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Paul Sullivan's Cubs mailbag
Ask Paul returns from a brief sojourn to the Wisconsin Dells to address all Cub-related issues, including Geo's playing time, the blue road jerseys, Barry Bonds in center, the Winter Classic at Wrigley, and the long-awaited start of the Samardzija era.
Do you think the Cubs will grab another relief pitcher or a batter or just stand pat for the push for the playoffs, God willing they hold off the Cardinals and Brewers? I know Huston Street is available. -- Richard Flowers, Chicago Heights
Actually, the call-up of Jeff Samardzija serves as the Cubs trade deadline acquisition, and they already acquired Harden/Gaudin, a potential ace and a primary set-up man. Since they've already given Samardzija a $10 million deal, they might as well see if he's worth it, and so far, it looks like he's worth every penny. If Lou carries through with his idea to throw the raw and talented Samardzija into the closers' mix, Samardzijapalooza could become a reality this August at Wrigley.
Lou Piniella seems to be using Geovany Soto excessively. ... shouldn't catchers be getting about 1-2 days off a week? -- Ramiro, Elmhurst
I wholeheartedly agree. Geo Soto is hitting .235 in July after hitting .341 in April, .271 in May and .250 in June. Not a good trend, though his power numbers haven't dropped much. Blanco has played in only four games in July, with 10 at-bats. Of course, Lou needed Soto in the lineup to make up for the absence of Soriano, and he's been great with the pitchers, too. But Blanco is fully capable of playing more than once a week, and Soto's plunging month-by-month average may indicate he could be tiring a bit in his first full season as a Cub.
I am really tired of hearing how it is unknown why the Cubs cannot hit on the road. It is painfully obvious they swing at horrible pitches and are not patient at the plate. Why this simple problem cannot be rectified is beyond me. My question is why do the Cubs coaches seem to constantly fail in their ability to coach their players out of these problems? -- Brad Bates, Chicago
This is not a simple problem, or it would've been fixed. Blaming coaches for "constantly failing" in their jobs is ludicrous considering the Cubs lead the league in almost every important offensive category, including runs. Look at the numbers: The Cubs are first in the NL at home in batting average (.303), on-base percentage (.384) and slugging percentage (.491). Obviously it's a team full of good hitters, many of whom are patient. But on the road, they're eighth in average (.254), sixth in on-base percentage (.327) and eighth in slugging percentage (.394). Those aren't good numbers, but neither are they bottom-of-the-league numbers. The Cubs also strike out twice as much as they walk on the road (414 strikeouts to 193 walks), as opposed to their home numbers of 370 strikeouts to 226 walks. It's not a perfect offense, and it's capable of being shut down by strong pitching, particularly right-handers. Still, I'd take this lineup over any other in the NL.
Paul - What is the deal with the blue road jerseys. Last year they didn't wear them and this year they wear them when Zambrano starts. Was that part of his contract negotiations? -- Chris Charnas, Northfield
Yes, it's true. Zambrano refused to sign unless the Cubs allowed him to be in charge of the blue road uniforms. They offered him a few million more, but he told them no -- blue uniforms, or forget it. All kidding aside, what can I say? Apparently he likes the color blue.
It's been a hundred years. Why not stick a finger in the eye of Bud Selig and the baseball establishment and sign Bonds for the rest of the season? -- Duke Moses, Apex, N.C.
Good idea. I believe he'd be statuesque in center. He could also stand at the plate and watch fly balls hit off the top of the wall before running, which has now become standard practice amongst Cubs sluggers. It hasn't cost them a game -- yet.
Paul: I've noticed that Kosuke Fukudome's personal interpreter is no longer a presence in the Cubs dugout. I'm curious if his dugout privileges were revoked, or if they were phased out by design. I know it's quite a stretch, but it does appear as Fukudome's performance has struggled since the mysterious disappearance of his English translator ... -- Andy, Arlington, Va.
