Paul, I know all of these teams will be tough to beat in the playoffs but how would you rank the following teams from toughest to easiest: Mets, Phillies, Dodgers, D'backs, Cardinals, Brewers. --Jose, Cincinnati
Hey, Paul, with a dearth of obvious MVP candidates, what do you think of Mark DeRosa? I know it's a long shot, but his versatility has been invaluable to the Cubs. --David W., Houston
DeRosa is not an MVP, unless you define the "V" as versatile instead of valuable. He's certainly a valuable part of the Cubs, but the voting criteria suggests the MVP should be one of the league leaders in at least one or two key categories. DeRosa is a good hitter and very versatile, obviously, but he's not in that stratosphere.
Paul, with Jim Edmonds and Reed Johnson covering center field so well, do you see Felix Pie being called up in September? --Andrew Mitchell, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Yes, Felix Pie deserves a call-up and should get one, if only to use him in a double switch for late inning defense, moving Reed Johnson from center to left for Soriano, whose defense has been shaky for whatever reason. I doubt Lou would actually do that, but he should consider it after watching Soriano lose focus in Pittsburgh this week.
Hey, Paul, in your last mailbag, you said you thought that when Lou retires, Alan Trammell would be the frontrunner with Pat Listach a distant second. What about Bob Brenly? He's great in the booth but eventually he's gonna want to come back to the field, right? Plus, that would leave the color commentary spot open and I think Len Kasper would sound great next to the genius that is Steve Stone! --Sonny Dyon, Clermont, Fla.
Brenly would be a good choice, but I don't think the Cubs would go in that direction, and he's doing a great job in the booth anyway. Not sure Steve Stone wants to come back for a third time, since he's found a good home on the South Side and Sox fans like his commentary.
When can teams call up players to add to their roster? Besides Micah Hoffpauir, whom do you think the Cubs will call up and will anyone stay for longer than a cup of coffee? --Eric in Arkansas, Benton, Ark.
Just speculating, Kevin Hart, Angel Guzman, Pie, Koyie Hill, Michael Wuertz, along with Hoffpauir. And Jon Lieber gets back from rehab, so he will join the mix.
How many years have you been covering the Cubs as a beat writer? --Jack. L. Allen, Bedford, Ind.
Nine years overall, but that's 27 years in Cub-years.
With Kosuke Fukudome's slumping bat (.268), why doesn't Lou Piniella play Reed Johnson (.314) every day and platoon Fukudome with Edmonds? Johnson can move back and forth between center and right field depending on the platoon. That way the defense stays strong and we have a better bat in the line-up with Johnson. --Steve Anderson, San Antonio
The Cubs invested too much money ($48 million) in Fukudome to platoon him with Reed Johnson, though Reed does deserve more playing time. It's a tough decision because you have three more years of Fukudome and you don't want to lose him this early in his contract. It's not as though he's hitting .200. He's struggling, but his glove and arm are still sound.
I remember reading early in spring training that there was going to be a film crew following the Cubs this year filming a documentary around the 100 year "thing." Is there really a film crew documenting the season? --Scott W., Westchester, Ill.
There was a film crew in spring training, but I haven't seen them since. They were not documenting the season on a daily basis, so I'm not sure what they're up to. I'm sure as we get into September they will return to chronicle the big-bang ending.
Rich Harden is signed for 2009, correct? Do you think the Cubs will try to sign him long term or let him go with his injury prone past? --Eric H., Charlotte, N.C.
Yes, the Cubs will have Harden back in '09, but they will probably wait a while before offering him a multi-year contract because of obvious concerns about his durability, plus the uncertainty over the team's ownership. He needs to prove he can stay healthy for more than one season.