ARLINGTON, Texas -- Didn't we learn this lesson last year?
Mike Fontenot is not a third baseman.
I don't care how deep in Lou Piniella's doghouse Jeff Baker is. If Aramis Ramirez is unavailable for a few days because of a minor thumb injury, Jeff Baker is the Cubs' backup third baseman and needs to play in Ramirez's place.
Fontenot threw a ball away last night. Worse, then Ryan Theriot decided he had a shot at getting Ian Kinsler after the overthrow, and Kinsler wound up on third. How many times does a third baseman get taught on slow rollers like that one: just eat the ball. There was zero chance of throwing Kinsler out.
As often happens after plays like that, Ted Lilly then gave up a pair of doubles sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt -- a sac, I should point out, laid down with perfection by one of the Rangers' power hitters, Josh Hamilton. That led to two runs, all the Rangers needed to beat the Cubs 2-1 last night, a game Lou Piniella expected to be "high-scoring". Too bad, because other than that fourth inning, Lilly had an excellent outing.
Fontenot then capped off his bad night by being called out on strikes on a 1-2 count with the tying and lead runs in scoring position and two out in the eighth inning -- this on an evening when plate umpire Dan Iassogna's strike zone was all over the place. Got to protect the plate on pitches like that, I'd think.
While Xavier Nady had a decent enough night as DH -- 1-for-4 -- why wasn't Tyler Colvin serving in that capacity with the only Rangers RH starter of the series going? Colvin hit a pinch-double off Rangers closer Neftali Feliz -- only the fifth hit Feliz has allowed in his last ten appearances -- and for the second day in a row, the Cubs stranded the potential tying run at third base in the ninth inning, and left RISP in the first, second, eighth and ninth innings.
A few notes on Rangers Ballpark: like everything else in Texas... it's big. It seats 49,178, one of the larger of the new parks; I didn't have a chance to go to the upper deck and look around last night, but those seats look... pretty far from the field. So is the scoreboard, which is mounted on top of the two-decked seating area in right field (I believe the design of that part of the park was an homage to Tiger Stadium). You have to look up from anywhere in the lower deck to see it, not intuitive, and from about half the park it's not visible at all.
In center field, topped by ironwork that's supposed to remind you of the friezes at the top of Yankee Stadium, there's an office complex; below it is a kids play area and a very large gift shop, where sitting at a small table last night patiently waiting to sign his new book, "The Game From Where I Stand", was former Cubs (and Rangers) outfielder Doug Glanville. I bought the book, had him sign it, and had a short chat with him -- seems like a genuinely nice and humble guy. I told him I enjoyed his NY Times columns and remembered well his triple in the 2003 NLCS. He smiled and said he wrote about that in the book -- I look forward to reading it.
Arriving early, traffic didn't seem too bad, although it would be nearly impossible to find people you're looking for in what seemed to be about 20 parking lots surrounding the stadium. If you park on the first base side (southwest) of the ballpark, you immediately see the new Cowboys Stadium, a place the locals call the "Death Star". As big as Rangers Ballpark is, the "Death Star" dwarfs it.
In general, the stadium is nice enough, and the sightlines from my seat down the 3B line were fine, except for the constant walking up and down the aisle by vendors and late-arrivers (why would you show up for a 7:05 game at 8:45?) -- I suppose that's common from that location, I'm just not used to it from the bleachers. It just seems pretty generic, with a lot of advertising -- kind of like Chase Field without the roof.
So, the Cubs will try it again tonight. Please, Lou, don't play Mike Fontenot at third base again. He's a fine second baseman, but third base is just not part of his skillset. Yet another reason it's time for Lou to go.