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Bad Baseball

This goes back a ways, to the old "Saturday Night Live" with Dan Aykroyd, who played a snooty reviewer named Leonard Pinth-Garnel, who reviewed poems, books and films that were awful, then ended by throwing the book, poem or script in a garbage can and saying:

"There, there. That wasn't so good, was it?"

That was today's horrific 13-2 loss to the Pirates, perhaps the worst home opener performance I have ever seen by the Cubs, and you know as well as I do that includes some 95+ loss teams.

There's so much bad to go around it includes more than the players, but let's start there. Greg Maddux was overthrowing again, walking five in three plus innings. He's had trouble locating the strike zone in his two starts, and that's primarily the reason he got off to the bad start last year. Dave said it's because his changeup is his out pitch and pitchers like this have trouble in cold weather, gripping the ball.

But he wasn't the worst. Andy Pratt, who will no doubt find himself on a plane to Des Moines tonight, threw nine pitches, none of them anywhere near the strike zone, walking two batters and hitting the third. Mike Wuertz allowed his first run of the season, and Joe Borowski got pounded for five hits in a garbage-time ninth inning, and maybe those worried about his velocity have something there. I guess Dusty put him in because he hadn't thrown since Friday, and there's the off day tomorrow, but when you put closers in non-closing situations, this is what can happen.

Who else had problems? Well, the flashy new message boards (which had pictures of dancing Pepsi bottles on them when I came in, a very weird sight) were all messed up. First of all, though they keep ball-strike-out and score notations, there is no longer a place for hits or errors on them, as there was on the old boards. So the only place hits are indicated is on the bottom of the main board in CF, and nowhere is there a place for errors, and the Pirates made four of them today, not that it mattered, though those errors led to the Cubs' only runs, both unearned. In fact, till the eighth inning the Cubs had only one hit, a Sammy Sosa single in the first.

The board had so much trouble that the batting averages put on the CF board didn't match the ones on the RF and LF boards (they were always one point off, and at one point Jose Castillo, the Pirates 2B, was batting 1.000 on one board and .1000 on another), and finally there were so many runs scored that the board said the Pirates were winning 46-2, at which point they shut it down entirely.

Except for the advertising, of course.

We had a good representation of our group out there today, but almost everyone rapidly lost interest in anything but making silly Monty Python jokes; Jeff gave up scoring and spent a couple of innings in the men's room; Dave gave me two tickets to sell for later this week and they sold in only a few minutes; and by the fourth inning the upper deck was emptying out, and by the end of the game there couldn't have been more than a few thousand people left in the entire ballpark.

Ran into George, who as I mentioned during spring training still had his ticket wristband on. He still had it on today, even though he said he would cut it off on Opening Day. He said he'd been by the ticket office on Friday and asked if his number had been called yet. They actually laughed.

There wasn't a single good thing that any Cub did today. Nothing. Okay, here's about as good as it gets: there were only three Cub hits in total, but they did hit several fly balls that probably would have been home runs on another day, all to left field, including a Todd Hollandsworth pinch-hit out that would have been well onto Waveland Avenue. I told Howard about the seventh inning, that it's good these only count as one loss, because they sure feel worse than that. About an inning after that some drunks came by and knocked Howard's cap off, but as they were walking away some dollar bills flew out of their hands, and they were too drunk to notice, so Howard made $3 on the deal.

A few statistical oddities from today's game (other than the goofy stuff that was on the scoreboards):

* Jack Wilson had seven at-bats in a nine-inning game, tying a ML record that is "held by many players", according to the Sporting News Record Book. Maybe, but I don't think I've seen it before and Mike says the only one he can remember was in the famous 22-0 shutout that the Pirates (of course) put on the Cubs in 1975.

* Both teams had innings in which they scored two runs on no hits.

* Brian Meadows of the Pirates got a three-inning save, a relative rarity these days. He also had two plate appearances, something you almost never see a relief pitcher get in a game.

Finally, to add (minor) injury to insult, I stabbed myself with my pencil and it started bleeding. I've always said that they're not sharp enough unless they can draw blood, and I proved it today.

We shall try again Wednesday, when it will be a bit warmer, anyway.