I heard this question today in the media: Would Greg Maddux be a Hall of Famer if he'd spent his entire career with the Cubs?
Huh? There was nothing magical in the water in Atlanta. Maddux had his first 20-win and National League Cy Young Award season in Chicago. Former Cubs pitching coach Dick Pole had more to do with Maddux's success than Leo Mazzone.
Maddux was going to win 300 games and be a Hall of Famer. The better question is what would he have meant to the Cubs from 1993-2003, when he delivered 66.1 WAR for the Braves? Phrased differently, could Chicago have won with him as its ace and Sammy Sosa and Mark Grace in the middle of the lineup?
It was classy for Maddux to convince the Hall of Fame to let his plaque show him in a neutral cap, not an Atlanta one. For once, somebody didn't kick sand in the Cubs' face. So, what's on your mind?
Do you feel Major League Baseball will return to Montreal? If so, will it be a relocated team (Rays or A's) or an expansion team?
-- Robert, Tigard, Ore.
Never say never, but I don't see it. I think the A's are going to wind up in San Jose or getting a new stadium in Oakland (less likely). The Rays would be a real possibility if they didn't have such a strong ownership group and front office. I don't think they'll make it to the end of their lease at Tropicana Field in 2027 but hope that new St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman will be less anti-Tampa than his predecessor, Bill Foster.
What, if anything, will the Orioles do before Spring Training?
-- Mark C., Jackman, Maine
You hear Fernando Rodney talk, and if not him, I think they'll do some bargain-shopping for a veteran pitcher or two (maybe one starter, one reliever). The best thing they could do is extend Chris Davis or Matt Wieters.
Do the White Sox have a training complex in the Domnican Republic as many teams do? Also, what kind of presence do they have in Asia, specifically Japan and Korea?
-- Dean S., Libertyville, Ill.
Yes. The White Sox have their own academy in Santo Domingo, at a complex they share with some other teams (but maintain their own fields, dorms and classrooms). It is run by former big league shortstop Rafael Santana and has become quite busy since Marco Paddy was hired as the team's international director. The Sox make occasional forays to Asia, but they haven't had a major scouting presence there.
How many projected free-agent shortstops will make it to the 2015 free-agent market? Is that what the Mets are waiting for?
-- Boruch K., Queens, N.Y.
Derek Jeter, anyone? Nah, probably not. I'm not sure if Hanley Ramirez is any more realistic than Jeter, but this is the last year on his contract with the Dodgers. The best name is probably Asdrubal Cabrera, who is about to be made expendable in Cleveland by 20-year-old Francisco Lindor. J.J. Hardy is another possibility. As for why the Mets are waiting, don't be surprised if they take a strong run at Cuban defector Erisbel Arruebarruena, who could be cleared to sign with an MLB team this spring. He's a 25-year-old who could win a Gold Glove.
Which foursome will produce more? The Cubs' Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler or the White Sox Leury Garcia, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson?
-- Bill C., Chicago
I'm going to say the Cubs' four, but it's a good debate. I expect off-the-chart production from Abreu. I think he'll out-hit Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes and be a durable 600-plus plate appearance presence in the middle of the lineup.
At what point do we see MLB reach the breaking point with massive contracts? They can't escalate forever, right?
-- Todd B., Iowa
I remember thinking this in 1986, too. All I'll say is there's no end in sight.
Do ugly roof-top battles, developing vs. spending and angst by impatient fans lead to Cubs president Theo Epstein's departure?
-- Steve J., Chicago
Epstein's no quitter. He's early in year three of a job he knew was going to take a long time. Epstein's building an organization the right way and always knew it wouldn't be easy.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.