It's Not Getting Any Ethier

As if you didn't dislike Dodgers OF Andre Ethier enough already, after his game-winning three-run HR off Ryan Dempster that gave the Dodgers the series with a 7-4 win over the Cubs, I'm going to tell you a little story about him about something that occurred this morning at the ballpark.

You all have seen me write about Jenna, my daughter Rachel's friend who was Bat Mitzvah two weeks ago. Today, Jenna's mom came to the ballpark on her day off to get some Dodger autographs that Jenna had wanted. She got Mike Lieberthal to sign, a couple of others, and then went to Russell Martin, who wasn't signing very much, and Ethier, who she said at first she didn't even recognize.

Ethier told her: "I'm only going to sign as much as Martin does." Martin had signed, at that time, only one piece, so Ethier signed only one piece. Then Martin signed a few more, so Ethier did, too -- but only for the men waiting, not for Jenna's mom, who was the only woman around. She asked him, "Aren't you going to sign for me?"

His response will stun you. He said, "I already have five girlfriends, I don't want another one." She responded, "I don't want to be your girlfriend, I just want your autograph." But Ethier continued: "I'm just a Southwestern kind of guy, I like to rope my women in." (He's a native of Phoenix, Arizona.)

Stunned, Jenna's mom handed Ethier's card to one of the men in line and Ethier signed it (a pretty weak-looking signature, too, I might add).

Now, maybe Ethier thinks he was being funny, but it strikes me as being extremely rude. Oh, and in case any of the five girlfriends is reading this: you're not the only one!!!

I had to get that out of my system because Ethier's home run -- which just barely made the first row of seats and was definitely wind-aided -- has dealt a serious blow to the Cubs' playoff hopes. Tied now with Milwaukee, and only a game ahead of St. Louis after their apparent blowout win over the Pirates today (they're leading 16-4 at this writing, and it just went into a rain delay in the 9th inning), with 24 games left, the Cubs aren't done, not by a long shot.

But they had better start winning. Now. They are going on the road, starting tomorrow, and so are the Brewers and Cardinals. Road records:

Cubs 33-32 Cardinals 30-37 Brewers 26-42
If those performances hold true over the next ten days or so, the Cubs ought to come home on September 17 in first place.

But they have to have better hitting. On a day when the wind was howling out to left field, only Alfonso Soriano could hit the ball out of the ballpark; he accounted for all four RBI and two of the six hits with his two HR, the second of which gave the Cubs a 4-2 lead going into the 8th inning, a lead they should have been able to hold on to. Bob Howry gave a run of it back on Matt Kemp's no-doubt-about-it HR in the 8th.

Then you all know what Dempster did. I haven't had a chance to look through the game thread comments and I can only imagine what you all said about Dempster. Here's the bottom line: it's his third blown save of the year. It's a spectacular one. These things do happen, even to the best closers (example: Takashi Saito, who dispatched the Cubs 1-2-3 in the 9th and who has 37 saves with a 1.31 ERA, also has three blown saves this year). It's just that this is the worst possible time for this to happen (bad enough, that those left after the blowup in the LF bleachers started chanting, "Marmol! Marmol! Marmol!").

Does this mean "Dump Dempster?" No, it doesn't. He could easily go back to saving games -- his last blown save was June 10 in Atlanta. What has to happen is that the Cubs need to start putting opponents away, and not giving games away -- Derrek Lee absolutely, positively has to make the play at first base on James Loney's ground ball just before Ethier's HR. (He was originally charged with an error -- justified, I thought; it shouldn't have been changed to a hit.) Had that play been made, with first base open and one out, Ethier might have been walked and Dempster would have faced Tony Abreu with runners on first and second and one out. The resulting ground ball could well have been a game-ending double play. Even at 6-4, the Cubs might have felt they had a shot at getting back into the game in the 9th, but Dempster's bad outing turned horrid when he wild-pitched in the seventh run.

All of this ruined a fine, fine outing by Jason Marquis, who retired the first fourteen hitters he faced before Loney's HR in the fifth inning. He threw two more effective innings before departing for pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd, who walked. Sam Fuld ran for Floyd and scored his first major league run on Soriano's HR. Marquis deserved better.

Oh, and Daryle Ward got picked off again, in the first inning (apparently, replays showed he was safe). I was talking to Dave about this and he said sometimes big, slow guys like Ward try to get a little more of an edge leading off a base than they really should, because they know they're not fast, and apparently they feel they need this to perhaps score from first on a double. That said, big, slow guys like Ward have to pay extra attention to pitchers, particularly veteran pitchers like Derek Lowe, because otherwise they're going to get picked off again and again. The Cubs could have, since there were two walks issued by Lowe in the first inning, had a big inning and maybe put the game away early.

And as if that weren't bad enough, I left the ballpark without my umbrella (it didn't even rain today -- might as well have, given the result of the game). I tried calling Jeff, Howard and Jon to find out if any of them had taken it. Only Howard would answer his phone. He said he didn't have it. Which was true -- Jeff did. They threatened to put it on eBay and leave the auction only open to BCB members.

Now seriously. How much would any of you have bid on a used, six-year-old blue and white golf umbrella?

Maybe I shouldn't ask those questions. They met me at my car and the umbrella is now resting comfortably in the back. We all needed the comic relief after today's disaster. It's not over -- far from it -- but I can't imagine tonight's Cub flight to Pittsburgh is going to be a very happy one.

Till tomorrow. Keep faith and hope, because this race, I believe, may go down to the very last day, or even beyond.

Note: Aramis Ramirez' foul ball, which missed being a HR by about twenty feet (and which would have given the Cubs a 6-2 lead and maybe kept Dempster out of the game), broke a window on this bus parked on Waveland:

Click here for my scorecard from today's game (don't forget that you may have to click on the image in Firefox, or on the lower-right corner in IE, to expand the image to full size)

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