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Be Careful What You Wish For

This entire month has been so tense, so filled with close games going both ways that I've been dying, begging, for a blowout to relieve some of that tension. The only blowout win this month was the 9-2 win at Milwaukee on September 7, the one I missed completely because I was on the plane to San Juan at the time.

Well, we got one last night, only not quite the blowout we wanted. The Pirates beat the Cubs 8-2 last night, a very dispiriting loss that had me turning away from the TV for a while.

In a way, losses like this can be cleansing, can break some of the tension and that's what I'm hoping: that it works as kind of reverse psychology on the ballclub, knowing that even though they got beat badly, they didn't lose any ground, just a day off the calendar, true, at a time when you really can't afford to do that, but there's still a week left.

With a week left in 1998, the Cubs and Mets were tied and the Giants were three games behind, seemingly hopelessly out of it. The Giants won five in a row and the Mets lost five in a row and that forced the memorable tiebreaker game.

Matt Clement looked like he was laboring from the very first inning and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before he got hammered all over the yard; he was lucky he made it last till the fourth inning. Even at that, a couple of the hits, including Jose Hernandez' two-run single, were bleeders that just barely got through the infield. Now, Dusty is talking about holding Clement back a couple of days and not starting him again till next Saturday at home, and filling in his slot in Cincinnati with Cruz or shudder! Estes (though Estes is 1-0 with a decent 3.75 ERA against the Reds in 12 IP this year).

Fortunately, that leaves two starts for both Mark Prior, including today, and Kerry Wood, and both of them have stepped up big-time in this 14-6 September. And since the Cardinals finally decided that they could actually beat the Astros (what does Tony LaRussa think we're going to think after Matt Morris was quoted as saying he hoped the Astros win, and then he got the crap beat out of him by those same Astros?), perhaps the Cubs could go into the final week only a half-game out. Houston still has a series left with the Giants, and though SF has already clinched, they still have home-field advantage to play for, and I believe Felipe Alou has enough integrity as a manager to play at least most of his starters during the series.

One thing is certain: Wendell Kim must go. We all used to rip on Gene Glynn, Don Baylor's 3B coach, hired as a crony, as are so many coaches. But I have also talked to Red Sox fans who used to pull their hair out when Kim was the 3B coach there.

What was he thinking when he sent Randall Simon on Jason Kendall's wild throw on a dropped third strike with two out in the sixth? Simon runs like he has two pianos on his back, and the Cubs could have had runners on second and third with the pitcher's spot up, which probably would have pushed Lloyd McClendon into pulling Ryan Vogelsong (who threw really well, yet another young pitcher the Cubs obviously didn't scout too well), and going into his weak bullpen, possibly getting Eric Karros up there, and maybe turning a 6-1 game into a 6-3 game, and then who knows?

It's time to stop putting a crony or pal in as your 3B coach, which can be a tremendously important job. Save that for your bench coach.

So Wendell must go, and take Antonio Alfonseca with you, will you? The Cubs' two rookie pitchers, Felix Sanchez and Sergio Mitre, threw better than 6F last night.

Finally, I have been doing this at work for the last few weeks, and it's worked surprisingly well. My co-workers say "How about those Cubs?" and I say in return, "They suck!" and when I do that, they win. Of course, I was off work yesterday. I may have to start calling in on my days off, just to do this.

Hope today is jittery, but still alive.