Holy shit, Jock nearly caught that one.
At Cubs.com, their beat writer, Carrie Muskat (a comely woman who rocks granny glasses, a bun hairdo and some grandmotherly hips) periodically answers questions e-mailed to her by Cubs fans like you and me.

Well, not actually you and me, because what the hell does Carrie Muskrat know about the Cubs that we don’t already? In fact, just reading her stuff makes you dumber. It’s science. Stop arguing.

But what if instead of reading it for comprehension you only did it to argue her ill-conceived points and mock the opinions she espouses and that the readers do, too?

Hey, let’s give it a shot!

Are the Cubs looking into this Matsuzaka guy? It sounds like it will take about a billion dollars, but with the Cubs’ pitching problems, it might be worth it. However, the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets will probably be throwing money like crazy at this guy.
— Jake J., Lake Villa, Ill.

Andy: Jake, are you writing the payroll checks for the Cubs? No? Then stop worrying about how much crap costs. The Cubs have been hoarding dimes for a century, just because the parent company doesn’t have a pot to piss in anymore doesn’t mean that the Cubs should continue to acquire second-rate talent on the cheap. You mention the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox as teams who throw money around like monkey dung, and they all have something in common that differs from the Cubs ownerships. To some degree they are spending their own personal fortunes on these teams. The Cubs don’t even do that.

As for spending big money on Daisy Mattsuheyaka, I’m all for anything that prevents Les Walrond from making a start next year.

Carrie says: The Cubs were expected to submit a bid for Matsuzaka, a right-handed pitcher who was the MVP of the World Baseball Classic and went 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA for the Seibu Lions. It won’t cost billions exactly, but the initial bid is expected to be more than the Seattle Mariners paid for Ichiro Suzuki ($13 million). The deadline to submit bids is Wednesday, and the Lions will have until Nov. 14 to accept. The winning team then has 30 days to negotiate a deal with Matsuzaka’s agent, Scott Boras.

The Cubs did scout more in Japan than in year’s past, sending Gary Hughes and Randy Bush there. Both are special assistants to general manager Jim Hendry.

Andy: I’m pretty sure Hughes only went to Japan to buy a komono since his obesity is making even the roomiest Tommy Bahama a little snug in the pits. Rumors are that the Cubs bid $21 million for the rights to negotiate with Daisy. Considering the Mets and Red Sox were considering $30 million bids, this seems exactly right.

Do you think the Cubs should go after Barry Zito? Just think, Zambrano and Zito.
— Kraig A., Chicago

Andy: First off, Kraig, what’s with the K? Are you an illegitimate Clemens kid? What about Zambrano and Zito? I’m all for spending big money, but you know who Barry Zito is? He’s Rich Hill with prettier hair. (And a Cy Young Award–damnit, I hate it when I parenthetically ruin my own argument.) I’m not saying Barry’s a bad pitcher, he’s not, and I’m not saying the Cubs shouldn’t go after him, they should. They need pitching, and lots of it. I don’t think Barry’s going to be worth what he gets paid, and you know what? I don’t care. He can help the Cubs and Lord knows they need the help.

Carrie says: They could get Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya, too, and have the “Z Team.” Just dreaming. Zito may be the best pitcher on the free agent market and will be a hot topic during the Cubs’ organizational meetings this week. He won 16 games this past season, the most since he won 23 in 2002. Zito will be looking for a multi-year contract. The question is, how many more productive years does he have left after six straight seasons of 200-plus innings? By the way, Zito is 34-24 with a 3.80 ERA in day games.

Andy: I admire Carrie’s use of splits, but this might be more relevant. Since 2004 Barry’s night and day splits aren’t really night and day.

Night games since 2004: 28-24, 3.95
Day games since 2004: 13-10, 4.29

The difference is meaningless. A third of a run.

I’ll just say it again. Barry Zito’s a fine pitcher. The Cubs would be lucky to have him. He’s not a dominant superstar and really hasn’t been since 2002. In his first two full seasons he was 23 games over .500, in the four seasons since he’s nine games over. Then again, wins and losses are a poor predictor of performance. He’s good. The Cubs should sign him. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking he’s a dominant staff ace type. You’ve got Carlos for that. Hey, maybe that was Kraig’s point all along? Probably not.

