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Cosmic Things Are Happening... Again

SAN FRANCISCO -- This morning and early afternoon was tourist day with the family.

Yes, we had to do the cable car ride with the kids (they thought it was cool, riding up and down all the hills), though it was, of course, on the coldest and foggiest morning of the trip.

Then, we rode across the Golden Gate Bridge ("Cool!" again from the kids) and had lunch at Sam's Anchor Cafe in Tiburon, one of my favorite old spots from when my dad used to live in that part of the Bay Area back in the 80's.

But those things aren't cosmic.

This one is, and I have a few other off-day musings.

Before the season, Scott Lange of the Northside Lounge blog, polled many members of the Cubs Blog Army on a number of topics, for our predictions of what might happen during the 2004 season.

Among them was the question: When will Greg Maddux get his 300th win?

In writing about the 300th win the other day, I said:

... who among us would have guessed that on August 7, he'd be leading the team in victories with 11, well on his way to his seventeenth consecutive season with fifteen or more wins?

Scott e-mailed me today:

The answer is "all of us," sort of. I averaged all the entries in the CBA Prediction Contest back at the beginning of the year, just to see how our mean opinion did. Believe it or not, the group predicted August 7, on the nose, for Maddux's 11th win of the year and 300th of his career.

Like I said... cosmic things are happening. (I think he meant "mean" to signify "average", at least I hope so!)

I got a couple of other e-mails today regarding both last night's game and the wild-card race, and today seems like a good day to discuss those. First, Helen Simmims-McMillin, devoted Cub fan from southern California, wrote:

... the Padres and the Giants just aren't that good. I predicted that the Pads would win the West, and they still may after the Dodgers lost Brad Penny today with a strained bicep. But they needed outfield help, and since Finley and Walker went elsewhere, they're a bit weak. The Giants are just plain bad, and benefit from being in the same division as Arizona and Colorado. So I'm more worried about the Phillies and Florida, actually, as our Wild Card competition.

Good points, and let's take them one by one. First, Penny appears to not be as bad as it seemed last night, though he will miss his next start -- guess when? Friday against the Cubs. Kaz Ishii, who's been getting pounded around lately, is a possible replacement.

I'm not so sure about the Marlins and Phillies. Both of them have their weaknesses, and the Phillies finish the season with a four-game series at Miami, where they haven't won a game in about two centuries. Other than that they both play the Braves six times, and the Cubs will have their own chance to put Florida away when they play back-to-back weekends in September.

As far as the Giants and Padres are concerned, the fact that they are in the same division with Arizona and Colorado worries me, because the Rockies are bad and the Diamondbacks are ... well, they're putrid. However, SF and SD play each other six times and a split of those games would work wonders for the Cubs, and the Padres have the added bonus of having to face the Cardinals six times. Never thought I'd see the day when the Cardinals could help the Cubs out in a playoff race, but that's how it is in Wild-Card Land.

Dick Murphy wrote me today with a scathing indictment of this year's team which surprised me in its vehemence:

There's no leadership or energy. The "stars" are too selfish (Sosa and Alou) or too new (Ramirez, Lee, Nomar) to be true leaders. There's no kangaroo court because none of the big names care enough about the team to demand performance from others, and they don't set the tone themselves.

In his playing days, Dusty would have called Alou out in the clubhouse over that ridiculous double play (this is a 15-year vet who's 38!), but now Dusty's so concerned with being a player friendly manager that there's no woodshed to be taken to.

I wonder about Nomar. I think his energy has jump-started the entire team. Yes, they looked pretty stupid yesterday, and the worst play was the failure by Mercker to cover third base, and even so, if Mohr doesn't make the amazing catch, maybe the Cubs win anyway.

And I have to disagree on Dick's opinion of what Dusty did or didn't do in the clubhouse. One of his hallmarks is to talk to players privately, not letting it get into the press, and each and every man who's ever played for him will tell you that's one of the reasons they have such deep respect for the man. I'd imagine the entire team got an earful -- behind closed doors -- after last night's game.

The Cubs are 5-2 since the acquisition of Nomar and I do not think that's coincidental. They are coming home to play two good teams, but also teams they can beat, and in the case of the Padres, need to beat. This is a week that will show us the true heart, if indeed there is one, to the 2004 Cubs.

Let's hope it's there. Patience, faith and hope.