Paul Sullivan on the Cubs
The Tribune's Cubs writer answers readers' questions throughout the baseball season.
Well, Paul, I never thought I'd say this, but I am pining for the days of Antonio Alfonseca, or as my daughter used to refer to him, "Mr. Fonseca." Is Lee Smith completely retired? --Pat Navin, Evanston, Ill.
I have to agree that this Cubs closer nightmare is one for the books, with the freakish wrist injury to Borowski, the blown-out elbow to Fox, the blown saves by Hawkins, the rocket that ricocheted off Offerman's helmet and Piazza's line drive off Dempster's arm. But hang in there. You never know who will be the next Derrick Turnbow or Brandon Lyon... or the next Mel Rojas.
When will the upper Cubs management take responsibility for the Cubs failing to live up to expectations? --Keith Mueller, Tucson, Ariz.
I'm not sure what you're referring to, but Jim Hendry isn't a guy who hides from the media when things aren't going well, unlike some of his predecessors. He's taken his lumps, and accepted them. If you expect Hendry or someone else in upper management to write off the season in mid-May, you're crazy. What kind of message would that send to the team, much less the fans?
Is it me, or does this Cub team seem flat emotionally? Certainly, losing doesn't help things. But in this case, it seems a lack of spirit contributed to the losing. --Jorge Ovalle, Bloomington, Ill.
That's a very perceptive comment, Jorge. Other than Zambrano, who gets criticized for being over-emotional--rightfully so at times--they do seem to be a quiet, unemotional team. Blown saves and crazy losses will do that to any clubhouse. Dempster is trying to lighten things up, but with so much pressure on so many individuals, no one can feel completely comfortable, so there's not much joking around.
In 2003, Randall Simon helped the clubhouse chemistry. He seemed like a big goofball (in a good way), keeping the players relaxed and having fun. Is there anyone like that on this year's team? It seemed like they lacked that last year. --Brian Longly, Lincoln, Ill.
Unfortunately, there isn't anyone like Randall in all of baseball. Perhaps they should trade for Kevin Millar, Boston's version of Randall and self-described "idiot."
I have a solution for those who don't like the billboards behind home plate. Simply refuse to buy the products advertised. If they are ineffective, the advertisers will sooner or later give up. --Dave Dickinson, Kearney, Neb.
Good idea, Dave, but here's a better one: "Rotating Ad Board Roulette." Don't buy products of the ads that happen to be shown on game-turning plays that haunt the Cubs, putting a risk factor into their decision to intrude on our TV screens. For example, don't buy products from the company advertised on the pitch that turned into the Hawkins' rocket that ricocheted off Offerman's helmet, or the company advertised on Prior's pitch to Luis Castillo in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS that resulted in the infamous foul ball. I do indeed know the names of these two companies, but you'll have to find out for yourself if you don't already know.
Now that both Troy Percival and Armando Benitez are expected to miss significant time with their clubs, don't you think it's time that people lay off Jim Hendry for not signing a closer this off-season? They've obviously proven they aren't worth the money that S.F. and Detroit spent, and since those two were the only high-profile names on the market, who else were the Cubs supposed to sign? I haven't heard one Trib writer give an answer to this question all year. --Matt Niezgoda, LaGrange, Ill.
The Cubs focused on obtaining Milwaukee's Dan Kolb, who went to Atlanta for their top pitching prospect. It hasn't exactly worked out for Atlanta, though. Kolb has nine saves, but he's also 1-3 with two blown saves, plus a 6.28 ERA. The Brewers signed cast-off Derrick Turnbow, who has five saves and a 2.08 ERA. Evaluating closers is a crapshoot these days, and the Cubs have seemingly lost on every roll.
Why do you think the Wrigley fans have changed so much over the last couple of years? I never used to hear this much booing. It's like we're imitating fans from Boston, New York or Philly. As someone who has seen a lot of the Cubs in recent years, how do you account for this? --Matt Pelz, Chapel Hill, N.C.
I believe Michael Jordan is mostly responsible for the increased booing at Wrigley Field. A generation of Chicagoans grew up watching the Bulls win six championships, and now they are old enough to be buying tickets to sporting events. They don't accept the losing, like their parents did, because they don't know what it's like to go several decades without a winner. If Portland had chosen Jordan instead of leaving him for the Bulls, there would be less booing of LaTroy Hawkins. Just a theory.
It seems like the lineup has pretty good speed at the top. Why are the Cubs being so passive in the stolen base department? --Jamie Nicpon, Iowa City, Iowa
It's a plan of deception that can't be discussed without blowing the plan, so your guess on this matter is probably accurate, but please keep it to yourself.
Any idea why Jason Dubois is not allowed to bat against right-handed pitchers? I imagine he has been facing righties since he's been, what, eight years old? Don't you think that given the same amount of games played over a full season, Dubois would put up much better offensive numbers than Hollandsworth? --Jeremy Barewin, Chicago
The Cubs wanted to give Hollandsworth a fair chance over the kid. They did, and he didn't make the most of it. Call it the Curse of Moises. Now it's Dubois' turn to face some tough right-handers. We haven't really seen enough of him against righties to make an evaluation, but Hollandsworth wasn't hitting either lefties or righties, so it was certainly time for a change. If Dubois doesn't work out, Hendry will have to make a trade by July 31, since obviously you need more production from a corner outfielder.