(CSTB mailbag workers, sorting Kerry Wood get well cards.)

Well, the Cubs’ mailbag is sagging again “ with your letters! Here™s how it works: Fans ask MLB’s official Cub reporter Carrie Muskat the questions, and I supply the answers her job description prevents her from giving. This week™s œbag runs the gamut from Kerry Woods™ triumphant multiple-inning return to trivia questions like œWhich Cub Manager Was Last Employable After Managing the Cubs? And then, the usual Cubbie chatter about œwhiffs and œoffensive holes. First up, Carlos F.:

With the late struggles of Dempster and late dominant performance from Wood, can you see the Cubs re-signing Wood and offering him the closer spot? He has proved he can pitch one to two innings on consecutive days, and his experience and resurging dominance can make him an elite closer in this league.
— Carlos F., Vallejo, Calif.

Carlos, your loyalty, like so many œI believe fans is what keeps Kerry Wood going. So much so that this week he filed for free agency. He clearly sees the big money opportunities that disabled lists around the league have to offer a talent of his, to use your pipe dream words, “resurging dominance.” What can you say, when you see Wood out there giving that 35%, pitching one to two innings on consecutive days, it must be contract time.

What is holding Marmol back from being the full-time closer? He was lights out this season and has electric stuff. Do the Cubs plan on seeing how he does in the closer role?
— Josh B., Louisburg, Kan.

Josh, I see you live in Kansas. That™s Royals country. If the Cubs hold Marmol back, who are you to question? You don™t live in Chicago. Take a good look at the Royals last year and the Cubs and just be glad WGN carries them down there. Don’t push me.

As one of many Cubs fans who were photographed weeping during the last game of the National League Division Series out on Waveland Avenue, I was wondering if the Cubs have plans on looking at pitchers this offseason? And if so, who might be the hot commodity?
— Matthew B., Des Moines, Iowa

Well, Matt, maybe baseball isn’t your game. Not only were you weeping on Waveland Avenue, but that you use the word œweeping at all makes me question. I suggest working your way up from Milton Bradley board games or Drew Carey on The Price Is Right “ who, I understand, is quite the scamp. And of course the Cubs will be looking at pitchers this season. As much as the Cubs have tried, there™s just no way out of hiring pitchers and fielding what™s known as a œfull rotation and a œbullpen in Major League Baseball. Historically, the Cubs have done an excellent job of avoiding costly pitching œtalent, or cleverly spent their money on non-performing aces with incentive-laden deals. Unfortunately, in the modern era, talented pitching with big money contracts have even hit the Cubs, meaning fans take a beating instead of the team. If the Cubs had more Kerry Woods instead of Carlos Zambranos, you™d be a smilin™ fan in the seats instead of out on Waveland, eh?

With Dusty Baker taking over the Cincinnati managerial job, I was wondering who previously was the last Cubs manager to ever manage again after leaving the team? I think it goes back before Jim Frey in the early ’80s. Maybe Jim Marshall in the ’70s? Amazing if you think about it.
— David J., Glendale Heights, Ill.

You mean, of course, managing major league ball clubs and not a Home Depot? David, some managers are just desperate to manage anywhere. Look at Joe Torre jumping to the Yankees and their cross country, 1950s rivals, the Dodgers. No loyalty, no respect for the Tradition, no nothing for those 70-year-old plus Yankee fans or what they think … Sad, isn™t it? Most Cub managers don™t want to be seen in another team™s uniform while they await Cooperstown™s call, that™s all. Thanks for writing, as I did not even know there was a œGlendale Heights.

Herb G. whiffed on this one [in the Oct. 22 mailbag]. When he corrected the answer to the question, “Who was the last manager to lead the Cubs to two different playoffs,” he stated that Charlie Grimm managed the Cubs to the 1938 pennant. Actually, Grimm was fired during the season and replaced by Gabby Hartnett, who managed the last 71 games of the regular season and the World Series.
— Deren K., Jackson, Miss.

Yeah, we all remember Herb G., of Anaheim, CA, from last week, Deren (sic). The fact that a) he didn™t give a damn about Jolly Cholly Grimm™s feelings and that b) you don™t either, makes me wonder what™s happened to fans? There™s a meanness to people like you and your obsession with œwhiffs and œgotcha trivia that we at the mailbag will never understand. Between you and that œweeping Matthew B. from Iowa, I wonder what™s going on out there? Jackson, Miss? Small town life in the USA must be a bitter, lonely ride, one not even Cubbie baseball can cure. Please feel free to join Herb G. in his exile from the Cubs mailbag, œDeren, and don™t bother writing an apology. It won™t get published.

