In the final first-half edition of Ask Paul, he discusses Marmol as closer, the Cubs' MVP, potential nicknames for the Theriot-Fontenot duo, and who is the 'Who' in 'You-Know-Who.'
Paul, how confident are the Cubs in Carlos Marmol becoming the future closer and what does this mean for Ryan Dempster? -- Mikey T, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Rich Hill doesn't start pitching with a little more consistency and Dempster recovers from his oblique injury, I can see Dempster moving into the rotation sometime in August and Marmol taking over as closer.
Paul, just wondering if the season ended today, who would the players, in your mind, vote as Team MVP? I'm thinking DeRo has to be the early frontrunner. Am I crazy? -- Brent Yarina, McKinney, Texas
No, you're not crazy, just a little bit addled. Mark DeRosa, aka 'DeRo,' has had a good first half and his unselfish attitude has allowed Lou to move him around like a chess piece without worrying about hurting his feelings. But I'd have to say Aramis is the first half MVP, even though he was on the DL for a while. Right now he may be the second-best third baseman in the NL behind Miguel Cabrera, even if he isn't on the All-Star team.
I've been a long time CUB Fan, but somehow I missed the Mark Grace story. The other day you mentioned his Number (17) was given to a minor league prospect! What happened? -- Jerry Furman, Dallas
The Mark Grace story is long and involved and would take too much time to explain here. Cliffs' Notes version: MacPhail hated him. Grace hated MacPhail. They had a falling out. He won a ring in his first season in Arizona and proclaimed he wasn't good enough for the Cubs, but was good enough to be a world champion. MacPhail then gave away his number to anyone with a pulse.
When Greg Maddux goes into the Hall of Fame, will he go in as a Cub or a Brave? -- Henry, Muncie, Ind.
Maybe as a Padre, depending on how many years he'll continue to pitch. I would think the Braves will be the choice, however. My only hope is Maddux passes Roger Clemens on the all-time win list, which I think he'll do sometime in 2009.
What do you think the chances are for Jim Hendry to join Andy McP with the Orioles? -- Robert, Arecibo, P.R.
Not good. I think McP has his own people in mind, and that Hendry will return to the Cubs in 2008 if the team continues to play as it has lately and the right ownership group wins out.
With Cliff Floyd starting more games now, why is Lou Piniella playing Angel Pagan and not Jacque Jones more in the latter innings? Though Jacque Jones has been struggling offensively all season long, he has played right field well. -- Arif, Aurora
Jacque Jones has fallen off the map, much like Scott Eyre and Cesar Izturis. After the trade to Florida was nixed at the last minute, I think Lou is concerned about his mindset, knowing the organization already tried to deal him and is continuing to explore its options. Just a theory, of course. Lou has said nothing of the sort to me.
Hi Paul, I got a nickname for our young infielders--Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot. What do you think of the CAJUN KEYSTONE KIDS? Those two grew up eating boudin, crawfish, and shrimp bisque. Bon ton roula. Let the good times roll. Dick Zimmerman, Lafayette, La.
Actually, I prefer the Cajun Peppers, which was sent to me last week by someone whose name I forgot to write down. But you can call them whatever you'd like, including the Bayou Boyz, which makes them sound a little more dangerous.
Dear Paul, does Lou Piniella or another member of the coaching staff signal players on base to run when he wants them to run, or does everyone have a green light to run at will? It seems like the players are taking too many chances, and those easy outs kill the team's offensive momentum at key junctures. Who's to blame for this? Thanks for answering readers' questions! -- Amy Buzby, Chicago
I don't think any of the players has a green light, with the exception of Alfonso Soriano. Lou likes his players to be aggressive on the basepaths, and sometimes it's to their detriment. But the base-running mistakes have been reduced significantly since May. And thanks for sending relevant questions.
Paul I just don't understand it. The Cubs have let more than their fair share of tremendous talent get away. But how are they going to let a pitcher of Zambrano's caliber get away, especially with his age? It's a proven fact that
PITCHING wins World Series, and I can't think of a better pitcher to do just that for the Cubs. Isn't that what the Cubs spent all that money this offseason to do? -- Aaron Rabb, Corpus Christi, Texas
We still don't know if the Cubs are going to let Zambrano get away. He claims they are his first choice and will get first crack at him after the season when he becomes a free agent. It all depends on how much he enjoys playing in Chicago and whether he'll go for the top dollar over the comfort zone he's provided here. I thought for sure Aramis would flee to the Angels, who were prepared to offer him around $130 million or so, according to my sources in L.A. Aramis wound up staying for $75 million, which is still a lot, of course. Would Carlos do likewise? No one knows but Carlos and his agent, Barry Praver.