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Quiz Time!

Situation: runner on second, two out, batter hits a soft little fly ball into right field for a hit, the right fielder has one of the best arms in baseball. Oh, and the runner is one of the slowest players on the team, and your team is losing by two runs.

You're the third base coach. What do you do?

Why, if you're Wavin' Wendell Kim, you send that runner, Michael Barrett, on home, where he's thrown out by Richard Hidalgo by about 30 feet. Barrett's only chance was to knock the ball out of Brad Ausmus' glove, and he tried, but there was no way.

Kim must go. There is a time and place to be aggressive on the basepaths, but that wasn't it. The Cubs had rallied to make the score 5-3, and they would have had two runners on and the top of the order (OK, so it was only Jose Macias, who probably would have struck out) coming up. This wasn't the worst decision Kim ever made, and it probably didn't cost the Cubs the game, which they lost to the Astros 7-3, but even Kim's apologist, Dusty Baker, must have shaken his head at that one.

Did you know, incidentally, that Wavin' Wendell (and if you think he's been bad for the Cubs, just ask a Red Sox fan -- he did this and worse for the Red Sox from 1997-2000) has his own website? Of course, it hasn't been updated in a year; I guess his arm is too tired from waving runners, to type.

Before I continue with way too much baseball analysis for any one post, let me tell you about yet another head-shaking experience at the post office yesterday.

[rant]

I had to mail something that needed to be weighed for postage. When I got there, there were about a dozen people in line and four windows open. So what did they do? Of course, they closed two of the four windows. At one of the other open ones, a guy seemed to be putting his entire wardrobe into envelopes (don't you usually do this before you get there?) and at another, a nice older woman had about 30 envelopes to mail.

I found a scale at the other end of the post office, and luckily I had enough stamps in my wallet, so I put the stamps on the envelope and put it in the mailbox. Had I not had the stamps, I'd have been out of luck, because the lobby vending machine was out of order!

[end rant, back to baseball]

Greg Maddux didn't throw too badly yesterday, though I suppose he would disagree with that. In the second inning Morgan Ensberg hit a ball that smacked off Maddux' ankle, fielded cleanly by Aramis Ramirez for an out. Maddux shook it off and stayed in the game, but things like that can subtly change your release point, and it showed in the next inning when the two Jeffs, Bagwell and Kent, homered back-to-back, and even when Todd Hollandsworth's second-deck homer brought the Cubs to within 5-3, Kim's idiotic decision effectively ended the game.

This was the first two-game series of the year, and thus the first two-game sweep. The last time the Cubs were swept in a two-game series was last July 23-24 at Wrigley Field by the Phillies. In the second of those games, Kerry Wood got bombed pretty good in a 14-6 loss, and the Cubs went under .500 at that time, 50-51, and fell 5.5 games out of first place, and there was lots of hand-wringing, but guess what? They won the division anyway. It's way too early for worrying, particularly with all the injuries.

To add to the injury list, Tom Goodwin and Todd Wellemeyer are probably going on the DL. If this happens there will be nine players on the DL at once; the club record is 16 in 1970.

Let's look at that 1970 team for a moment, for comparison's sake. On June 20, 1970 the Cubs were 35-25 and had a 4.5 game lead over the Mets. They played just a little under .500 from then on, 49-53, and finished second, five games out, the closest they'd get to a fivision title in the late 60's-early 70's era.

The only major injury to a regular that I can specifically remember was the horrible knee injury to Randy Hundley, who played only 73 games that year and was never the same after that. Six regulars (Hickman, Beckert, Kessinger, Williams, Santo and Callison) played 143 or more games, and three starters (Jenkins, Holtzman and Hands) started 38 or more games, and all three had ERA's of 3.70 or lower, and Milt Pappas, acquired on June 23, started 20 times, not missing a start after the trade.

That team must have had its share of bad luck. They scored 806 runs and allowed 679, and by the Pythagorean formula should have gone 94-68, which would have won the division easily. Without specific records (and the fading memories of this year which happened when I was in junior high school), I'm guessing that most of those 16 DL trips were made by lesser players.

Anyway, the DL trips for Goodwin and Wellemeyer aren't such a big deal since Wellemeyer is dead (or appears to be, anyway, from the number of times he's been used, and I had to laugh when one of the papers this morning said the Cubs had been 'a pitcher short' in this series. Huh? They've been pretty much going without the 12th guy anyway!) and Goodwin hasn't contributed all that much this year.

So, it appears that Jimmy Anderson will probably be called up to replace Wellemeyer, and will go to the bullpen (at least at first). Glendon Rusch and Matt Clement will start the doubleheader on Friday, and then Rusch may go to the bullpen and Anderson will start sometime next week against Houston. David Kelton will most likely be called up to replace Goodwin, and then...

We await Mark Prior's return. He'll start Sunday for Iowa, and then be on target for a Friday, June 4 start in Wrigley Field against the Pirates.

Things seem bleak, perhaps, but the Cubs still trail by only a game and a half. It's early. Relax.