Don't forget the big Matt Karchner-Jon Garland deal in '98, which significantly set back the Cubs farm system by forcing them to sign or trade for starters like Jason Bere and Julian Tavarez in the next few years. There is no doubt the Cubs will have to make a major deal this month to boost the offense before the trade deadline, though with Mike Lowell out of the equation there aren't any "sure thing" third basemen currently available. Unlike Ed Lynch, Jim Hendry doesn't mind having the pressure put on him, which is good because the pressure is all on him to fix this offense. I've never seen so many great starts go to waste.
After the cork incident I said this could turn into the equivalent of the Theo Fleury strip club incident where the distraction is too much and the team spirals downward for no apparent reason. Do you see this happening? Has the team become splintered and divided like the Hawks and the losses will pile on from here on out? --George Lengel, Macomb, Mich.
The cork incident wasn't as much a distraction as you might think, George. The team ranks 12th in runs scored and Antonio Alfonseca is in another slump, which is why they spiraled downward. The team isn't splintered, though I did notice that one player turned off Sammy's boom box in the clubhouse the other day, which is always a welcome move. As for the Hawks, they weren't nearly physical enough and Fleury was a costly mistake and they should've brought Ed Belfour back, but that's another story.
Paul, I've noticed in the Cubs recent skid that Dusty Baker is going with a different lineup every day. When the Cubs were winning more consistently they were sticking with the same lineup (except 3rd base). Why take Patterson out and play Lenny Harris when you need offense? Why does a young guy like Patterson need a day off when Cal Ripken played more then 2,000 games in a row? --Jared Pratt, Beach Park, Ill.
Dusty likes to give his regulars days off so they'll have some energy in the second half, as he explained he would do back in the spring. Corey has played in 79 of their 83 games, so its not like he's sitting all the time. Everyone needs a day off once in a while -- even me. More often than not, he plays the same lineup (except third base).
Dear Paul, there isn't much too much to be done about third base, it seems, other than put Jose Hernandez in there. Although this is far from a perfect solution, sticking with him is about all there is to do, other than bringing back Carmen Fanzone and/or Lenny Randle. With the bullpen, however, the Cubs have a terrific opportunity to establish Farnsworth as the closer for a few years. I like Borowski for sentimental reasons and for his seemingly terrific mental focus. It's Farnsworth's time to step up, though. He has had several seasons to get his mind right, to paraphrase Cool Hand Luke, and after his recent scuffle, he seems ready to be the man. I'd hate to see Dusty Baker wait to make a decision about the bullpen until after Borowski loses his magic touch, and I don't think that set-up is the best role for Farnsworth in the long run. -- Bob Mellin, Valparaiso, Ind.
Bob, I agree with your theory in principle. Farnsworth has closer's stuff and yes, he finally seems to have his mind right. I think he has a lot more confidence in himself now that the fans are in his corner since the takedown in Cincy. But I wouldn't move Borowski just yet. He earned the role and has also earned the right to lose it. But if Baker ever does make a move, I hope it'd be Farnsworth over Alfonseca.
I think Sammy Sosa's offensive decline is related to his goatee. What are his stats since he grew it anyway? Sammy just hit a home run to put the Cubs up 1-0 in the ninth. Maybe I was wrong about the goatee. --George Krogstie, Charlotte, NC
George, did anyone ever tell you that you spend too much time on the Internet?
Paul, after watching Antonio Alfonseca give up yet another game-winning hit (against the Phils), I must ask: How much longer will we Cubs fans be subjected to his meltdowns? Would the team consider letting him go and perhaps try to grab a closer like Armando Benitez, moving Borowski to the set-up role? I can't take anymore Alfonseca dramatics. HE MUST GO!!!! -- Jeremy Beaird, St. Louis
Hey Mr. Paul, will you please tell me what kind of love affair Dusty Baker has with Alfonseca? With the bullpen the Cubs have, why is it that (when they) get in a tight situation he pulls him out to pitch. He only has two pitches. In this longtime Cubs fan's view, they have one or two better than him. --Butch Whitmire, Purcell, Okla.
Please, no more Antonio Alfonseca complaints. I could spend the next two months catching up on my e-mails ripping Alfonseca. I understand your pain, but please address all future questions to either Jim Hendry or Dusty Baker. In fact, I am boycotting all Antonio Alfonseca questions for 2-3 weeks.
