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Poor Dusty's Almanack

And that refers to today's rain delay, during which I started my next summer book, Walter Isaacson's "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life", written by, of all people, a former president of CNN. I got through about 75 pages before the rain stopped in Miami, and I can say that it's a page-turner, a very readable book about perhaps the greatest American who never became President of our young country.

Meanwhile, the Cubs were occupied with reviving their moribund bats, which they did with uncommon vigor (now, was that a phrase Franklin might have turned?) in today's 16-2 blowout of the Marlins in Miami (tying their biggest offensive output of the season, a 16-3 beating of the Reds on April 17), which featured, among other things, three hits from Carlos Zambrano (I saw him get three hits in a spring-training game against the Padres), the Cubs solving Dontrelle Willis, who had nothing after the rain delay, and a monstrous moon-shot home run by Sammy Sosa, the 518th of his career; three more and he'll tie Ted Williams and Willie McCovey on the all-time list. The Cubs also won the season series from the Marlins 4-2 and now have a baby two-game winning streak.

The Cubs also announced that Sergio Mitre, a pitcher not even on the prospect radar screen, would start in place of Mark Prior on Tuesday. Mitre is 22, and has middling stats for the class AA West Tenn Diamond Jaxx.

If you listen to those posting on the Cubs newsgroup today, you'd think Dusty Baker has become an axe murderer by letting Prior continue to pitch after he hurt his shoulder in the collision with Marcus Giles on July 11th. First of all, pitching isn't going to make a bone bruise worse, which is probably what Prior has, and second, consider the competitive nature of Prior, and the fact that he wanted to stay in the game, which speaks volumes about him, and his desire to win. Given the all-star break, and the fact that Prior hasn't pitched since July 11, he'll probably be disabled retroactive to that date, and be eligible to come off the DL on the 27th, which would be his next turn to start anyway. If it were more serious, I'd imagine the Cubs would call up Juan Cruz, but perhaps someone like Mitre, who most likely hasn't even been scouted by the Braves, might be able to handcuff them. Finally, I think it's significant that the Cubs will be in their 99th game of the season before they start someone who wasn't in the original 5-man rotation on Opening Day.

The Cubs will remain 4 1/2 games behind the Astros after today's win because Houston owns the Reds this year. The next month or so is a very tough part of the Cub schedule, but if they can hang in there till after the Cardinal series ends on Sept. 4, the rest of the year after that seems quite easy schedule-wise. Look also at what happened to the Kansas City Royals after their 16-3 start; they then went 12-26, even worse than the Cubs have over the last month. But since June 8 KC is 25-13, and have opened up a huge lead in the AL Central. The Cubs are looking at a deficit, yes. They'll get several cracks at both Houston and St. Louis, starting next weekend in Houston, and the way the pitching staff has looked this weekend (OK, except for "bad" Kyle Farnsworth who showed up on Friday), I am optimistic.

Hey, Ben Franklin never knew baseball, but his entire life was made out of not giving up when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. Cub fans ought to take that lesson and run with it, at least for a while.