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The Beginning Of The End

For once, an obviously wrong umpiring call did NOT cost the Cubs a ballgame.

I hate to complain, and I really think the ballplayers do too, but there seem to have been an inordinately large number of calls that have gone against the Cubs this year that have been so clearly wrong. Could this be a reaction to the Cincinnati series in April, where there were several bad calls and the two incidents which resulted in the Kerry Wood and Dusty Baker suspensions?

Whatever it is, this is more and more not looking like the Cubs' year. Yes, I know there is still plenty of time left.

But last night, despite the support of another sellout crowd at Miller Park that was at least half Cub fans, the listless Cubs could not generate any offense whatsoever (no, I don't consider a solo homer by Sammy Sosa to be "offense"), and they lost to the Brewers 3-1.

With the Giants and Padres both winning last night, the Cubs drop all the way to third in the wild-card race, a game and a half behind San Francisco, now leading. All three teams have lost fifty-five games.

[a rant]

Let's talk about the bad call first. There is absolutely no doubt that Corey Patterson, after catching a sharp line drive in center field, doubled Brady Clark off first base. Three different replay angles showed that Derrek Lee had his foot on the base with Clark's hand still nearly a foot away. 2B umpire Wally Bell called Clark safe.

Why was Bell making this call rather than 1B umpire John Hirschbeck? We have no idea, because none of them said a word about this after the game.

I've seen this more and more from umpires in the last few years. They have become arrogant. They have started confrontations with managers and players rather than walk away from them. The best umpires are the ones you never notice. If you go through watching a game without thinking about the umpiring, then they have done their jobs well. And I don't want to give the impression that I'm blaming the umpiring for all the Cubs' woes lately, because they have enough problems of their own.

But after this season, I think MLB has to sit down and really figure out a way to:

* set exact procedures for umpires to follow in disputes and then stick to them;

* demote or fire umpires who are clearly incompetent or incapable of doing their jobs.

[end rant]

OK, I feel better now. This call did not cost the Cubs the game, bad as it was, because there's debate over whether the Brewers' third run, which scored on this play, would have scored before or after the play at first base. Regardless, it didn't matter because the Cubs' only run was Sammy Sosa's (sigh) solo homer in the 2nd. The Cubs did manage to load the bases with Sosa batting again in the next inning, but Sammy struck out -- at least he managed to run the count full first.

I'm still absolutely puzzled as to why Dusty refuses to play Todd Walker against right-handed pitching, as he was doing for a while. Walker's been hitting great this month -- when he's allowed to play. What I also didn't understand about yesterday's choices by Baker was this: why was he saving Moises Alou to pinch-hit for the pitcher in the 9th, when he could have come up as the tying run, batting for Mark Grudzielanek? Yes, I know Grudz had two hits yesterday, but at a certain point you've got to get your hitter actually into the game.

Mike said to me on Sunday that he felt the wheels falling off, and at the time I disagreed, but unless the ballclub can win the next two games, I think I may have to concur with that assessment.

All the experts still think the Cubs ought to be the favorites for the wild card -- check out today's Phil Rogers column from the Tribune (free registration required).

We used to say that they ought to tear the grass out of Wrigley Field and replace it with paper, because the Cubs always looked great on paper. Now it's time to perform up to those standards.

I was absolutely astounded that the Cubs did not make a roster move before the game. I believe that at the very least, Kyle Farnsworth must go to the DL -- there's clearly something wrong with him.

This may sound bizarre due to the bad year he's had, but yesterday the Padres released Rod Beck. With his history with Dusty Baker and the ballclub, why not sign him to a Triple-A contract? Give him some innings at Iowa and see if there's anything left. At the very least he could help the club in September, and if not, it costs you almost nothing.

And, here's an e-mail I got from Neil MacDonald in the UK, responding to my thoughts about making Mike Remlinger the closer:

You will recall that he was rushed up from his minor-league rehab this spring when Kent Mercker went to the DL. He had a few short outings and then gave up 5 ER in 1/3 inning against the Cards.

The fact is that other than that one terrible outing (when he yielded the only homer he has surrendered this year) he has given up only 1 earned run all season.

In 29 other outings his ERA is a staggering 0.44. Looking at his game-logs he has also been putting in regular one-inning shifts rather than just LOOGY-ing, as happened briefly after his shelling by St.L.

The man works quickly, doesn't seem to get rattled and, arguably has the best repertoire of any of the bullpen personnel.

I'd put him in either the set-up or closer role now and leave him to it. The fact of the matter is he has been having a stellar season while flying below radar level.

Absolutely right. Dusty, you listening?

I actually got a call late yesterday from a co-worker offering me a ticket to last night's game. Glad I didn't take it -- but I will be going up for Thursday's day game. Watch for weird stuff to happen again.