Paul Sullivan's Cubs mailbag

For the most part, manager Mike Quade has remained calm this season. (Brian Cassella/Tribune)

I can't agree with your implication, or flat out statements, derogatory of Cubs manager Quade. He's probably what this team deserves. He stays positive and uses the limited talent he has to work with. I can't imagine Lou Piniella keeping his cool and trying as hard as Quade has, and will as long as you critics give him a fair chance. As I've said before, I'm a Cub fan since Hack, Jurges and Augie Galan. We've had worse teams but none that were a fruitless as this one. John Mulkin, Carterville, Ill.

Not sure of what "derogatory" statements or "implications" you are referring to. I like Quade and think he deserved the job. He's a solid baseball man and I respect his decisions, even if when I don't agree with them. The players, obviously, are much more to blame for this terrible season, but that doesn't mean Quade is blameless. He came in saying he was going to focus on fundamentals, and yet we keep seeing breakdowns on a near daily basis. The manager has to take some responsibility for this, whether it's Quade, Piniella or whoever. The Cubs have had worse teams, for sure, but none that have been paid as well as those in 2010 and 2011. If it was OK to criticize Piniella for last year's mess, as many of you e-mailers did, then why shouldn't Quade be held accountable for this one? Because he keeps his cool and tries hard? Please. Quade is a big boy and knows a manager always gets some heat when his team plays as poorly as this one has.

Didn't Quade talk about focusing on fundamentals? We can't hit with RISP and can't seem to catch or throw. What is going on? Mike Tyra, Fort Hood, Texas

Yes, in fact, he did. On the first day of spring training, Quade said he would be very "involved" with the players regarding fundamentals. "The purpose and some of the things I want explained, I will explain and make sure they understand that the point of emphasis is coming from me," he said, specifically mentioning bunt defense, cutoffs and relays, and base-running. "They are the tough jobs, the jobs that nobody wants," he continued. "People will hit and pitch and play defense all day long. We understand we're going to leave here in April and you can pretty much book it -- the first week in April it's going to be 3-2, 2-1 (games). It's great to say we're working on fundamentals and we'll be ready in June or July, (but that's) probably too late." Well, it's July now, and they're still not fundamentally sound. And guess what? It's too late.

Living in the Philadelphia area, wanted to run a thought by you. Instead of throwing around money at Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder in 2012, why not lock up Pena right now to a two- or three-year deal. He's going to get his 25-30 HRs, and we might be able to get him to a team-friendly deal now. Then, go and throw the bank at Cole Hamels after the 2012 season. A rotation of Hamels, Garza, veteran Dempster would be a great 1-2-3 for the next few years. Darshan Patel, Mt. Laurel, NJ

Pena signed the so-called "pillow contract" with the idea of cashing in next year, as Adrian Beltre did in 2011 after a strong year with Boston. Both have the same agent, Scott Boras, and Beltre's deal was even brought up during Pena's opening press conference. I'm sure Pena will be able to cash in, but I doubt the Cubs will be the team willing to pay the kind of money Boras will be seeking. He's a great defensive player and hits home runs in bunches. But on Wednesday he was hitting .188 with runners in scoring position and .088 against left-handers, not exactly the kind of stats that merit a huge, long-term deal.

Other than shortstop and second base, every other non-pitching position on the field is a question mark going into the long term future. I include catcher in this question. What could the team do to brighten the future for Cubs fans with all these needs? And what do you see the Cubs actually doing? Rod L., Nanaimo, B.C., Canada

I don't think they even know, so I certainly can't tell you. The contracts that are albatrosses will continue to be albatrosses, and there are not enough top prospects to step in and fill the vacancies. It's a conundrum, and only Hendry knows what he plans on doing to fix things.

Interested to hear more about why you would hire Red Sox president Larry Lucchino. (Seriously.) I know nothing about the guy. What would he bring to Cubs? Bob Quartell, Cleveland

Lucchino gets things done. He was instrumental in building Camden Yards, which began the retro ballpark revolution. He got a new ballpark built in San Diego, and a renovated Fenway Park in Boston. He also won a couple World Series with the Red Sox, and doesn't put up with any garbage from players, agents, or the media for that matter. I believe his contract is up in Boston, so he should be available. Don't know if he is the answer, but something has to happen. The current Cubs president, Crane Kenney, certainly had his shot, and failed. The only ones still defending him are his pals in the media. Time's up.

