You'll forgive me if I have more than one flashback from Friday's 3-2 Cubs loss to the Mets at Wrigley Field.
Third base coach David Bell made one of the worst sends since the 2003-04 days of Wavin' Wendell Kim, who used to ship runners home toward impending doom, when he sent Darwin Barney around third with one out on a single by David DeJesus into right field in the bottom of the eighth; a run would have tied the game.
As you can see by the photo at the top of this post, Barney was out by so much that he didn't even bother to slide; the ball beat him by at least 20 feet. Worse, it was thrown by former Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd, who had entered the game in the previous inning as a pinch-hitter and stayed in to play right field -- a position he never played while he was a member of the Cubs, not even once.
Had Bell held Barney at third, the Cubs would have had the tying run 90 feet away with one out and the middle of the order coming up. DeJesus did advance to second base on the throw to the plate, but that play seemed to take all the stuffing out of the Cubs; they went down meekly the rest of the way.
I haven't been impressed with Bell as a third-base coach so far; he's made other sends like this one, and let's hope he learns from this mistake. This is Bell's first year as a major-league base coach; I can forgive him some of these, but I don't want to see too many more of them.
The Cubs got to Matt Harvey early, scoring two runs within the first four batters in the bottom of the first inning after David Wright had homered off Edwin Jackson in the top of the inning. But after that Harvey retired 19 of the next 20 Cubs to face him, allowing just a third-inning single to Starlin Castro before the Cubs' ill-fated rally in the eighth. Meanwhile, the Mets were tying the game on a Daniel Murphy home run, and then Harvey was involved in the Mets' eventual game-winning rally.
With two out and Rick Ankiel on second base, Terry Collins let Harvey bat for himself in the top of the seventh. This is pretty unusual for starting pitchers in modern baseball, but consider that Harvey was dominant and the Mets have a somewhat shaky bullpen. Harvey came into the game as not a terrible hitter: 8-for-34 in his career (.235) with three doubles and three RBI. Last year at Triple-A Buffalo, he went 4-for-15 with a home run. (NOTE: This doesn't mean I'm changing my mind about the DH!)
Harvey bounced a Jackson fastball past Starlin Castro into left field, scoring Murphy and vindicating Collins' decision. You could see after the first inning, too, why Harvey has become one of the best pitchers in the National League this year. He simply buzzed through the Cubs lineup; not that many strikeouts (six), but no walks, and many easy ground balls.
Jackson, for his part, threw a pretty good game, getting into the seventh inning with just seven hits allowed and five strikeouts. If you're going to give up home runs, at least make sure that there's no one on base. Jackson's ERA is still an unseemly 5.76, but that's down from 6.39 two starts ago; if he keeps throwing this way, the wins should follow.
The crowd felt like a flashback from days gone by, too; there were scads of empty spaces in the bleachers as well as the lower and upper deck, and that brings me to something I'd like to point out about Friday's scheduled promotional giveaway, a pitcher-and-cup set, which, according to the link above, was to go to:
First 1O,OOO adults 21-and-older
21-and-older, because the sponsor was a beer company. All right, that's no problem, this has been done before.
The problem came when someone decided that these items weren't to be given out to fans coming in. In the past, this has been done because there was thought the item might be thrown on the field. I doubt that would have happened in this case, because ... well, people really don't do that any more. Yes, I know it's happened in the past, but... the Cubs are the only team, to my knowledge, that does this.
The issue is this: in the past, when the Cubs have done this, they have handed out tickets or coupons to the first 10,000 (or whatever number they have chosen). This time -- no tickets, no coupons. No, it had been decreed that the first 10,000 to leave would get the items. I think you can see the problem with this: you are thus penalized if you want to stay and see the entire game. Further, since "the first 10,000" were promised the item, those who came early were also penalized. I heard from some very upset people about this; the Cubs ran out of the promo long before the game ended.
Look, I realize this isn't a huge big deal. But the Cubs caused a public relations issue when there shouldn't have been one. Hand out the items when people come in. It really isn't that difficult; doing it at game's end creates bottlenecks with people lining up for the items when others -- who have no ticket nor coupon -- are just trying to leave. Finally, I do not understand and never have, the "first 10,000" or "first 20,000", or whatever. If you're going to do a promo, it should be for everyone (or in this case, every over-21). The sponsor pays for the item -- how much more can it cost?
Finally, leaving the park at 4:30, traffic was heavier than it has been on other weekdays leaving at this time, and it took me longer to drive home than usual. The Cubs should consider carefully the idea of shoving this much traffic onto local streets at 6 p.m. Fridays, if they go ahead with their 3:05 start idea, which I'm still against.
The Cubs will try it again against the Mets Saturday at 12:05, and there's another giveaway, too. Let's hope both the players and the marketing folks have a better day.