Q. How would you assess the team's performance at the all-star break?
A. There is no way to answer this question with just one "grade." Your record doesn't lie over the long haul, so for a team that is at the bottom of the standings, you can't say it's been a good first half.
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But here's the thing -- we knew going in that talent-wise, the Cubs were short in this transition year. So, it's not a huge surprise they are well under .500.
I did not anticipate them being on a 100-loss pace, however. Inconsistent pitching early and an up-and-down offense throughout have made for a tough road.
I give the organization high marks for quickly implementing the "Cubs Way" that Theo Epstein talked about when he was hired. You can see it in the aggressive baserunning and improved defense. Fundamentally, this club is way better than in recent seasons.
Where it needs to improve is having better quality at-bats, something that is being addressed with new hitting coach James Rowson.
To sum up, the record says it's been a bad first half. But if you dig deeper, the quality of play keeps improving and that is very encouraging to see.
Q. You speak of a need to upgrade talent. What percentage of the current roster do you think will be here when the Cubs contend again?
A. I would start with the "locks" (barring something unforeseen): Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood.
Beyond those guys, I think everyone else is up in the air.
We have already seen a ton of roster turnover over the past year and I have no doubt that will continue.
If I had to make a wild guess, I'd say 30-40 percent of this roster will probably still be here in three years.
Q. Do you still anticipate Ryan Dempster being traded once he's healthy?
A. I would have to say yes, probably so.
From the Cubs' perspective, his impending free agency is the main reason I say that.
Q. You seem to be struggling to contain your excitement on the air regarding Rizzo. What is it about his game that is so impressive?
A. All of it. He has a plan every time he comes to the plate, he squares up balls with regularity, he's been a total stalwart defensively and he has carried himself with the confidence of a 10-year veteran.
It's very early, but I ask anyone who has watched him so far, what is there not to like?
Q. Do you like that the All-Star Game counts in terms of homefield advantage in the World Series?
A. I don't at all. I understand why this setup exists -- MLB doesn't want another tie or a situation in which one or both teams runs out of pitchers. But I don't think anybody watches the All-Star Game because they care about the final score. It is clearly an exhibition of baseball's best, and I don't believe it needs to have anything meaningful on the line for fans to tune in.
My idea for determining homefield advantage in the World Series is to add up the collective AL vs. NL record in interleague play. Whichever league wins more during the regular season gets homefield advantage.
Alas, the commissioner doesn't consult with me on these issues.
Q. What is your routine during the break? Are you taking notes during the Home Run Derby and the big game?
A. While I don't avoid the All-Star Game, those four days during the break are reserved for all the things that suffer during the season -- family time, rest, maybe some tennis.
Essentially, it's an opportunity to hit the reset button and get ready for the final two and a half months of the season. If I can sneak in a few innings of the game, I will watch. If not, I will check the highlights the next day.
• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @lenandbobwww.wgntv.com/lenandbob;http://www.wgntv.com/blogs/lenandbob/[URL]. Subscriber Total Access members can email him [/URL]questions;mailto:cubsquestions%40dailyherald.com?subject=Reader%20question[URL] each week via our online link.[/URL]