Let's get straight to what Cubs fans care about this summer: What is your personal record for amount of hotdogs eaten during one game? Chad Rucker, Greenville, S.C.

I'm not a big hot dog guy. Prefer an Italian sausage, actually. But I did witness Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander eat nine hot dogs at the Cell during a recent Cubs-Sox game, which makes him the Joey Chestnut of Chicago sportswriters.

Paul, what happened to Andrew Cashner? At least the Cubs got some quality starts from Mark Prior before he began to break down. When will Cashner be back, and how can we blame his absence on Larry Rothschild or Dusty Baker? David Mercury, Henderson, N.V.

Cashner is supposed to start throwing in a few days and says he hopes to get back on the mound by the end of July. Hope to see him before the end of the season, but I can't say if we will. You can blame Rothschild and Dusty, even though neither had anything to do with it, because that seems to be a tradition amongst Cubs fans. Imagine if Dusty was the Cubs' manager when Marcos Mateo suffered an elbow injury after throwing five innings of relief. Oh, my.

Paul, have the Cubs given any thought to moving Sean Marshall back to a starting role? His previous role as a starter was early in his career and he seems to have a better handle on things. RJ, Omaha, Neb.

No, they like Sean in the bullpen, where he's doing a great job. He seems to be OK with that, so I assume he'll stay there in 2012, though I believe he could start and would do a fine job if they asked him to switch again.

Hey Paul, am I the only one who would like to see the Cubs scouts/minor league instructors revamped, i.e. fired? I love Castro and Barney, but I see no other real prospects coming and we've been saying this primarily throughout Hendry's tenure. Even Brett Jackson I'm only lukewarm about. Carlton Martin, Sahuarita, Ariz.

That's a pretty broad statement. There are many good scouts and minor league instructors in the organization, and you can't hold them all accountable. But you are right about the lack of ready prospects. Tony Campana is a nice player, but can't throw and has no power. Lou Montanez has been in the minors forever. The Cubs need to develop a power-hitting outfielder who can stick. Maybe Jackson is the guy, but we don't know yet.

Am I the only one who remembers that in spring training the Cubs were saying they had so many good starting pitchers, they didn't know what to do with all of them? What a difference three months makes! John Wilheim, Wichita

Yes, you are the only one that remembers that, John. Most of us were pretty sure Casey Coleman, Rodrigo Lopez and Ramon Ortiz would be making starts the final week before the All-Star break. Don't know how you didn't see that coming.

I had to laugh at Ed Folts' question about Dempster being out the night before a start. I remember seeing Jim Bullinger out pounding cold ones at Ravens on a Saturday night in the early '90s. Whoever the Sunday starter was supposed to be was a scratch, so Bully got the start and threw 8 2/3 of no-hit ball. Maybe they should all be out the night before their starts. J.L. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Hmm. Sounds like an apocryphal story. I spent a lot of Saturday nights at Ravens in the early '90s, and don't ever recall seeing Bullinger there. Either way, Dempster was apparently seen watching a comedian, not pounding cold ones. And if going out all night and not getting any sleep was the way to succeed, Kyle Farnsworth would be a perennial All-Star.

When will this season's lineup feature our under-30 crew of Soto (C), LaHair (1B), Barney (2B), LeMahieu (3B), Castro (SS), DeWitt (LF), Jackson (CF) and Colvin (RF). We clearly are not playing for anything relevant this season and should look to shed as many of our middle of the road players as possible. Nik, Kansas City, Mo.

Perhaps sooner than you think, since the trading deadline is coming up. Which reminds me, it's time for the 12th annual "Wacky Trade" edition of Ask Paul. Send me your wacky trade ideas, and we'll post the most interesting next week. As usual, please be brief so we can get as many wacky trades in as possible. Of course, we'll forward all the wacky ideas to Hendry.