Groundhog Day

Let's see... checklist:

* Losing team scores first

* Bullpen blows save

* Pirate pitcher looks unhittable for six innings

* Cub player hits home run

* Pirate player allows a run to score on an error

And, this time the Cubs win, 4-1.

Didn't we see this game yesterday? I half-expected Bill Murray to crawl out of the ivy and sing. Oh, wait a minute -- he did that on Opening Day, all but the crawling out of the ivy part. It really did feel like Murray's 1993 film in which he keeps waking up to the same day over and over (incidentally, though set in Pennsylvania, most of "Groundhog Day" was shot in the Chicago suburb of Woodstock).

For six innings the Cubs made Ryan Vogelsong look like Nolan Ryan. I said to Mike that this wasn't Ryan Vogelsong at all, but Nolan Ryan's illegitimate son Vogelsong Ryan. Apparently Vogelsong was given a win-or-be-sent-to-Triple-A edict, and he pitched like it for six innings, until...

The Cubs' daily home run, today hit by Aramis Ramirez, tied the game at 1. The Pirates briefly argued, because this homer did something I had never seen before. It landed in the LF basket, then dropped out of the basket onto the top of the ivy, where it couldn't be found by Rob Mackowiak. All the umpires immediately signaled home run, though, and there was no real argument by temporary manager Pete MacKanin. The Cubs then took the lead on a Michael Barrett sacrifice fly, and added two runs in the eighth partly on the aforementioned error, and also on a single by Jose Macias. Both Mike and I shook our heads when Dusty Baker sent him up to pinch-hit for Todd Hollandsworth. Lefty-righty, you know (lefty Mike Johnston was in the game). OK, I'll say that Mike used much more colorful language than just head-shaking. Naturally, he immediately proved Dusty right by singling in the third run.

Greg Maddux threw his best game of the year so far, striking out six, walking nobody and allowing only three singles (one a bunt that he fielded but had to eat) and a double. This was only Maddux' third start in which he did not allow a homer (the others, a 6-1 win in San Diego on May 14, and oddly, the home opener against these same Pirates), and he lowered his ERA to 4.13, in gaining his 294th career victory.

Mike said, and I agree, that the Pirates were playing this game like it was a September pennant-race game. They did a double-switch; replaced a pinch-hitter (Ruben Mateo) before he batted; and no fewer than four of their players played two positions, including Jason Bay, who didn't come into the game until the seventh.

Jon spent some time talking to a writer from Los Angeles who has decided that bleacher regulars like us are "interesting" and wants to write about us, so we're going to send all our e-mail addresses. Jeff and I were mock-fighting about who gets to be Media Whore this time. I figure since he got his picture in the paper last month, that it's my turn.

At long last, Joe Borowski was placed on the 15-day disabled list today.

All I can say is, it's about time. It was clear from almost the beginning of spring training that Joe was hurt, and you want to applaud the guy for not shirking, and for wanting to prove that he was worth the two-year deal to which he was signed, but three things -- the fact that he didn't throw strikes like he did last year, the fact that he didn't have command of his breaking ball, and finally, the obvious loss of velocity, pointed to injury.

The odd thing is that no one's saying anything more than "shoulder strain", and as Buster Olney wrote last week on ESPN.com, that's a catch-all phrase that could mean almost anything.

More ominously, it was suggested on WGN radio today that there might be something non-muscular wrong with Borowski, and even the dreaded word "cancer" was mentioned; this would be similar to what Dave Dravecky, the former Giants pitcher who eventually had to have his arm amputated after it broke, horrifyingly, while he was pitching, went through.

If this turns out to be the case, then you can credit Joe Borowski for being about the toughest guy who's played major league baseball in many years, being able to even pitch as well as he did under those circumstances. I wish him well.

What I disagree with is the ballclub's choice of roster replacement, Triple-A pitcher Jon Leicester. Leicester has thrown pretty well at Iowa -- as a starter. He's been a starter most of his minor league career (except for last year at Double-A). Now you are going to ask him to sit on a major league bench and fulfill the Todd Wellemeyer role, throwing once a week?

This is silly. The Cubs don't need twelve pitchers and haven't from day one. A better call-up would have been Bill Selby, who can play several positions and is hitting .296 with 16 doubles, and who has been a major league role player in the past.

Finally, there were two pre-game observances. Several veterans of the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach were introduced to the crowd, to a huge standing ovation, well deserved. These men were true heroes.

Then, a moment of silence was observed in remembrance of former President Reagan, who died yesterday. (Incidentally, the flag, by law, now flies at half-staff for 30 days. On the scoreboard, the NL Central flags were also flying at half-staff. Before today's win, that seemed just about right.) Those of you who have read this space for any length of time know that my political beliefs and Mr. Reagan's were at opposite ends of the spectrum.

However, I do give him credit for at least having beliefs and sticking up for them, unlike many politicians of the present day who seem to govern by focus group.

I mention Reagan because his death reminded me of two Cub-related anecdotes. You have probably read that Reagan was once an announcer for Cubs games carried on WHO radio in Des Moines, Iowa, primarily doing re-creations of games from ticker reports, a common practice in the 1930's.

On September 30, 1988, Reagan was nearing the end of his second term and was in Chicago making a speech. Suddenly he told his aides he wanted to take in the ballgame at Wrigley Field. Mike and I were there, and noticed after we had already gotten in the park, that there were sharpshooters on the roof, and metal detectors for fans coming in. The crowd was very small, only 9,805, and the Cubs lost, in one of those odd coincidences, to the same team they played this weekend, the Pirates, 10-9 in 10 innings. (Footnote: sixteen years later, one player who appeared in that game is still active -- Rafael Palmeiro.) Reagan also joined Harry Caray for an inning of play-by-play, but that's not what Mike and I remember. We saw his limo drive down Sheffield in back of us as he was leaving, and we could see him waving from the window, looking like one of those animatronic devices you see at a museum.

And the reminder that Reagan was a Cubs announcer got me to thinking -- what if he hadn't taken that screen test when he was in California during Cub spring training in 1937? He might have remained a Cubs announcer his entire career.

And Jack Brickhouse would have become President of the United States.
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