So, why the picture of Carrie Underwood? Only because her album comes out one day after a Carrie Muskat inbox is released. Coincidence? I think not.
My inbox looks something like this. Bill, bill, with love from mom, bill, "Do you want to be LARGER?", bill, "Do you want to meet cute singles in you're area??????, "#&$% you %^&*@" ... then there's Carrie Muskat's correspondence with her fans.
Her questions. My answers. Your remarks in the comments section. Everything else after the jump.
How much influence does the Ricketts family have on the Cubs as the new team owners? You seem to have alluded that all the previous businessmen couldn't bring a World Series title to Chicago, so do these former bleacher bums set a new tone?
-- Mason R., Austin, Texas
The Ricketts family will have 100 percent influence on the Cubs because they are the team owners. Over the years, the Ricketts clan hasn't had much, if any, influence on the Cubs because -- well -- they didn't own the Cubs. Actually owning the baseball team will help the Ricketts family go a long way in shaping it in the future.
If the Cubs stay in Mesa, Ariz., for Spring Training, is there any likelihood they will stay in the same area? We recently bought our house and it's within walking distance from HoHoKam Stadium. The Cubs are the reason we bought it. Who do I need to talk with to keep the club in my neighborhood?
-- Phil N., Mesa, Ariz.
First of all, Phil, you made a big mistake basing your residency on the basis of whether or not a baseball team is going to train in that city. I mean, if you really wanted to see the Cubs, then you would move to Chicago, right? I don't have to use 300 words to tell you how dumb of a purchase you made if you based said purchase on the frickin' Cubs. The team that has let its fans down 101 consecutive years.
If you want to keep the club in your neighborhood, call someone who gives a damn. Good luck finding that person, whoever it might be.
With Carlos Marmol moving to closer, there seems to be a gaping hole in the setup position. No. 1, will Carlos remain the closer for 2010? No. 2, if he is the closer next year, who is going to be our setup man? It seems like either way, you have a big hole that needs filling. (Ed.: That's what she said!)
-- Zach B., Woodstock, Ill.
Zach, thank you for asking a question that actually involves some of the talent on the field rather than the other crap that flows through here. In return, I will give you a well thought-out answer.
Unless the Cubs acquire a closer in the open market, Carlos Marmol will be the guy in the ninth for Lou Piniella. Jose Valverde and Billy Wagner are lead candidates in the free agent market with Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez as second-tier possibilities. People in the White Sox camp will dangle Bobby Jenks, but only for a blockbuster deal.
The Cubs can go down one of two roads. They could spend big with a closer and bring in Valverde, though Wagner could be had with an incentive laden one-year deal. That method would have the Cubs 'pen rely on young, inexepensive players like Marmol, Angel Guzman, Jeff Stevens and Esmailin Caridad.
The other idea would be for the Cubs to keep Marmol as the closer and spend on set-up relievers with Stevens, Caridad and Guzman in middle relief. Names that stand out include J.J. Putz, Octavio Dotel, Joe Beimel and John Grabow -- a player which the Cubs are currently discussing an extension with.
What happened to hitting coach Von Joshua?
-- Pete C., Forest Park, Ill.
He's been banished to an Iowa cornfield and is slated to return to Chicago in 2012 when Rudy Jaramillo becomes the latest scapegoat.
Everyone is saying Mike Fontenot or Jeff Baker should play second base next year. Where's Andres Blanco in all of this? He's great defensively, a switch-hitter, and picked it up later in the season, taking his batting average from near .200 and finishing at .252 with a push. Why is no one talking about him?
-- Bob S., LaPorte, Ind.
Who is "everyone" that Bob speaks of? Anyone who wants Mike Fontenot as their everyday second baseman that is not in Fontenot's immediate family should be pushed off a cliff.
The truth is, no one is talking about Andy White because he can't hit well enough to get an everyday job. And that's saying a lot when Aaron Miles makes $2.7 million to do absolutely nothing.
Which free agent outfielders are going to be available to replace Milton Bradley in right or center field? How about second basemen?
-- Ken F., Huntley, Ill.
This is another good question that deserves a good response. You guys are getting better ... if only for one week.
If the Cubs can get someone to take Bradley's contract, Kosuke Fukudome will likely return to right field, a position he doesn't completely suck at. Center field is a position that theoretically can be taken over by Tyler Colvin in a few years, so this might be a place where you could find the Cubs finding a one or two-year stop gap.
A guy I would like to see (for the right deal, of course) is Scott Podsednik. He hit .304 with a .352 on-base percentage in 132 games with the White Sox in 2009. His defense leaves much to be desired, but his presence on the base paths, where he swiped 30 bags last year, would be valuable to a team that ranked dead last in steals.
As for second base options, there are three names that stand out. Chone Figgins headlines the list, but Orlando Hudson is an ideal No. 2 hitter who isn't as versatile as Figgins but is a better defender. Akinori Iwamura of the Tampa Bay Rays has a team option, but if it is picked up, it would be only to deal him elsewhere. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune speculates further with a Milton Bradley for Akinori Iwamura and Pat Burrell swap.
Carrie: Speaking of free agents, nobody asked, but you can cross the Cubs off the list of teams interested in Cuban left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman. He has met with several big league teams and the Cubs did talk to his agent, but Chapman doesn't fit in their budget.
No one even knows what the market is for Chapman. All I know is that he was in my upcoming Cubs Challenge blog. We'll see how I can swing things in the coming days. Remember, Ive got until noon (CT) the day after the World Series ends to have my repairs posted.