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Ka-BOOM!

Last night's game was a variation of the old Zen koan about the tree falling in the forest.

If a bullpen implodes in front of 32,000 people, how loud a noise does it make?

Actually, not very loud at all, except if you count the cheers of the Cardinal fans as the Cubs blew a great performance by Kerry Wood and lost to St. Louis 4-2 last night.

OK, let's get this clear. Antonio Alfonseca should never again be allowed near a pitching mound wearing a Cubs uniform. You hear that, Dusty? Anchor him to the bullpen bench. Or better yet, Jim Hendry, just eat the one month left on his contract and release him.

What I really don't understand is who Hendry called up to replace Dave Veres, who has gone on the DL in a procedural move to (a) rest his shoulder, and (b) give the club more flexibility to put people on a postseason roster, since you can replace anyone on the DL when it comes time to submit such lists. That's how Francisco Rodriguez, who didn't even make his ML debut till Sept. 18 last year, made the Angels' playoff roster in 2002.

Jon Leicester isn't one of the Cubs' top prospects. He's not a bad prospect, but why would you want him in your bullpen during a critical series against the Cardinals? Where was Todd Wellemeyer? At least he has some major league experience. What this move does, essentially, is give the Cubs a five-man bullpen until Sunday, when Juan Cruz will be called up to start. And with all five of those pitchers throwing last night, the bullpen is stretched out yet again, so Carlos Zambrano will have to try to replicate his success of last Friday. Only Joe Borowski was able to put out the fire last night in that disastrous eighth inning, and by then it was too late. To be fair, Mark Guthrie was probably squeezed a little too much around the plate when he should have had Jim Edmonds struck out, only to have plate umpire Bruce Dreckman (one of the lesser of the younger umpires, I think) call two balls in a row, after which Edmonds singled.

All season, people have been begging Dusty not to extend his pitchers too far, and he's ignored them. The moronic Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti said today that Wood should have been allowed another inning, but after 125 pitches and dominating as he hasn't in over a month, I think he was spent. The problem wasn't that Wood was taken out, the problem was that the wrong pitcher was in the game. Should Kyle Farnsworth have started the inning? Probably. Should Wellemeyer have been available? Definitely.

I've written so many times this year about dramatic Cub wins that I thought would propel the team on to a long winning streak. It hasn't happened, not even once. So I suspect the converse to be true. This is just one loss. The Cubs still have the best August record of any of the three Comedy Central contenders (14-10); they trail by 1.5 games in both the division and wild card races; and they can still come home with a series win and a winning road trip with a victory tonight.

Most of you probably watched the game on ESPN; that national telecast is, of course, blacked out in Chicago so as to "protect" the FSN local advertising, so ESPN in the Chicago area got Philadelphia/Montreal, which I was sneaking peeks at between innings. Steve Stone was in rare form during the FSN telecast. They did a number of "game breaks" with studio reporter Gail Fischer, who at one point mentioned the [sarcasm] thrilling [/sarcasm] news that Tyler Arnason had re-signed with the Blackhawks.

On returning to the game, Stone said, "You just can't get enough hockey news during the pennant race." Man, did we miss Steve the two years he was gone. You can even see in your mind the smirk on his face when he's saying that.

Of course, that was before the bullpen blowup.