Regarding your comment about Ryan Theriot and shortstop being “solid offensively,” the evidence is to the contrary. The NL average OPS (on-base plus slugging) at shortstop was .758 in 2007. Theriot was at .672. That’s minus-86 compared to the NL average at the position, by far the largest differential on the club in ’07. No other position was close to that in terms of substandard compared to league average. There’s no reason to infer that Theriot will be better in ’08. Alex Rodriguez is unrealistic, but the best way to improve the ’08 Cubs offense is at shortstop. It’s a hole offensively.
— Mark K., Washington, D.C.

Ok, I get this a lot. First, bush league stat guys like yourself almost always make the mistake of taking the OPS of an individual team player and comparing them against the position average around the league, rather than taking his OBA (on base alignment WITH slugging, DUH, not a percentage thereof) and dividing by BTB (bat to ball percentages minus home game called strikes by Bruce Froemming) and then using slugging percentage as the multiple. Looking at it that way, Mark, I think you™ll see that the Cubs™ hole is much more offensive than previously thought.

I know many Cubs fans are excited about the possibility of acquiring Rodriguez. What about the slugger who batted behind him in the Yankees lineup? Bobby Abreu is a free agent this winter and would be the potent everyday left-handed batter the Cubs so desperately need. What are the odds the organization targets Abreu in the offseason?
— T.R.F., Palm Beach Co., Fla.

A-Rod, Abreu … maybe you™re just rooting for the wrong team, œT. And as a Yankee fan, you won™t be need the mailbag anymore, so please don™t write again.

Everybody (fans) and so called radio experts keep saying Soriano should bat fourth or fifth. The power numbers would be more beneficial to the team that way. Has manager Lou Piniella ever considered batting him second? With Theriot on base before him, hopefully he would still get plenty of fastballs to hit.
— Dan M., Hinsdale, Ill.

Hinsdale? I didn™t know Illinois had so many towns.

I know Soriano led off with homers seven times during the 2007 season. However, is there a breakdown of what he did in the other games he led off in? I’m guessing he led off in about 115-125 games. Example, how many times did he strike out, walk, reach base?
— Mike M., Eden Praire, Minn.

Eden Prairie, MN ” that™s Garrison Keillor country! Now you™re talking my language. A hot cider, Prairie Home Companion, and an appreciation for the simple life … It all explains why anyone would ask that question. Here™s the breakdown: Soriano makes $136,000,000 over 160 games meaning he makes $850,000 per game. Sometimes I forget that out in the sticks, that™s real money. Soriano hit 12 lead off homers this year, meaning they were worth $11.3 million each. Imagine if you were a fan and caught one of those!

My wife and I are trying to plan a trip to Mesa, Ariz., to see the Cubs in Spring Training. When do they post the schedule? Also, how early do tickets go on sale for Spring Training games, and who do we need to go through to get the tickets?
— Tim W., St. Louis, Mo.

Why so eager to get out of St. Louis, Tim? No interesting ball clubs in town this year? One lousy season and the team falls apart. Walt Jocketty gets fired, La Russa plays hard to get, Joe Buck refuses to leave, and suddenly Mesa is over run with desperate Cards fans looking for a winner.

I heard that if the Cubs don’t win the World Series, Major League Baseball is going to award them a “participation trophy,” disband the franchise and turn Wrigley Field into condos. Any truth to this, and do you think it’s a good idea?
— Scott W., Chicago

Cat™s out of the mailbag! Cub owner Sam Zell, a real estate developer, has been eyeing Wrigley Field for some time now (he™s 108, so he™s had time). It™s the real reason he bought the Tribune Co. Condos, Cub theme bars, Cub souvenir shops ” Zell discovered that Cubs fans magically appear in Wrigleyville, year in and year out, winning team or not, and that the property could better exploit Cub fans if it weren™t for the Cubs themselves taking up so much space. Wrigley Field, it™s baseball™s Stonehenge, a strange monument that makes no sense in this modern world, but that once meant something to an ancient civilization.