Just what has the City Of Chicago done to the baseball gods that they deserve two sad-sack organizations such as the White Sox and Cubs? --Frank Caldwell, Plano, Texas
Black Sox scandal, Billy Goat curse, Albert Belle
take your pick.
Chicago Cubs this season. I've begun looking toward next year. Now, I could pose my usual why-in-God's-name-do-we-continue-to-pitch-Jeff-Fassero question, but something more interesting struck me during last night's debacle against the Cardinals. I realized during that game that Rick Sutcliffe loves the Cubs, and knows a hell of a lot about baseball, most notably pitching. With a young staff and a struggling, but seemingly talented bullpen do you think Sutcliffe would make a good manager? And also, is there any precedent around the league where a bright former player has been put into that role with no prior managing experience? --Matt Plischke, Redwood City, Calif.
Sutcliffe wanted the job as pitching coach, but Don Baylor & Co. went with Larry Rothschild, who is widely regarded as one of the best in the business. The last two guys who went from the broadcast booth to the dugout, Houtson's Larry Dierker and Toronto's Buck Martinez, are no longer at the helm. At least Dierker got the Astros to the playoffs several times.
It is not great deduction to conclude that the Cubs' bullpen has been the biggest downfall this year - to put it lightly. Despite the weak hitting, the bullpen is single-handedly responsible for a good quarter of their losses. But, one thing that keeps nagging at me all year is, why did the
Cubs let Weathers get away without a fight over the off-season? We gave up a great pitching prospect in Quevedo (and others?) to get him and did nothing to retain him? Do you have any insight into the circumstances that kept a great setup man out of a bullpen that started off as the great land of opportunity for washed up pitchers (Fassero, Osborne, Mahay, Benes, and so on)? --Clint Vogel, Evergreen Park, Ill.
Sure, there's a reason: Money. Plain and simple. There's no way I would have matched what the Rangers gave Todd Van Poppel ($7.5 million over three years). But I would have made a strong run at Weathers, who signed for about $10 million over three years. Instead the Cubs kept their fingers crossed and hoped that Tom Gordon, Kyle Farnsworth and Jeff Fassero would be as good as they were last year. (And that Scott Chiasson, Courtney Duncan & Co. would supplement them.) But obviously that hasn't happened. At least the Cubs got two high draft picks between as compensation for losing Weathers.
Why does the media continue to give Todd Hundley a soapbox to whine upon? He does an awful lot of jawing for guy who hasn't hit over .200 since, well, I can't remember. But the media only encourage this--every time he gets two hits (a rare occurrence), let alone a home run, you read about how Hundley is coming around, etc. So, he hits homers once in a while--how about some consistent delivery when men are on base, instead of consistent strikeouts? For the life of me, I can't figure out why the press doesn't just say what fans like me are thinking about this incredibly immature and unprofessional has-been: "Act like a professional and let your numbers do the talking. Enough with constant excuses. As the saying goes, put up or shut up." --Barb Neff, Chicago
I hope Hundley's reading this because he has told people that we're tougher on him than the New York media. I seriously doubt that. You do make a good point, Barb. I think we're somewhat reluctant to rag on Hundley because he's a very likable guy who's had to overcome some difficult things (the death of his mother, elbow injuries, a lack of consistent playing time during Baylor's tenure, etc.). Plus he's a local guy whose father was a fan favorite. That said, it's clear that Hundley is running out of excuses. When you're being paid $6 million a year, you better hit higher than .189. And you better know when to lay off a high-and-away fastball on a 3-2 count in the 10th inning of a tie game when the bases are loaded.
Teddy, now that Scott Rolen is a Cardinal, can Cubs fans pretty much count on him re-signing with the Cards? If so, how does the third base position look for the Cubs in the future? --Matt Clatterbuck, Virginia Beach, Va.
They've got three choices: re-sign Bill Mueller, move Mark Bellhorn over from second base or trade for someone at the winter meetings. Keep your eye on Florida's Mike Lowell.
Can I assume that Fred McGriff won't be back next year? And could you do have a rundown of key players and positions, their contract status, and what Jim Hendry might be thinking to improve the team for next year? Signed, Waiting 'Til Next Year. --Cathy Klimek, Coon Rapids, Minn.
I wrote about this on Thursday, a few days after you sent in the question. Here's the story.
I keep reading that Julio Zuleta is putting up awesome numbers in the minors.
Why have the Cubs written him off? They have all but given the job to Hee Seop Choi for next year. I realize that Baylor was not a big fan of Zuleta, but why wont the Cubs management consider bringing him up? Santo and Hughes both agree that all Zuleta needs is an opportunity. What are your thoughts? --D. Shuey, Indianapolis
Zuleta is a great hitter, no doubt. And if he were playing in most organizations, he would have gotten a better shot by now. But Zulie is stuck between Fred McGriff and Choi, who has a more explosive bat, is left-handed and will play better at first. Zuleta deserves a chance somewhere. Cubs officials say they've tried to trade him but that they can't find any takers.
Hi, Teddy. I really like Bill Mueller. I think he is really struggling at the plate--which is too bad because he is in a free agent year -- but I think he can hit. A far as defense and just baseball sense, the Cubs could do no better. So, will they not re-sign him? I know the Giants with Dusty Baker and G.M. Sabean hated to part with him and will want him back. In your opinion, tell me if I'm crazy and what you think will happen with Mueller. Thanks. --Tom Wilmouth, Milwaukee
Mueller's a guy who makes everyone around him better. There's nothing he doesn't do well (yet he's not outstanding in any phase of the game, either). So whom would you rather have at third next year, Mueller or Bellhorn? Better defense or more production at the plate?
Hey Teddy. Part of the Cubs' offensive woes this year seems to come from so many clutch strikeouts by Cub hitters. It looks like four, and maybe five Cubs hitters will strike out more than 100 times this year (Sosa, Patterson, Gonzalez, Bellhorn and possibly McGriff) Has there ever been a team in the NL with 5 hitters with 100 K's? Where do the Cubs rank in the league in strikeouts? --Eric Thomas, Baltimore
Can't answer your question about an NL team with five guys who strike out 100 times. My researchers are on vacation. I can tell you that entering Thursday's game, the Cubs have whiffed 798 times. That's 34 more than any team in the league and 220 more than the Cardinals.
Teddy, While in attendance at Wrigley Field recently, I was disappointed to see that the Cubs were starting a center fielder who is having trouble hitting batting practice fastballs, seems unable to steal a base even on "good" pitch counts and looked about as capable as Dave Kingman at attempting a bunt. Upon looking in the dugout, I was shocked to discover that Darren Lewis was already on the bench! Teddy, what's up with Corey Patterson's recent play--is the league just catching up to a rookie hitter and, if so, how is Jeff Pentland working with him on filling those Titanic-sized holes in his swing? Also, does a hitting slump like this effect a young players' mental edge on the base paths? --Matt K., Chicago
You no longer have to worry about seeing Darren Lewis play. Not sure if Chad Hermansen can steal on good pitch counts. As for Corey, he says he's hitting much better since he tells himself one thing as he enters the batters' box: Relax.