Fukudome's translator, Ryuji, is still here, though he sits in the press box with us and is generally out of sight from viewers. Naturally, Fukudome's recent slump has nothing to do with whether Ryuji is in the dugout or not, but I doubt he's really needed there, so it's probably best to be somewhere he can be reached by phone. Ryuji is still available to us in the clubhouse before and after games, but Fukudome is so reluctant to say anything noteworthy that no translator is necessary ... not that Fukudome is the first major leaguer who prefers not to say anything noteworthy. The days of free-spirited talkers like Oil Can Boyd, Joe Magrane, David Wells and Tony Phillips are history.
Daryle Ward = Neifi Perez. Yes or no? Discuss. -- Ryan Tennant, Glendale Heights
Different teams, different players, same basic role. I thought Neifi was fine as a backup. It wasn't until he became a starter that his weaknesses were exposed. I also think Ward is fine as a pinch-hitter if you can afford to carry one on the roster. That's a question that hasn't really been answered yet, and Ward definitely needs to pick it up down the stretch.
Paul, longtime reader, first time question writer. With the big Winter Classic hockey game coming to Wrigley, what does the Cubs grounds crew staff (or even better, Roger Bossard for that matter) have to think about what the frozen pond will do to the playing surface of the baseball field? -- C.P., Chicago
I'm not sure what Roger Bossard thinks, since the Sodfather was only brought in last winter to oversee the installation of the new field and drainage system. He's not part of anything going on now, or in the future. Some of the Wrigley grounds crew I've spoken to are concerned about the field, simply because it now looks as good as any of us can ever remember. It would be a shame to cause any permanent damage that would need replacement sod in some areas. Remember how ugly Wrigley looked for a while last summer after the Police concert ravaged the field and they patched it up in several areas in the outfield? I'm all for the idea of a Winter Classic. I just wish they'd have it at the Millennium Park rink and leave Wrigley alone.
Is it true the Cubs got damaged goods when they traded for the Oakland pitcher? Are they starting to get nervous with superior trades of Brewers? Is '69 coming back to haunt them? Are the traditionally bombastic yet insecure fans starting to sweat and light up talk radio across Chicagoland with their desperate musings? -- Miller Man, Milwaukee
Is it true that people who nickname themselves 'Miller Man' have insecurity issues?
Paul, re the switch pitcher comment in the last column, the Yankees have one in their farm system, Venditta is his name, I think. (Note: it's Pat Venditte, a 45th round pick from Creighton). They had to make a rule for him when he faces a switch-hitter of who gets to hit/pitch which way so the pitcher and batter don't keep switching in response to the other. -- Chris J, Kunsan, Korea
Thanks to all who have mentioned Pat Venditte, the switch-pitcher in the Yankees system (though I still believe the only true switch-pitchers in baseball history were Yankees teammates Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson.) The idea of a switch-pitcher is fascinating, but impractical for some teams, particularly the Cubs. Imagine if Lou decided to bring in a lefty for a righty and it turned out to be the same guy? What if Cubs fan booed the right-handed version of the switch-pitcher and cheered the lefty version? What if he had a blister on both index fingers? The possibilities for disaster are endless.
Absolutely almost fell off my chair laughing @ your reference to the Kekich/Petersen wife swap in the 80's. A-Rod, Madonna and their spouses aren't so original after all. Aren't one of those couples still together but one has split? Quite a memory for me (I was in middle of a not so original divorce myself then). Just hope the Cubs can hold on. -- Richard Snyder, Los Angeles
Actually, it was the 70s, and that's way too much personal information for Ask Paul. Consider writing Ask Amy next time.
Dear Paul, I write one of the blogs that service Cubs fans of which you made note in the most recent Ask Paul. It's pretty awful, doesn't provide ANY stat analysis and is a huge waste of time. However, it has a really funny name. Would you mind giving a shout out to cubsmasochist.com in the next edition of Ask Paul? -- Justin Thomas, Lake Bluff
Please, I don't do shout-outs, and I've already my given my stamp of approval to the best Cubs blogs. My sense is that we will one day live in a world where people who don't have a Cubs blog are in the minority. I know that's a scary thought, but they are sprouting like dandelions during the 100-year thing, and even Mark DeRosa has one. When the players are blogging more than the sportswriters, you know it's out of control.
Thanks for all the relevant questions, and we'll be turning this over to a special guest next week. Stay tuned.