I saw that Greg Maddux filed for free agency. What do you think the chances are that he’ll return to the Cubs?
— Sarah R., Mt. Prospect, Ill.

Andy: The chance is fat. Sarah, if you haven’t noticed, the Cubs suck. Greg had to sit and watch that suck for three years, and even though they won 89 games in his first year back that season blew just as much as the next two. The Dodgers have a playoff-caliber team, great weather, the starting pitchers get to have sex with Alyssa Milano and hang out with Grady Little. OK, so it’s not all great. Why would Greg come back? If he’s that much of a masochist he should get nipple clamps and a ball gag.

Carrie says: One of the reasons Maddux signed so late with the Cubs in 2004 was that he was hoping the Dodgers would make him an offer. He wants to be closer to his Las Vegas home and his kids, and that’s L.A., not Chicago.

Andy: Also, the part about how the Cubs suck and the Dodgers don’t. You forgot that, Carrie.

What’s the status of Pie? It seems like they’ve been talking for years about him as a prospect. Why hasn’t there been any recent news?
— Jennifer T., Rockford, Ill.

Andy: That status of Pie is that now that it’s November you’ve got a 70 percent chance it’s going to pumpkin. The Cubs are so starved for a position player turned good that they missed out on several chances to trade Felix at the time that every Cubs’ prospect is most valuable…right before he proves he can’t play.

Carrie says: Here’s the latest: Pie spent a couple weeks in Arizona working with Bobby Dernier on baserunning after the Triple-A Iowa Cubs’ season ended, and then returned home to the Dominican Republic. He is playing for the Licey Tigres in the Dominican Winter League, and was batting .259 (14-for-54) in 15 games with four doubles, two stolen bases and 10 RBIs.

Andy: Instead of coming to the big leagues to work with the Major League staff, the Cubs kept Felix away from Dusty. Says a lot about both guys, I guess.

I really like Ryan Theriot. I think he’d be a much better choice than Ronny Cedeno for the second-base job. What do you think?
— Matt C., Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Andy: You know why you think Ryan Theriot would be a better choice than Ronny Cedeno, Matt? Because Ronny blows. Theriot has shown one thing in his long (six year) minor league career. He knows how to get on base at a reasonable clip. Here are his minor league on base average numbers at all levels: .341, .335, .353, .351, .367, .365, .367, .412.

Here are Ronny’s: .237, .275, .269, .257, .328, .403, .356, .271.

Ronny’s two good OBA performances came last year first in Iowa, then with the Cubs. But you can see by his track record that it’s no surprise he couldn’t sustain it.

Not convinced? In 614 big league at bats, Ronny Cedeno has walked 17 times.

In 147 big league at bats, Ryan Theriot has walked 18 times.

Theriot’s career (big and minor league) strikeout to walk ratio is 284:278.

Cedeno’s is 493:152.

OK, it’s true that Theriot is four years older than Cedeno, and that defensively, Cedeno has more range. All that really means is that Ronny is faster and younger, not better, nor does it mean he’ll ever be better. In fact, in his 192 big league games, Cedeno has a whopping nine stolen bases in 17 tries.

Theriot is 13 for 15 in only 62 games.

Carrie: What I like about Theriot is he batted .304 batting first for Triple-A Iowa, hit .323 with runners in scoring position and had a .367 on-base percentage. I like his energy. He could be a leadoff option. Cedeno has more pop, hitting-wise, and could be a great shortstop someday. He needs to relax. Every time he struggled at the plate or made an error, he took it hard. Too hard.

Andy: What Carrie means to say, I’m sure, is that Cedeno’s only real value is at shortstop. He’ll never hit well enough to play second. Since the Cubs seem to want to play a chubby short guy with a career .295 OBA at short, there isn’t even a choice to be made. If you break camp with Theriot and Cedeno as your second base options, Theriot’s the only guy for the job. Which means Cedeno will play. Guh.

