[“Buy me some peanuts and crack …“, can’t say Eddie Vedder doesn’t have his moments.]

Welcome  to the first Cubs Mailbag of 2010.  Fans may bitch about our No Big Moves Off-Season of 2009-2010, but how about renaming the legendary Cubs Mailbag?  Meet your new Cubs’ “Inbox!”  How Sam Zell missed selling naming rights to it I don’t know.  I for one am sorry not to see the “Captain Morgan Bag ‘o Mailbooty,” but even Zell’s eagle eye missed a nickel here and there.  Nor were fans consulted.  I like the Ricketts’ use of Executive Power here.  The Trib Cubs usually announced even the slightest of moves as a “planned change,” meaning months of No Lights! style fan protests demanding they keep using the old-timey mailbag Ron Santo used.  “Inbox …”, it sounds strangely contemporary for anything Cub “ especially for a ball club residing in a 1914 rusting hulk of a park that remains baseball™s equivalent to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It™s like watching a History Channel show, say on Hitler™s shoe factories (Boots of Destruction:  How the Nazis Walked Across Europe, if you haven’t seen it) and someone said œDrive-thru window.  Well, first things first …

First, Congrats Sammy Sosa!:  I’m catching up here, so I have to mention Mark McGwire’s arrival at Spring Training after his emotional confession of drug use for the Cardinal payroll office on national TV.  What does that mean to the Cubs?  It means Sammy Sosa is the legit single season HR king, that’s what.  Bonds, McGwire, the Ultimate Warrior, and all other needle users aside, Sammy has admitted nothing.  While it will surprise no one with eyes if he does admit it, no one can get it out of him.  The New York Times last year claimed Sammy doped, but the Times was discredited when challenged by the player™s association and the paper had to admit (or as they put it, were “unclear“) that they did not have an accurate list of doped players.  I said last year that the NYTs Michael S. Schmidt was getting fed by the gov’t, and it looks more and more like it every day.  Since the gov™t returned œthe list, Schmidt, has been somewhat silent on the issue and has been reassigned as a burrough ambulance chaser writing up guys in the Bronx beating up their moms with frying pans.

Yes, I thought, if Sammy can just keep his mouth shut for four years, Cooperstown and a Bronze Ranger Cap await. You™d think Cub fans would appreciate Sammy™s unrivaled stature as baseball royalty.  Instead, none other than Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks, asked Sammy to œcome clean.  On the Cardinals, Tony La Russa brings McGwire back in the fold.  With the Cubs, Ernie Banks plays Judge Judy.  Let me offer six words never heard before in Wrigley :  œHey Ernie, Shut the Fuck Up.  Well, not heard since Leo Durocher managed him, anyway.  If Ernie wants questions answered, he should play with kids his own age.  How about Willie Mays’ incredibly contemporary sounding non-denial non-admission of using amphetamines, as reported in the new James Hirsch bio of Willie?   Me, I’d like to hear about how hard Ernie pushed for a decent team out of PK Wrigley.  I’d like some answers from Ernie about my sitting through so many lousy Cubs seasons rather than him becoming one more self-righteous voice on steroids.

The State of the Cubs: With Milton Bradley gone, the Cubs settled into a pretty quiet off-season regarding moves.  Well, they did give their usual vote of confidence to closer Carlos Marmol, who has suffered through Kerry Wood and Kevin Gregg, by offering him a wopping one-year contract.  The common wisdom, as CBS blogger Danny Knobler reports here, is to write off last season to injuries and point out that the squad itself is solid.  Solid, but older “  I have less faith in seeing a 2008 Dempster or Zambrano in 2010 than the official Cub line allows.  With Milton Bradley unavailable to wear a target on his back for all things failing, other questions will come up, like why Piniella and Hendry can’t get Zambrano to work.  Knobler does point out that the Cubs were tied with the Cardinals in first place through August 7, despite all distractions.  The brightest news for me out of Spring Training so far is perhaps Jim Hendry’s prediction of the team’s new owners, the Ricketts Family, as being something like the O’Malleys and the Dodgers.  Walter O’Malley … the guy who tore down Ebbetts Field?  Sounds good to me.  The idea of a forward thinking anything in the Cubs front office is welcome news.