What would you say to the suggestion, that SPORTSWRITERS are subject to TRADES. How would DALLAS suit you? --Mike McSweeney, Rockford, Ill.
Depends on the trade. Who would the Tribune get in return for me? Blackie Sherrod? Gerry Fraley? A writer to be named later? I'm amenable to anything as long as it would make Cubs fans happy. Just don't trade me to Cincinnati.
How many late-inning collapses will it take before you start challenging the Baker spin? I don't think any team has ever blown that many leads in the late innings, plus losing games tied, in a week's time or so. --Russ Ewald, Los Angeles
I'm not sure what you mean by the Baker spin. He answers strategy questions after games like any other manager, supporting his players even during their struggles. Show me a manager that rips his players when they're back on their heels, other than a Larry Bowa. I don't agree with every move Baker makes, but by and large he's done a good job with this team, as evidence by their lack of a prolonged losing streak.
Why does Dusty Baker insist on using Mike Remlinger primarily as a left-handed specialist, when it is quite statistically evident that over the past three years (including this year), he has much better success against right-handed hitters (because his "out" pitch is the straight change). Bobby Cox did not use him as a lefty specialist, and his overall numbers were far better. If Dusty Baker doesn't even know how to put his own players in the best position to succeed, how can we expect him to know how to put his team in the best position to stop other team's players from succeeding? Maybe that's why Dusty doesn't like talking to the media. --John Elloy, Highland Park, Ill.
Who says Dusty doesn't like talking to the media? Remlinger pitches against both lefties and righties, so I'm not sure if you know what you're talking about.
Paul, is there a reason Sammy Sosa continues to hit third or fourth in the lineup? I know his average is decent but he is one of the worst clutch hitters on the team. It always seems that he is batting in a key spot. Teams are catching on to this and pitching around Patterson to get to him. Would Baker ever be open to this or would Sammy's ego be too damaged? --Tim Ghrist, Mt. Vernon, Ind.
Sammy hit the game-winning home run in the ninth against Philly July 2. Yes, he strikes out a lot in the clutch. He strikes out a lot, period. This is what home run hitters do. Personally, I'd rather they separate him and Moises Alou with a lefthanded hitter like Patterson, but Corey is probably not ready for the pressure of being a clean-up hitter.
Paul, why don't the Cubs just let Ramon Martinez play every day at third base? He's hitting better than .175 (Harris), and he doesn't strike out 180 times a year (Hernandez). He's a good glove, and he seems to understand the concept of making a pitcher work (i.e. -- not swinging at the first pitch like two thirds of the lineup does). -- Seann Perez, Aurora, Ill.
Seann, that's a good idea. He seems like the best alternative to me, but the Cubs like him better as a utilityman, so the platoon goes on.
How can anyone think the Cubs can get to the World Series, when the Sox mop the floor with them? What is causing the Cub meltdown when they play the Sox? --Donald H. Pate, Falcon, Colo.
Antonio Alfonseca, for one.
How come the Chicago media hasn't been critical of Hendry's acquisition of Jose Hernandez? Does Hendry desire to not only lead the league in strikeouts by pitchers AND on offense? By what rationale is this not a bonehead move? Also, it's nice that we can stop worrying about getting Mike Lowell, thanks to the Annual June Swoon, mostly due to our "great" bullpen that the media twinks raved so much about all spring. Acquiring Lowell now would be like the Tigers going after somebody to shore up their pitching staff. -- Ernie Votava, Rochester, Minn.
Ernie, you Minnesota twink, Hendry's acquisition of Hernandez was mostly ripped. Do you know what you're talking about? But since he traded one part-time player for another, it was not viewed as a major move. Did you know the Cubs bullpen ranked second in the league a few weeks ago? They still have one of the better bullpens in the NL, despite the recent meltdown. It's uninformed people like you that give Cubs fans a bad name.
Hey Paul, are Sox fans dumb? I just read Andrew Bagnato's article about the guys who went to the game to heckle Sosa. They made the comment, "South Siders know baseball is pure." Okay, two things: 1. What is the only team to throw the World Series? 2. As much as they like to say they prefer Magglio Ordonez, I guarantee, if given the opportunity, most Sox fans would love to nix that trade for George Bell and still have Sosa on the South Side. What do you think? --Luke Pascale, Valley Village, Calif.
If baseball is so pure on the South Side, why do Sox fans cheer when other fans run out onto the field to beat up the coaches and the umpires?