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A Gloomy Day

... in more ways than one.

First of all, let me tell you that I understand much more completely today, exactly why Dusty Baker and so many other Cub managers have railed against schedulers who have scheduled the Cubs to play a night game on the road and a day game at home the next day.

Last night's game ended at about 9:30 pm. Twelve hours later I was on a plane home from Houston and went to the ballpark for today's listless 2-1 loss to the Athletics at Wrigley Field.

I was tired. And I at least got some sleep at a reasonable hour; the Cubs didn't fly in this morning, they must have come in at 2 am, then had to rush out to the ballpark to be there by around 11 or so (no, they didn't take batting practice).

And then, they are expected to put together a first-rate baseball performance?

MLB's schedule-makers should have mandated that the Astros change yesterday's game to a day game. It's my understanding that MLB only does this if the flight home is more than a certain length of time, and my flight was only a little over two hours (it was longer going down there), so I guess it didn't qualify.

The A's also had to come in from a night game, but they were in St. Louis, a little closer, and they did hit today.

Neither team hit much during the game; Mark Kotsay was pretty much a one-man show, driving in both Oakland runs with a homer and a double and making a fine running catch on what should have been a Ramon Martinez double to lead off the bottom of the 8th.

Sammy Sosa's ballyhooed return from the DL -- and he was greeted with several standing ovations -- was a bust. He struck out twice, had a terrible at-bat in the fourth (flying out on the second pitch) and ended the game with an easy grounder to short. Jason Dubois was sent back to Iowa, which he needs -- he must have nearly rusted sitting on the bench, having only one at-bat in the last ten days (a pinch-hit strikeout in the 12-3 win over the Cardinals last week). Tomorrow, Jon Leicester will be sent down to make room for Mark Grudzielanek, as the Cubs for the first time all year get down to 11 pitchers. Given what has happened in the last week, since the 15-inning game on Sunday, that's all they should need for the time being.

Meanwhile, Matt Clement deserved better; when you throw eight innings of two-run, no-walk, eight-strikeout ball, you ought to win.

The gloom of the baseball was made worse when it started raining lightly in the 8th inning; that only darkened the mood a bit more. During the pre-game music and advertising, the PA was not working in the bleachers, which frankly, Jeff and I didn't mind a bit. They did manage to fix it before gametime, and for some reason, Wayne Messmer, who normally does PA for weekday games, was not there -- night/weekend announcer Paul Friedman filled in.

Ex-Cubs Damian Miller (who started) and Eric Karros (who didn't, and who is hitting .170) both got warm ovations. Apparently these two have spent as much time as they can telling their new teammates about the 2003 season. I guess the A's are getting the message, as they too have survived injuries to starting players (Mark Ellis, Eric Chavez) and are in first place. Incidentally, with this game, the Cubs have now played every current AL team in interleague play -- except for the Red Sox. An omen?

To honor the long A's-Cubs spring training tradition, both teams wore their dark-colored tops today (Blue for the Cubs, Green for the A's), and I think you know how I feel about that. Traditionalist that I am, I think home teams should wear white (or pinstripes, as the Cubs do) and visiting teams all gray. That, however, doesn't sell as many "authentic game jerseys". This is the primary reason you see teams with five or six "official" jerseys, the Diamondbacks being the worst offenders. It is all about money.

Anyway, I did enjoy my visit to Houston, despite the fact that it really is a fairly boring city without a lot of touristy things to do, and that the ballpark is a melange of quirks looking for a theme. I have written about my kids here often, and I know they miss me (well, maybe, or maybe they just run wild and don't!) while I'm gone, and my wife is the one who keeps things running smoothly in the house and with them, while I enjoy the passion of baseball.