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World Series, Here We Come!

No, not the Cubs, silly, although with 64 games left in the season, anything's still possible.

I'm talking about my son Mark's Park District Diamondbacks team, which made their World Series with a 16-15 win over the Rockies today. This'll be a best-of-three series starting Tuesday afternoon. They are National League champions.

[sigh] If only...

And anyway, this was way more worth leading today's entry with than the Cubs.

Why not have a no-hitter thrown against you? It's been nearly 39 years since the Cubs were no-hit (Sandy Koufax's perfect game on September 9, 1965, and if you have not read Jane Leavy's excellent biography of Koufax, the book intersperses Koufax's life with the nine innings of that game), and nearly 32 since they were involved in a no-hitter of any kind (Milt Pappas' should-have-been-perfect game, that was spoiled by umpire Bruce Froemming with two out and two strikes in the 9th, on September 2, 1972).

Eric Milton of the Phillies threw lights-out for 8 2/3 innings today. If the no-hitter had been completed, I was going to write something like this as a lead:

The Cubs took my advice and decided not to hit any home runs today.

Or anything else, for that matter.

Frankly, even after Michael Barrett's bloop landed just beyond Doug Glanville's reach (irony: Glanville had been sent in as a defensive replacement), and Mark Grudzielanek's single, I figured the game was over when Corey Patterson came up, because Patterson had looked pretty clueless all day, and then he slammed the game-tying double over Glanville's head.

You know, games like this can be turning points. If the Cubs had come back to win it, they'd have taken two of three from the Phillies, had a huge emotional lift, and ... well, blah, blah, blah.

Instead, LaTroy Hawkins gave it all back in only ten pitches and it resulted in yet another depressing loss, 3-2 to Philadelpia, and worse, another one-run loss, dropping the Cubs' record in one-run games to 13-19.

Milton struck out twelve and made pretty much everyone look silly doing it. He threw a no-hitter for the Twins against the Angels on September 11, 1999 and you could easily see by his stuff today how he could do that. What you can't figure out is how his season ERA is 4.40, but the way the Cubs have been attacking pitchers lately (which is to say, not at all), this sort of result wasn't surprising.

One good thing that came out of today -- Mark Prior threw six solid innings, throwing 96 pitches and having no pain whatsoever. He was simply taken out on a pitch count, and that's a pretty generous pitch count for someone who missed a start with pain in his elbow. I'd expect that he'll make his next start on Friday with no problems.

Meanwhile, Chip and Steve went on and on and on about how good the Cub starting rotation has been, and yes, it sure has been. But the bullpen has been iffy. Even today, the bullpen (Jon Leicester and Kent Mercker) managed to keep the game close until Hawkins blew it. The Cubs have found out what the Twins did when he closed for them. Hawkins simply isn't a ninth-inning pitcher, whether it is in situations where the team is ahead, or behind. He needs to go back to the setup role, which he did quite well until Joe Borowski went down, and either the Cubs need to put Kyle Farnsworth, or Leicester, or anyone they can come up with in at closer.

Part of the problem in acquiring someone this year has been the fact that there are, in the National League alone, ten teams within six and a half games of the wild-card lead (and five more teams in the AL who are that close), and so there haven't been that many teams willing to part with anyone, since almost any team that close figures, "Hey, maybe we can do it." I'm not suggesting the Cubs become sellers either -- because, frankly, what do they have to sell? -- but maybe what Bill James once called a "challenge trade" might be the way to go.

A challenge trade is where you send players who play the same position to someone else, hoping that the change of scenery will do them good. Trading Alex Gonzalez to Montreal for Orlando Cabrera would be such a deal, not that I'm suggesting this, or maybe Gonzalez and prospects for Nomar Garciaparra, or Corey Patterson and prospects for Ichiro (yes, I know Ichiro plays RF, but he'd play CF for the Cubs).

Jim Hendry surprised us last year when he acquired Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez, and that deal jump-started the entire ballclub. I'm sure Hendry's cellphone battery is getting a workout this week. IF a deal is to be made, it probably won't be any of the ones I mentioned above, nor any of the other rumored players we have heard -- I'll bet it'll be a deal none of us has thought of. That seems to be the way Hendry works.

Whatever it takes -- this team clearly needs bullpen help, and fast. As I said, with 64 games to go, it's far from over. And if you haven't had enough of the Brewers yet, having already seen them seven times this month, there's four more coming up this week. Bleah.

In the meantime, let's go Park District Diamondbacks -- at least maybe I can have one World Series win this year!