Jeff Samardzija, center field, and some stats and definitions were among the topics in this week's mailbag.
What are the Cubs going to do in center field for 2008? Nothing personal against Jacque Jones, but he has a terrible throwing arm and his offense wasn't stellar this year either. Is Felix Pie a possibility or could the Cubs sign a big free agent like Andruw Jones or Aaron Rowand? -- John S., Park Ridge, Ill.
The Cubs tried to deal Jones earlier this year, and they will likely try again this offseason. He did hit .332 in the second half, but had a career-low five homers for the season. This was an interesting year for Pie. The Cubs were 58-29 when he got in a game, but this was the first time he had a part-time role, and the first time he didn't have success. There's no doubt he has speed, which manager Lou Piniella covets, and can play defense. Pie has to show he can contribute at the plate -- a .111 average against left-handers won't do it. Who starts in center may depend on who starts in right, and that's up in the air. Rowand could be an option, but I also can see him crashing headfirst into the brick wall in center at Wrigley Field.
I was wondering how former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija did this season, and do you think he'll be on next year's roster? -- Mike S., Marion Heights, Pa.
Samardzija was 3-8 with a 4.95 ERA in 24 games (20 starts) at Class A Daytona, giving up 142 hits, 35 walks and striking out 45 over 107 1/3 innings. He was promoted to Double-A Tennessee in August, and was 3-3 with a 3.41 ERA in six starts, giving up 33 hits, nine walks and striking out 20 over 34 1/3 innings. He will be on the Cubs' 40-man roster, but as to when he'll be in the big leagues, I can't say. This is probably a strange time for Samardzija because it's the first time he's had the fall off from football, and he can focus on training for baseball.
Samardzija did announce on his Web site that he is donating Under Armour football uniforms to Valparaiso (Ind.) High School, starting in 2008. He also said in a blog entry that he "learned a ton about the game, and more importantly, how to really 'pitch' from the great pitching coaches I had." That's a good sign.
When will 2008 regular season tickets be available to purchase online? -- Hunter M., Hillsborough, N.C.
Tickets for the 2007 season were available online on Feb. 23. Expect an announcement regarding the date for the '08 season sometime in mid-November.
As a middle school baseball and softball coach trying to teach young players the fundamentals, watching Ted Lilly try to bunt in the Division Series was painful. He had a flat bat and barely had any of the bat covering the plate. What made it worse was the D-backs pitcher came up a few innings later, and put down a perfect sacrifice. Does anyone work with the pitchers on their bunting? -- Patrick B., Atlanta, Ga.
Coach Ivan DeJesus spent a lot of time with the Cubs pitchers on their bunting and hitting. Piniella even joked about it once to me, saying he was surprised how much the pitchers like to hit. This was Lilly's first season back in the National League since 1999. He had 18 at-bats in the big leagues before this season.
I just added my name to the season ticket wait list to find 67,809 people had the same idea before I did. How long will it take for me to get to the top? Is my place in line transferrable to my great-great grandkids? Now, all I have to do is try to remember this information in 50 years when my number is called. -- William H., Chicago
I don't know the turnover rate, and can only hope you don't have to leave them in your will for your grandkids.
Have a question about the Cubs?
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Just curious about what you may have heard about Ryne Sandberg's future plans. Do you know if there is any talk of him moving along in the system or will he stay put for a while? -- Dave A., Lexington, S.C.
One of the issues to be discussed at the Cubs organizational meetings was the Minor League assignments. Sandberg wants to continue to manage, and Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita has to find the right spot.
Just curious as to what makes a rookie a rookie? Is it that they have to play so many games? It seems a shame that after all the inspiration and energy "The Riot" gave our Cubs this year, Ryan Theriot played too many games to be eligible for such an honor this year. And with the June that Mike Fontenot had, I guess he didn't play enough games to be eligible? -- Cheryl B., Moberly, Mo.
Fontenot was a rookie in 2007, but Theriot's rookie season was 2006, when he totaled 134 at-bats. The Baseball Writers' Association of America considers a player a rookie unless during the previous season or seasons he has (1) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or (2) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club during the 25-man limit that is in effect from Opening Day through Aug. 31.
The Iowa Cubs set a home attendance record this year, drawing more than 500,000. Numerous improvements have been made to the stadium in the last two years. The I-Cubs supplied the parent team with a lot of valuable talent this year. When, if not now, will the Chicago Cubs ever come to Des Moines for an exhibition game? -- Ted P., Des Moines, Iowa
If you could guarantee 80-degree weather in Des Moines in late March, they'd be there. That said, I do realize the Cubs are opening the 2008 season at home March 31, and expect the weather won't be much different in Chicago than it will be in Des Moines.
I thought the Cubs had a better approach at the plate during the middle of the summer. I believe Gerald Perry was a big part of that. What are the stats on OBP and walks compared to the last couple of years? -- Tim D., Du Quoin, Ill.
This year, the Cubs had a .333 on-base percentage and 500 walks while hitting .271. The last time they had an on-base percentage above this year's was 2001, when it was .336 (577 walks). In 2006, they had a .319 on-base percentage, 395 walks, and batted .268. In 2003, when they also won the NL Central Division, they had a .323 on-base percentage, 492 walks, and hit .259.
With the 100th anniversary coming in the 2008 season [since the Cubs last won a World Series], would it not be fitting for the Cubs to bring back Greg Maddux so he might have the incentive to retire as a Cub? -- Eugene K., Des Moines, Iowa
Maddux has been around for a while, but I don't see the link between him and the 1908 team. He's not that old. The Cubs, I hope, are thinking more about winning than reunion tours.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.