim Screen, Pooler, Ga.
My opinion is they're not a very good road team and the offense disappears on the road for some unknown reason. Since there is no one really at fault, let's just blame the traveling secretary. Perhaps he is putting the team in the wrong hotels -- the ones with bad room service -- which could have a negative effect on the players' performances.
The Cubs' rotation is already six deep with Marshall being the one sent to the bullpen, despite pitching so well. What will the Cubs do if Rich Hill finally shakes off the cobwebs in the minors and is ready to return to the big league club? -- Ramiro, Elmhurst
I don't see Rich Hill coming back to join the rotation any time soon. Even if he is a September call-up, he would probably be used out of the bullpen. Marshall deserves an opportunity to step in if there's a need, and Hill will just have to wait in line with the rest of the minor leaguers. It's a cruel world, but no one is promised anything in the majors. Look at how many times Marshall has been bypassed, even for the likes of Steve Trachsel. He never complained, and I think the way he's handled things has helped him get to where he is now.
My question is about Carlos Marmol. What is his major malfunction? Is he tipping his pitches or is it just mental? Then again it could be mechanics. Is Rothschild spending any extra time with Marmol? -- David, Olive Branch, Miss.
The Cubs looked at video of Marmol and decided he wasn't tipping his pitches. I believe it is as Yogi Berra might say -- 50 percent mental, 50 percent fatigue and 50 percent extreme nervousness in crucial situations. I haven't seen Rothschild spend any extra time with Marmol, but I don't follow him around much anymore, at least not since he asked for that restraining order on me.
Is there any reason other than salary that Jason Marquis will apparently be the fifth starter over Sean Marshall? Marshall had one of the best starts by a Cub this year in St. Louis and Marquis has been a 5.00 ERA pitcher for the last few years. -- Joe B., Oxford, Conn.
Marquis has pitched well in the last 10 starts, with only a couple of clunkers. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, and if he starts struggling like he has the last couple of years in the second half, he'll no doubt make way for Marshall. Give Marquis a chance before rushing to judgment.
Hey Paul, are the Cubs better with Fukudome leading off or has he (or the Cubs) had any appreciable difference? I seem to remember the Cubs working counts a lot more earlier in the season and now they seem less disciplined. Could the Fukudome factor be wearing off? -- Han Paik, Westwood, Mass.
I think the expiration date on the Fukudome factor was June 18. He needs to start hitting and taking his walks, or Lou must consider using DeRosa in right and having Fukudome come off the bench. It seems like the league caught up to Fukudome pretty quickly, and now it's up to him to adjust. Not talking to the Japanese media is not the answer, though the Cubs believe he needs a break from their daily questioning so he can relax more. They only talk to him for a few minutes, so it's far-fetched to think it's a hardship.
Paul, This Cubs team seems to have all the ingredients to be a great team. When was the last time the Cubs had this much talent? I'm guessing it was during the late 1960s and early 1970s. What do you think? -- D. Maddox, Warm Springs, Ga.
I think they had just as much talent in 2004, with a rotation of Prior, Zambrano, Wood and Maddux, and guys like Garciaparra, Alou, Sosa, and Barrett when he was still a promising catcher. The biggest difference was that team couldn't stay focused, complaining about the announcers, the umpires, the media and just about anything else you could name. They blew a playoff spot in the final week of the season, but probably had enough talent to go to the World Series against Boston. The '04 Cubs are the iPod generation's version of the '69 Cubs.
Paul - After the Saturday game vs. the Giants, Lou suggested at the press conference that he was going to pitch you next time he needed an arm in the bullpen. Can you pitch back-to-back days and do you see yourself as more of a short or long-inning reliever? -- Pdizzle, Chicago
I see myself as a short reliever (Insert your own punch line here). I can pitch in back-to-back games as soon as my blister heals.
I've been wondering about something since 2003: Dusty sprinkled some dirt/dust/ashes down the stretch run and declined to say exactly what it was. I guess in the end, it didn't help. But what was it? Did he ever say? Toothpick ash? Dirt from some stadium? Cremated remains? Something his kid gave him? -- Mike Madsen, Reisterston. MD.
I'm glad you waited five years to ask me that relevant question, Mike. Dusty never told us, so I'll have to assume it was someone's remains. It did work for a while, especially in that St. Louis series, but then he had to rely on a bullpen which had Veres, Guthrie, Remlinger and Farnsworth as his set-up men. Now you know why he stuck with Prior so long in Game 6.
Zambrano is a stud with the bat, and I love it that he's a switch-hitter. I was simply wondering that with all the switch-hitters in baseball history, have there ever been a switch-pitcher? I figure a guy like that would have been pretty valuable for any team. -- Lance, Chicago
I have never heard of a switch-pitcher, unless you're talking about Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson in the 1970s. Google it, Lance.
Paul, which are the top 3 NL parks to play in, if I were a player? -- Greg Shuey, Bloomington, Ill.
Depends on if you're a hitter or a pitcher. I don't have the stats in front of me, but if you're a hitter, I'd say Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, and Colorado's Coors Field. If you're a pitcher, then San Diego's Petco Park, San Francisco's AT&T Park and Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium.
After reading about Rich Hill's most recent disaster in a Rookie League outing, it's quite obvious he's got something serious going on between the ears. Have the Cubs considered sending him to motivational speaker Tony Robbins? I thought of this as a joke a couple months ago. Only now I think I'm serious. -- Alex Hickey, Mundelein
I think Matt Foley, the motivational speaker that Chris Farley played on Saturday Night Live, would do a much better job than Tony Robbins. Hill told the Boston Globe his problems are "absolutely not" mental, but if they were mental, would he know it? Sounds like a Catch-22.
Paul, Have you ever read your White Sox counterpart's mailbag? He actually posts good questions and has well-thought-out responses to them. I know you think you are very witty, which would be okay if you would actually put a little effort into this and provide a little insight for once. -- Ray Kluesner, Madison, Wis.
Mark does a great job and I read his mailbag all the time. I consider us the Tribune's version of Goofus and Gallant. (You can figure out which one is which.) If you're looking for more insight on the Cubs, I would suggest going to one of the many fine blogs that service Cubs fans. They have more time to run through the stats and look things up for you. I don't believe this is a matter of life and death, so let's not pretend it's anything other than entertainment.
Thanks for all the relevant questions this week, and stay tuned for news on a very special guest host of Ask Paul.