SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- This time, the "drawing board" has nothing to do with the Cubs, but with the Diamondbacks' TV broadcasting team of Little Thommy Brennaman (and the distaste I have for him has been well documented on this blog) and former Cub and D'back Mark Grace, who made his season debut as the Diamondbacks' TV analyst tonight.
Maybe it's just Brennaman bringing out the worst in any of his partners, but I didn't like Grace at all on TV tonight here in the Phoenix area. He seemed smarmy, he was way too flip and his analysis of the game was Ron Santo-like ("He didn't make the play, Tom"). The two of them spent almost the entire ninth inning making fun of the D'backs radio broadcasters. I wound up listening to them for part of the game, and they're pretty good, actually -- the play-by-play guy, Greg Schulte (who for some reason the smarm-masters were calling "The Gub'nah") calls a game credibly and the rookie color analyst, ex-Seattle Mariner Ken Phelps, is a promising new broadcaster who will probably get better.
I used to feel this way about Brennaman and Ron Santo in the eight years they were teamed in the WGN booth. Thommy used to sit there baiting Santo with what he thought were cute and clever remarks, but were really insulting not only to the listener, but to Ron, and poor Ron had no idea what to do with them. Santo still has little idea what to do in the booth, but at least Pat Hughes is nice to him.
Grace also did a very self-serving interview with Kerry Wood, who was sitting in the dugout with an earpiece and a microphone. Grace has to let go of his "buddy-buddy" with the players and realize his job is different now. The interview was pretty worthess for its content, but the remarkable thing was to confirm what I'd noticed about Wood during his spring appearances -- he really has lost a lot of weight, you can see that in his face, and he's in absolutely terrific shape. I really think Wood is poised to finally have the breakout year that we've all hoped he would have for several years now.
Anyway, all of this has nothing to do with tonight's game, which the Cubs won easily 8-1
in front of a smallish crowd of 29,988 (in the two previous years these games had been scheduled, the attendance was in the mid-30,000 range).
The Cubs started out quickly in the first inning, scoring three unearned runs off Arizona's #2 starter, Brandon Webb, and once again, everyone was hitting; the biggest hits tonight were a pair of RBI doubles by Aramis Ramirez and another double from the bat of Michael Barrett, who appears to be finding his hitting stroke, and not a moment too soon.
By the third inning it was 6-0 and as has been Dusty Baker's habit, he pulled most of the starters early and put in players that most of us have never heard of -- I think the Professor from Gilligan's Island was playing third base by the end of the game, or maybe that was just somebody else named Russ Johnson.
It appears official that the Cubs will start the season with 12 pitchers -- they purchased the contract of Michael Wuertz (who had a great spring, 20 strikeouts in 15 IP) from Iowa and optioned Jimmy Anderson to Iowa. Frankly, I'd have done just the reverse, as I wrote yesterday, and I fear a week from Saturday, when Sergio Mitre starts (and for some unfathomable reason, Mitre was awarded the Ron Santo/Billy Williams Award for being the best rookie of training camp)
, the result will be a similar blowout to his last two spring training appearances.
In good pitching news, Greg Maddux threw only three innings (no runs, one harmless single), but I know Maddux doesn't need that much time to get ready for the season. Oddly, despite pitching very well, this was Maddux' only victory (two losses) of the preseason. Both Carlos Zambrano and Matt Clement will throw tomorrow, and I'll report tomorrow afternoon after the game at the BOB. I'm not all that fond of domed stadiums, but hey -- it was pouring rain all day in the area and with the roof, you can play baseball.