In another edition of Ask Paul, our Cubs beat writer answers your questions about Marmol's slump, Marquis vs. Marshall, whether the Fukudome factor is obsolete and other pressing issues.
I have noticed that the Cubs starting pitching may not be as deep as everyone first thought. The most consistent pitchers that I see are Dempster and Big Z. Now what do you think about them getting one more good starting pitcher before the trading deadline? I was thinking of maybe Harden. -- Timothy Pfingsten, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
What is Lou doing to get these guys out of their road slump? Are the players going to blame the bad record on too many night games following day games? Two runs in two games from the worst team in the division. What is going on? -- Mike T., Fort Carson, Colo.
What do you suggest he do? They're not hitting much on the road, and that's why they haven't won much on the road. Why do people assume the manager always has the magic touch and can cure any problem by waving his hand? When the Cubs start hitting consistently on the road, they'll start winning more consistently. It's as simple as that.
As I listen to the Cubs losing yet another road game, what in your opinion is the problem? Where is the offense? -- Kim Screen, Pooler, Ga.
My opinion is they're not a very good road team and the offense disappears on the road for some unknown reason. Since there is no one really at fault, let's just blame the traveling secretary. Perhaps he is putting the team in the wrong hotels -- the ones with bad room service -- which could have a negative effect on the players' performances.
The Cubs' rotation is already six deep with Marshall being the one sent to the bullpen, despite pitching so well. What will the Cubs do if Rich Hill finally shakes off the cobwebs in the minors and is ready to return to the big league club? -- Ramiro, Elmhurst
I don't see Rich Hill coming back to join the rotation any time soon. Even if he is a September call-up, he would probably be used out of the bullpen. Marshall deserves an opportunity to step in if there's a need, and Hill will just have to wait in line with the rest of the minor leaguers. It's a cruel world, but no one is promised anything in the majors. Look at how many times Marshall has been bypassed, even for the likes of Steve Trachsel. He never complained, and I think the way he's handled things has helped him get to where he is now.
My question is about Carlos Marmol. What is his major malfunction? Is he tipping his pitches or is it just mental? Then again it could be mechanics. Is Rothschild spending any extra time with Marmol? -- David, Olive Branch, Miss.
The Cubs looked at video of Marmol and decided he wasn't tipping his pitches. I believe it is as Yogi Berra might say -- 50 percent mental, 50 percent fatigue and 50 percent extreme nervousness in crucial situations. I haven't seen Rothschild spend any extra time with Marmol, but I don't follow him around much anymore, at least not since he asked for that restraining order on me.
Is there any reason other than salary that Jason Marquis will apparently be the fifth starter over Sean Marshall? Marshall had one of the best starts by a Cub this year in St. Louis and Marquis has been a 5.00 ERA pitcher for the last few years. -- Joe B., Oxford, Conn.
Marquis has pitched well in the last 10 starts, with only a couple of clunkers. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, and if he starts struggling like he has the last couple of years in the second half, he'll no doubt make way for Marshall. Give Marquis a chance before rushing to judgment.
Hey Paul, are the Cubs better with Fukudome leading off or has he (or the Cubs) had any appreciable difference? I seem to remember the Cubs working counts a lot more earlier in the season and now they seem less disciplined. Could the Fukudome factor be wearing off? -- Han Paik, Westwood, Mass.
I think the expiration date on the Fukudome factor was June 18. He needs to start hitting and taking his walks, or Lou must consider using DeRosa in right and having Fukudome come off the bench. It seems like the league caught up to Fukudome pretty quickly, and now it's up to him to adjust. Not talking to the Japanese media is not the answer, though the Cubs believe he needs a break from their daily questioning so he can relax more. They only talk to him for a few minutes, so it's far-fetched to think it's a hardship.
Paul, This Cubs team seems to have all the ingredients to be a great team. When was the last time the Cubs had this much talent? I'm guessing it was during the late 1960s and early 1970s. What do you think? -- D. Maddox, Warm Springs, Ga.
I think they had just as much talent in 2004, with a rotation of Prior, Zambrano, Wood and Maddux, and guys like Garciaparra, Alou, Sosa, and Barrett when he was still a promising catcher. The biggest difference was that team couldn't stay focused, complaining about the announcers, the umpires, the media and just about anything else you could name. They blew a playoff spot in the final week of the season, but probably had enough talent to go to the World Series against Boston. The '04 Cubs are the iPod generation's version of the '69 Cubs.
Paul - After the Saturday game vs. the Giants, Lou suggested at the press conference that he was going to pitch you next time he needed an arm in the bullpen. Can you pitch back-to-back days and do you see yourself as more of a short or long-inning reliever? -- Pdizzle, Chicago
I see myself as a short reliever (Insert your own punch line here). I can pitch in back-to-back games as soon as my blister heals.