If only ...
If only the three-run homer by Aramis Ramirez, that powered the Cubs to a come-from-behind 6-5 win over the Dodgers this afternoon meant something to the Cubs in September, instead of pushing the Dodgers closer to being overtaken by the Padres in the NL West race, if only the Cubs could trade places with any of what seem to be about 15 teams still in the NL wild-card race.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Dave and I talked again today about how Jim Hendry put too many eggs in the Wood/Prior basket and didn't have a backup plan, and how we could perhaps see this coming as long ago as spring training.
Dave, in fact, had the line of the day when he reminded me that the second-place Padres, who beat the Reds today 4-2 to move to within a half-game of the Dodgers, are playing a series in L.A. this weekend, with the first pitching matchup tomorrow night being David Wells vs. Greg Maddux.
He said, "They're having a special night from the senior citizens center", and then dissolved into laughter. See, he can get away with that because he's heading toward that age, too.
It was a good day to laugh -- the sun came out for the first time in a week, Wade Miller threw a credible five innings (81 pitches is rather a lot, but he threw 20 of them in the fifth inning alone), allowing only one hit -- a two-run HR to Marlon Anderson that gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. The Cubs tied it on an Angel Pagan triple after singles by Ramirez and Matt Murton, who continues to have a hot September.
Carlos Marmol came in and didn't walk any of the four batters he faced. That usually would be good news, except that all four of them hit the ball hard, the first three for hits, the third of which was a J. D. Drew HR off the right-field foul pole. After that the rest of the bullpen (Scott Eyre, Michael Wuertz, Will Ohman and Bob Howry) shut the Dodgers down on no hits and two walks. Interestingly, Ryan Dempster did start to stretch in the bullpen as the Cubs started batting in the last of the 8th, but he promptly sat down again and Howry got up. This is interesting because just a couple of days ago, Dusty Baker gave his vote of confidence to Dempster as his closer for the rest of the year.
I'm not saying that SHOULD happen, based on Dempster's record of blowing saves lately, but clearly, Baker didn't have any intention of keeping his word, or, at least not against a contending team. Dave said that Dempster might close again the last week of the season against the Brewers and Rockies. We shall see what the games up to then bring us -- the next ten games are all against teams still in the wild-card race (three vs. the Reds, three vs. the Phillies, then four more vs. the Reds at Cincinnati).
In addition to Howard (and yes, I returned his ugly sweatshirt today) and Jon (who was regaling me with clipboard-worthy puns such as his ninth-inning statement that a save "wasn't getting any Ethier" when Andre Ethier pinch-hit), I also got to meet and spend some time with BCB reader Tex (who got one of the auction baseballs from Jenna's auction, and yes, he really is from Texas), and Drew from Rockford, who had a talk with Dave about the Riverhawks (who, incidentally, lost their first-round best-of-five playoff series after being up two games to none. Imagine that. I've never heard of such a thing before).
For those of you who insist that change will happen only if the Cubs lose 100 games, I do not think there is any "magic number" that the suits will look at and suddenly realize "Hey, this team sucks, we'd better fix it!" They know. Incidentally, I learned today that Andy MacPhail is spending a lot of his time in New York working on the upcoming MLB-MLBPA negotations. It seems pretty likely that MacPhail would like to be the next commissioner of baseball, after Bud Selig retires (and yes, he really IS going to retire) in 2009. Some of you would probably like him out of his Cub management position too, but that's not the problem. The problem has been poor talent judgment by the general manager, and poor leadership on the field.
Those things can and will be addressed starting on October 2.
Ryan Theriot left the game after making a routine play to start the ninth inning. In one of the game thread comments it was mentioned that some blood was seen in his glove or on his hand -- I don't know if this means a broken bone (which would probably put him out for the rest of the year), or just some split skin. Too bad, too -- Theriot had two more hits today and made a couple of nice hustling plays in the field.