That's it, I'm off the bandwagon.
Or maybe I should say, I'm ON the bandwagon -- the one ready to ride Dusty Baker out of town.
You can give a million reasons why a manager is well-loved by his players, because he supports them, gives them confidence, retains that confidence -- but when a manager pigheadedly, stubbornly, refuses-to-listen-to-reasonly continues to do something that costs his team games, it's time for someone, whether it be a player, coach, Jim Hendry, Andy MacPhail, or me, to say to Dusty Baker:
It really is that simple, and you know the depressing end result today, another one-run, 4-3 loss to a really bad Pirates team. That's Hawkins' second blown save, to go along with three saves, a really bad ratio.
You can't really tell here, but the white specks on this photo aren't flaws in the photo -- that was snow falling. It fell before the game, which is when I snapped this picture, and for the first inning or two before it finally let up. The sun poked its head through, three or four times, for a few seconds each time (to a rousing ovation), then thought better of the idea and went back into hiding until, say, June.
With a game-time temperature of 36 degrees, a north wind blowing at a steady 25 MPH (computing to a windchill of 24), please observe below the proper way of dressing for baseball. Here I am, parka-bundled:
Yes, the picture looks a little green. I FELT a little green.
And, here is Jeff. Know that many, many polyesters gave their lives to make this headgear.
It actually didn't feel quite as cold today as yesterday, because at least it was dry. Even the snow flurries made it feel more festive rather than colder; the Ted Butterman band that comes out and plays at our seats after the second inning each day played "Winter Wonderland", and that was going to be the headline on this post until... well, you know.
It was a pretty good turnout, actually, considering the weather; 37,695 were announced, and the bleachers were full and there were at least 20,000 in the house, maybe as many as 25,000, and all of us though we were seeing a masterpiece until... well, you know.
The biggest shame is that Hawkins' latest fiasco wasted a really, really, really fine pitching performance by Greg Maddux. In fact, with the wind howling in from left field and Maddux inducing ground ball outs (eight of the first nine outs, in fact), I thought he might have no-hitter stuff. The only hit through the first six and two-thirds was a Jason Bay triple -- and to be fair, Bay's hit would have been well onto Waveland Avenue on most days. Today, it was blown back and hit just out of Corey Patterson's leap off the wall just above the 368 sign in left-center. Still, Maddux cruised into the seventh, and then something that's been way too Cub-like for the last several years happened -- an inability to get a third out. With two out and no one on in the seventh, Craig Wilson pop-flied a single that neither Jerry Hairston nor Jeromy Burnitz could reach, and then Maddux gave up two line-drive hits which tied the game.
Even then, Dusty did the right thing by leaving him in, or more correctly, Maddux kept himself in the game, which he normally does, and when Corey Patterson rode the wind the only way a hitter could get the ball out of the park today, straightaway to right field, the Cubs had the lead back in the bottom of the 8th.
What I absolutely could not fathom was seeing Jose Macias pinch-hit for Jason Dubois.
Excuse me? After Dubois was 2-for-3? And so what if Salomon Torres, a righthander, was still in the game. Of course, the minute Macias was announced, in comes John Grabow, the lefthander, turning Macias around.
And the next time I see the name "Macias" in print or online, I want to see the words "waived for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release" next to it.
It's pretty sad when Lloyd McClendon outmanages Dusty Baker. Naturally, Macias grounded out, though Derrek Lee, who had doubled, advanced to third, where he stood and watched Burnitz strike out. Burnitz had a really bad day, hitting into a double play and striking out three times.
Gee, didn't we have a right fielder who used to have days like this?
An interlude, if you will. My SportsBLOGS colleague Scott over at Camden Chat recently analyed Orioles players over the first sixteen games of the season, and had this to say about our erstwhile right fielder:
End interlude. Back to ranting... and this game deserves some, because the Pirates really, really, really are a terrible team. They ran themselves into two ridiculous double plays, first when Tike Redman was caught off first base on a foul popup to Derrek Lee. I don't think I've ever seen that before.
Then, in the 8th, after Daryle Ward (Howard said he thought he heard "Gerald Ford" announced, but none of us could hear the new PA announcer, Mike Verson, very well through our winter garb) walked, Alfredo Amezaga pinch-ran, stole second, and then apparently forgot there was only one out, because he had rounded third base by the time Patterson caught Matt Lawton's popup -- Corey could have walked in for an unassisted DP, but he flipped the ball to Neifi! instead.
Even after Hawkins was booed off the field -- and in fact, Baker was booed when he came out to get him -- the Cubs put on a bit of a rally in the 9th; Neifi! singled (his third hit of the day -- who IS this guy?), and after a strikeout, Ben Grieve (I guess someone must read this blog; as I asked for the other day, Mike Fontenot was sent back to Iowa today, and Grieve recalled) singled, but Corey struck out to end the game.
And none of us won the Billy Williams retro jersey giveaway, either.
It was, however, so windy Friday evening and Saturday morning, that the AC sign on the Lakeview Baseball Club behind the RF bleachers lost its "6", and now reads AC01 097. It's still wrong, incidentally, even though the LBC refuses to admit it.
We know what must be done. Send LaTroy, who IS a good pitcher -- just not in the 9th inning -- back to the 8th, and let Mike Wuertz close. Or Jon Leicester. Or Glendon Rusch. Or Mike Remlinger. Or Rod Blagojevich. Or Oprah. Or ANYONE else.
I'm going to give Mike the last word today.
(as always, click on images to view full-size in new browser window; if you are using IE, you may have to click the lower-right corner of the image to expand it to its full size; in Firefox click anywhere on the image. Photos of ballpark and Jeff by Al, photo of Al by Jeff)