After it rained before the game for the third day in a row (delaying the start about ten minutes), a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky to the east of the ballpark; both kaseyi and I took photos, from two different angles -- and the second one I took shows a rare "double rainbow". That's probably the brightest rainbow I've ever seen above Wrigley Field.
And isn't that a good metaphor for this season so far? The Cubs shone brightly this entire weekend, sweeping the White Sox (their sixth straight win over the Sox dating back to last year), this time dominating them in a 7-1 victory where the Cubs, for the first time in the series, led from start to finish. They scored virtually every way you could think of -- from walks and stolen bases and wild pitches to home runs, another one from Aramis Ramirez (hot again, four HR in the series), and Eric Patterson's first major league dinger (extremely small sample size, but he's shown the last two days why a lot of people here think he should have been on the roster all year). The Cubs hit nine HR in all this weekend, and the usually-volatile Ozzie Guillen actually said some charitable things afterward:
"Believe me, I like it," he said. "I talked to the players and said this is the best scenario you can ever have. If [no fans] show up, if no media show up, that means these games don't mean anything for the city. It's fun for the players -- the players enjoy it. I've never seen the city so into this three-game series, and there's another one next weekend.
"The Cubs, they beat the [hell] out of us. They played better than we did. That's the main thing. If people are mad about it, well, are we smiling in here? Are we happy? Are we celebrating that we lost against them? No."
Before you think I'm getting soft on Ozzie, I should point out that during the rain, while the tarp was still on the field, he was in CF throwing a ball around with someone -- I think it might have been one of his sons -- and making what appeared to be obscene gestures with his hips toward bleacher fans.
Ozzie. Gotta love him, right? Thankfully, the Cubs had extra security in the bleachers last night -- they needed it, as the crowd, likely overfueled from being able to party all day before the Sunday night game, was pretty rowdy. There were quite a few ejections, both of people wearing Cubs AND White Sox clothes (many of the ejections appeared to be for underage drinking, a chronic problem at Wrigley).
OK, enough of that. How about some love for Ryan Dempster? I never thought he could become a good starter -- it had been five years since he had started regularly, he always walked too many batters, etc. But give Dempster all the credit -- he lost weight, got in shape, and worked his butt off, and the results can be seen with every start. Until the 6th, every out was either a strikeout or an infield grounder. After that the Sox did start hitting some line drives, but Dempster gutted it out through 8, getting a standing ovation when batting in the 8th, and might have finished had he not allowed the first two Sox hits in the 9th. Bob Howry -- this is encouraging -- put the next three down in order to finish it.
More good stuff: Kosuke Fukudome, who seemed a bit less patient than usual in his first few days leading off, walked to lead off the game -- on four pitches. Then Patterson walked -- on four pitches. Patterson didn't see a strike till his third at-bat -- when he homered after Fukudome had been hit by a Javier Vazquez pitch. It wasn't intentional -- Vazquez was wild all night -- and it was an anxious moment briefly, as Fukudome appeared at first to be injured, but he shook it off.Even more good news: Bruce Miles tells us that video reviews of Carlos Marmol's delivery have apparently found some flaws and Marmol's going to fix them:
Marmol seemed upbeat about the video session.
"I was looking at video, what I did wrong and what I did good," he said. "I know what I'm doing now. I think (being too low) was a problem. I opened too soon. I'll just stay a little more on top."
Marmol added that he had a stretch like this in 2006, when he was a starter for a time with the Cubs.
"I think I can fix this," he said.
History in the making: the 14 consecutive home wins is the longest such streak in seventy-two years, since a 14-game home winning streak from June 4-July 10, 1936. The club record is 18, set in 1935, the first 18 of the team-record 21-game winning streak that helped that '35 team win the NL pennant (yes, homestands in that era were typically far longer than they are today). The 1935 Cubs are the last Cub team to win 100 games.
As I have written many times here: savor this, revel in it, remember every moment, where you were, who you shared it with. We are experiencing things that have not been done in many generations of Cub teams.
Now, I must comment on last night's TV broadcast, which I did not, of course, see, but heard plenty about.
There are many reasons virtually all of us criticize Joe Morgan's "broadcasting" (the quotes are there for obvious reasons; he may be among the worst sports broadcasters in history). However, when he invents "facts" to back up his biases, I think he needs to be called on it and shown that doing this isn't just wrong, it's irresponsible. I speak here of his continued carping about the Wrigley Field outfield wall basket and his contention that Ernie Banks deposited "many" home runs into the basket. In fairness, I am compelled to point out that Morgan is correct (Gasp! Morgan is right about something!) when he says that the basket was installed for security reasons. Early in the 1970 season fans began to walk on top of the wall, which at the time was a flat surface, and some jumped onto the field. So, at the end of a homestand (I believe the one that ended on April 26, 1970), the Cubs put concrete on top of the wall, angled so no one could walk on it, and a basket which would take a fairly large jump to leap over. Sometime in the last ten years -- I can't remember exactly when -- someone jumped over it and landed on the field. The leap and 12-foot drop caused him to break both his ankles.
Ernie Banks was nearing the end of his career when this basket was installed. I went through Ernie’s game logs. After April 26, 1970, he hit 8 home runs at Wrigley Field. Eight. The first one he hit after that was one I personally witnessed -- his career #499, hit on May 9, 1970. That one didn’t go in the basket. Video exists of his 500th, hit three days after that, on May 12, 1970 -- you've probably seen this video, and know that one didn’t go in the basket, either.
That leaves six others. It's possible that all of them landed in the basket, but I doubt it. And even if that's true, that's six of 512 -- a little over 1% of his career total, maybe 2% of all he hit at Wrigley. The basket was never, ever called "Banks Boulevard", nor nicknamed after any other player. Just as a guess, without any corroborating information or formal research, I'd speculate that about 1-2% of all HR hit at Wrigley Field -- by the Cubs or by their opponents -- land in the basket (as Eric Patterson's did last night).
For promulgating this egregiously bad information on the air -- it's a blatant lie -- Joe Morgan should be immediately fired and ESPN should air a correction prominently on Baseball Tonight, and again at the beginning of next Sunday's telecast.
Enjoy this off day -- you can bet the Cubs are. Till tomorrow.