Will the Cubs try to re-sign Juan Pierre? He is exactly what the Cubs have been looking for in a leadoff hitter. If not, why not?
— Mike B., Powers Lake, Wis.

Andy: Carrie actually handles this one pretty well.

Carrie: The Pierre of 2003 with the Marlins was exactly what the Cubs were looking for. He had a .361 on-base percentage that year; this season, after a disappointing April and May, it was .330. If he doesn’t return, it will be because the Cubs found another leadoff/center field option or because Pierre got a better offer.

Isn’t it time to cut bait on Prior and Wood already? Even Harold Stassen stopped running for president after a while.
— Garry W., New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Quite frankly, I’m a little tired of having to worry about whether Prior and Wood are going to be healthy. Plus, they are taking up huge amounts of the payroll for only having 10 starts combined. Why don’t the Cubs just dump them and go out and get some backup for Big Z — maybe a Zito?
— Ryan H., Freeport, Ill.

Andy: Garry and Ryan, you ignorant sluts. Why should the Cubs give away Mark Prior? Despite a horrifically bad 2006, he’s still 26, has a 42-29 career record, a 3.51 career ERA and a three to one strikeout to walk ratio. You don’t just toss him aside. You figure out what’s wrong with him, you fix him and you use him. Until you figure that out, you hire other guys to pitch, and when he’s healthy, you deal with it then. It took two of you to write something this dumb? As for Wood, throw him in the bullpen for a year see if that works and if not? Him you can dump.

Carrie: Right now, their trade value is at an all-time low. The Cubs did not pick up Wood’s option for 2007, but are obligated to pay him $3 million in the buyout. Since they’re already paying him, they could re-sign him to an incentive-loaded deal for 2007. He’d pitch in relief — and not as the closer. That requires someone more durable.

As for Prior, he and the Cubs have a better understanding of the status of his right shoulder and what he needs to do. And the two combined for 13 starts in 2006.

Andy: Wait, Wood can’t be the closer because it needs someone durable? Durable like what, like Ryan Dempster who was durably awful last year? As for the Cubs having “a better understanding of the status of his right shoulder” they still don’t know shit. If I were him, I’d sue them for fucking up my career to this point. He’s not a wuss, he’s got something wrong with him and Dr. Tweedle Dee and Dr. Tweedle Dum can’t figure it out. He should go the Francisco Liriano route and tell the team to go screw off and have it diagnosed on his own.

Has there ever been a team that has finished dead-last in the National League and then won the World Series the following year? And please don’t tell me it was the Marlins in 2003.
— Steve J., Kirkland, Wash.

Andy: So Steve, had the Marlins in 2003 been the right answer, you didn’t want to know? Why did you ask, then, bucko? The answer, as Carrie will tell you is no. And guess what? Next offseason it’ll still be no.

Carrie: No team has finished dead-last in either the American League or National League and won the World Series the next year. The Minnesota Twins are the only team to have finished last in their division and won the World Series a year later. The Twins finished seventh (out of seven teams) in the AL West in 1990 (surprise, the Yankees had the worst record in the AL that year). A year later, the Twins beat the Braves in the 1991 World Series.

Baseball historian Ed Hartig did the research, and there are some near misses in National League history. The 1958 Dodgers finished seventh out of eight NL teams, two games ahead of the last-place Phillies. In 1959, the Dodgers beat the White Sox in the World Series. The 1968 Mets finished ninth out of 10 NL clubs, one game better than the last-place Astros. In 1969, the Mets beat Baltimore in the World Series.

In 1989, the Reds were fifth among six Western division teams, nine games better than the Braves. The next year, the Reds — with Lou Piniella as manager — beat the Oakland A’s in the World Series.

And, the 2002 Marlins finished fourth out of five NL East teams, 3 1/2 games better than the last-place Mets. In 2003, the Marlins beat the Yankees to win the World Series.

Andy: I love the fact she calls him “Baseball Historian Ed Hartig.” When what he really is, is “Grown-up Shut-in who lives with his mother Ed Hartig.” He and Bruce Levine should form some sort of club.

Hey, the MailHag is fun. We should do this again. It’s always fun to mock.