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Writer's Block

Well, it finally happened. I got home and I simply could not figure out what to write about today's disastrous, depressing, deflating, disheartening, dispiriting, distressing (can you tell I got the thesaurus out today?) 4-2 Cub loss to the Brewers.

So, I went out to the gas station, which I could have put off till tomorrow, and drove around a bit, and here I am, still shaking my head in disbelief that yet another stellar pitching performance, this time by Kerry Wood, was wasted.

Before I talk about the game, a little rant about bleacher etiquette.

[begin rant]

All the time, those of us who are there every day or nearly so, see the one-timers who show up after game time and expect to get a seat. Security usually gently informs them that the bleacher ticket is general admission, and does not guarantee a seat -- it's either seats or standing room. The bleachers have been oversold for years (at least in terms of the number of tickets sold compared to the number of actual seats), and even though the number of people standing at the fence wasn't that large today, there were a few people who were standing behind us when the game started. It must have been crowded elsewhere -- today's announced paid crowd of 39,911 made the series total 160,035, a new Wrigley Field record for a four-game series.

Anyway, just after game time a guy came up and broke the unwritten etiquette, which I will present to you now.

We were holding a seat for Brian, who I eventually reached on the phone to find out that he had to work overtime, when this guy came up and said, "I'm taking this seat in five minutes."

Well, that instantly causes dislike -- why would I want to sit next to someone like that? He began a silly rant about how he has the same ticket that I do (actually, he doesn't -- I have a season ticket, and I'm sure this guy didn't). Fortunately, there was a nice woman and her boyfriend who were splitting time among themselves and a couple of their friends who were also looking for seats, so we let them sit next to Phil.

This usually is the end of it, but the original guy wouldn't leave me alone the whole game, even when he was busy talking to some drunk women in silly blue fuzzy hats back at the fence; kept asking me if I wanted food, etc., when he knew I didn't really want to have anything to do with him.

So here's the bottom line -- if you see anyone has an open seat around game time, ask if it's taken, and if the person says that someone's coming (and we often have people arrive after game time), ask if you can sit there till they arrive. If you do that, we'll be happy to let you.

As for Mr. Jerk, I doubt we'll see him again.

[end rant]

Now, a rant about the game itself.

It started auspiciously, with Wood striking out five in the first two innings and appearing, as Mike and I agreed, to have good control. The tomato piece landed on the Jose Macias square in the fifth inning, and when Macias homered in the third, I said, "Behold the power of the tomato! It works TWO INNINGS EARLY!" Jeff's friend Mark, who was there today visiting from California, brought me a tomato from his garden, and we would have used a piece of it for the ceremony today, except that no one could find a knife to cut it up with, not even a plastic one. The best we could find was a plastic fork. Today's tomato piece came from a Wrigley Field hot dog, since Howard didn't come to today's game, and I believe I'll have to place my sandwich order from Jimmy John's with him early for tomorrow's game.

Speaking of Jeff, he's starting to wonder about his luck. He skipped yesterday's game and the Cubs are now 4-0 in games he's missed this year. I told him not to press his luck too much.

Today, Sue came with a friend of hers and I gave her a number of tickets which I had obtained for her for future games, and she asked me jokingly, "Do you take credit cards?"

Thinking about it, I actually do take credit cards -- I have a Paypal account which I set up mostly for eBay use, but I set it up to take credit cards.

Therefore, Al-Master -- cash, check OR credit card!

And now, back to baseball, or the lack thereof:

This offense simply does not know how to press in for the kill. With two out in the first, the Cubs loaded the bases with a double and two walks but could not score, and that was probably the best opportunity, because Chris Capuano couldn't throw a strike to save his life in that inning -- after that, he settled down, and was the beneficiary of two double plays, including a spectacular one started by Geoff Jenkins running into the LF wall to stab a long line drive from Aramis Ramirez (who was welcomed back to the lineup with a long standing ovation), and then easily doubling Moises Alou off first.

Little things killed the Cubs after that -- Sammy Sosa's ill-advised dive after Scott Podsednik's liner in the sixth, allowed it to get by him for a triple, when it should have been a single, and no runs would have scored in the inning.

Little things -- Dusty brought Francis Beltran as the first man out of the bullpen, with Kerry Wood on one of those darned pitch counts again (85, apparently, since he threw 86), and Beltran caught Capuano Disease, not being able to throw strikes, and by the time Kent Mercker came in, one run had already scored, on an infield out to first base that wasn't quite hit hard enough with the infield pulled in, and then Mercker gave up a line-drive double by that pest Podsednik (who could have been a Cub for the taking before the 2003 season -- he had been outright released by Seattle).

Little things -- Sosa letting a popup drop in front of him for a single, leading to the fourth run in the eighth inning.

This team is not going to win anything relying on the long ball, even though they hit two today, because they simply are not patient enough hitters to get enough men on base to make those homers more than solo jobs. The Cubs had six hits today, but never more than one in any one inning, and that's not going to get the job done.

Alex Gonzalez is due back tomorrow, and that, at least, gets the Opening Day lineup back together for the first time since the first week of the season.

Mike mentioned to me today, that if the Cubs had won and the Cardinals lost (obviously, the opposite happened), it would have been a six-game deficit and could have been cut to four by sweeping the next two games.

Doing that will now cut it to six, but it will also do something more important. It would win the season series with the Cardinals, which could come into play if the Cubs were somehow tied with St. Louis at the end of the season, and both qualified for the playoffs -- head-to-head competition would decide who was the division champion and who was the wild card. That wasn't how they did it in 2001 when the Astros and Cardinals tied for the Central title, but Houston had won the season series that year, and this rule was changed effective with the 2003 season. Today, all the nearest competition in the wild-card race (the Giants, the Padres, the Reds) all lost, so the Cubs remain only one game behind the Giants, who currently lead that race.

In any case, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's just win tomorrow.
Mark Prior threw today and experienced no pain, so he may make his scheduled start on Tuesday, but Glendon Rusch has been so good in his, and Kerry Wood's, absence, that I'm not even concerned if Prior sits out this start. If you believe this article in today's Daily Herald, Prior, and virtually every other pitcher in baseball, has bad mechanics, according to former pitcher turned kinesiologist Mike Marshall.

Frankly, I think that's just silly, and Marshall's a perfect example of a guy who says, "Heads I win, tails you're wrong." He's a smart and talented man, but his ideas are just this side of lunatic.

This team isn't winning because they are not hitting. It's time for Jim Hendry to go out and make some sort of move to jump-start the offense.