So, Lou Piniella is returning in a much more optimistic mood.  The Cubs finished 2008 with 97 wins and then choked in the play-offs because of their 100-years-without-a-title œstress issues.  Piniella ordered some sports psychology books from Amazon to deal with such psych-outs, resulting in a 2009 83-78 finish, a Cardinal division title, and driving the volatile-but-successful Milton Bradley into an muted depression and failure.  I don™t know, maybe Piniella mistakenly ordered some books o Guanatamo Bay psy-ops books on breaking men down, cuz that was the result.

As to the inbox mailbag itself, the name changed but not the rules:  I answer the actual questions Carrie Muskat receives from Cub fans nationwide, or at least most of downstate, Internet-free Illinois.  I simply answer the questions the way I think Carrie would, if not for contractual obligations and the common courtesy her job requires.

I see that the Cubs signed Nady. I know when he was with the Pirates, he killed us, especially in Wrigley. What are his career numbers at Wrigley? I think the Cubs could definitely use him as a backup to Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano. — Mark A., Momence, Ill.

Hello, Mark.  The Inbox has many fond memories of flying over Momence …  God Bless.  The good news is that Nady has a career .304 average in 28 games at Wrigley Field with two homers, eight doubles, and 15 RBIs.  The bad news is that, as a Cub, he won™t be facing Cub pitching.

I’m pretty optimistic about Zambrano this year. He seems to have a better attitude and looks to be in better shape. Is there any way the Cubs could hire a shrink to work with him in the dugout between innings? Considering his $90 million contract, this could be good insurance. Are there any other options out there for keeping him sane? — James P., Naperville, Ill.

A shrink?   Please see my views on Lou and psychology above.  Mr.Zambrano is a near-sighted, potassium-challenged, banana-eating Gatorade-machine smashing super-talented slouch. He signed his $90 million deal and then, after his no-hitter, declared he was retiring once the contract was up because he™d missed too many Mothers Days.  Can shrinks fix that?  The old Lou Piniella used to do it by kicking Rob Dibble™s ass in the Reds clubhouse, and they won a World Series.  Wow, thinking of that moment makes me wish Kevin Gregg had stayed at least until Opening Day.

I heard the Cubs are staying in Arizona. If this is true, how come there are still talks about moving to Florida? Also, how long would the contract be for the Cubs if they did stay in Arizona? — Justin G., McHenry, Ill.

Hello, Justin.  Good ˜ol McHenry ¦ I miss seeing it™s name roll by on WGN™s Tornado Watch crawls.  As the Irish like to say, may your trailer be right side up an hour before the devil knows your dead.  It™s not true that the Cubs were ever moving to Florida.  As Sam Zell retired from baseball, he scouted locations for a senior home down there.  Within days of arriving at the Golden Age Estate, however, he began leverage-loaning residents™ cash against their walkers and scooters. He was asked to leave, but is currently too heavily anchored in resident pension funds, which he is using as collateral on the walker loans.  Hard to break old habits, I guess.  Updates on this situation will be provided during the season.

Any more news on whether the Cubs will retire Dawson’s number? I know they said they would retire it if he went into the Hall of Fame as a Cub, but I think they should retire No. 8 anyways. Greg Maddux most likely will go into the Hall as a Brave and the Cubs retired his number. Also, I think it’s garbage he’s going in as an Expo. If he wants to go in as a Cub, let him go in as a Cub. It was his career and he knows which organization he benefited with and associates himself with the most. Plus, the Expos have a total of about 17 fans while there are millions of Cubs fans who would appreciate it more. — Joshua S., Elmhurst, Ill.

The Inbox agrees with you Josuha, let the Expos retire his damn number.  Actually, with the Expos out of business, all their numbers were retired.  There™s also the fact that Dawson™s Expos cap was not his choice, but the Hall™s.  After 9 attempts to get into the Hall, he still bitched about it.  You™d think Dawson wouldn™t push the issue, you know?  Like, fine, put me in a Kansas City Pilots hat, just put me in the Hall already.  I guess they™re building up to the next big Cub indictee inductee Mr. Cub, Sammy Sosa.

When do individual game tickets go on sale? — Gary I., Decatur, Tenn.

œIndividual game tickets? Wow, still can™t find a date, Gary?