600, and Open Thread: Cubs vs. Rangers, Thursday 6/21, 1:05 CT

In a perfect world, Sammy Sosa, beloved by all Cubs fans, would have hit his 600th career HR in blue pinstripes -- two years ago -- and he'd perhaps now be on his way to 700, and maybe even to eclipse Barry Bonds, who will soon become the most detested career record holder ever.

It's not a perfect world, and most of us know that in any number of ways, so Sosa's opposite-field home run in last night's 7-3 Rangers win over the Cubs -- only his 26th long ball since he left the Cubs under difficult circumstances after the 2004 season, leaves me scratching my head wondering what I can write about it.

So after thinking about it for quite some time, I find myself thinking exactly the same way that Mike was when he wrote the top 100 profile of Sammy last February:

But the deeds were done, the numbers are permanent, and awesome in any circumstance. What to do with it? If a definitive answer exists among the myriad suggestions, this author has yet to hear it.

Years after '98, Al and I had our attention called to a book entitled Baseball's Best Shots, a compendium of photos taken from all eras of the game. One spread is a shot of the right-field bleachers at Wrigley during a seventh-inning stretch in '98 (probably the game of September 18). A typically festive, half-dressed, half-bombed crowd gone half-bonkers over what they were seeing.

Except, that is, for two figures, in one corner of the image, bent over a pair of scorecards; literally the only people in the frame whose faces are not visible. Yes, it's us; and we agree, as do our baseball friends, that it's our perfect portrait.

I'd like to remember '98 that way, a season of joy, a season for the ages, fit for groupies and students alike, our season. But I can't, not anymore. It was stolen from us, under false pretenses, and time has not assuaged the anger.

That's exactly how I feel. With players who are under steroid suspicion -- and though there has never been any evidence nor proof that Sosa did take them, there have been suspicions -- the numbers they put up must be looked at as tainted. I wish I could feel the joy and excitement I thought I'd feel, years ago, upon thinking that a great all-time Cub would hit 600 home runs.

But I don't. And despite the home run and his team's victory, Sosa's presence on the Rangers isn't really doing anything for him -- he's hitting .242/.297/.458; the .755 OPS doesn't rank in the top fifty hitters in the AL -- or his team, which has the worst record in baseball.

So what's the point? At least when a sad-replica-of-himself Willie Mays hit .211/.303/.344, at age 42, for the 1973 Mets, they got into the World Series.

It smacks of the "Selfish Sammy" we all called him before 1998. He says he wants to stick around to hit 700 HR. Don't flatter yourself, Sammy. Methinks the 2007 season is "last call" for him.

About last night's game, there's not much more to say. Jason Marquis wasn't horrible -- he allowed four runs in five innings -- but the two HR he gave up did him in, and the Cub offense fell asleep against a pitcher they should have hammered. The club's Pythagorean record is 37-33, five games better than their actual record and that would be good for second place, three games out. But Pythagoras doesn't win ballgames.

Win this one and the series is won; keep winning series two games to one and good things can follow.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Ted Lilly
T. Lilly
Cubs
vs. Vicente Padilla
V. Padilla
Rangers
5-4 W-L 3-8
3.69 ERA 6.57
72 SO 42
17 BB 32
10 HR 12
vs. Tex -- vs. Cubs
I don't want to give the kiss of death here, so I'll simply say this about today's pitchers, sticking to basic facts:

Ted Lilly's control has been excellent; he has walked only 17 batters in 85.1 IP, less than two per nine innings.

The Rangers trot out their second ex-Phillie of the series, Vicente Padilla. Cliff Floyd has hit him well: .333/.579/.833 with 2 HR and 7 BB in 19 plate appearances.

Today's game is on cable only, so it will be available on EI and at the Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday (2007 version)

MLB.com Gameday (2006 version)

Endnote: there's a very good article in today's Tribune about the Wrigley Field scoreboard and what happens inside there during games (free registration required). If you can get a copy of the dead-tree edition to read this, do it, because there are some cool photos and diagrams in the paper that aren't on the website.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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