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Now What?

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So, September has begun. Today, I saw leaves turning red and gold on some trees on the north side of Chicago -- weeks early -- and the Cubs, as many Dusty Baker teams have done, began the month with a welcome victory.

And perhaps the most important thing that was announced during the Cubs/Expos telecast tonight was that after the game, the Cubs would return to Chicago instead of flying to Ft. Lauderdale, their original plan.

Mission accomplished, then: a series win in Montreal with a tense 11-inning, 2-1 win over the Expos tonight, with the first run of the night (and the Cubs' first run of any kind in 26 innings -- since the fifth inning on Monday) scoring on a Claudio Vargas wild pitch.

So, the Cubs will wait at home tomorrow and see what the Marlins and the MLB poohbahs decide what is to be done with the scheduled weekend series in Miami.

The Miami Herald reported that Andy MacPhail had proposed that the two clubs play a doubleheader on Friday, then leave town ahead of the hurricane arriving early Saturday. The postponed game would have been played in Chicago as part of a doubleheader, likely a week from Saturday, with the Marlins as the home team for one of the games.

The two weekends could not be flip-flopped because the Miami Dolphins have first rights to Pro Player Stadium on Sunday, September 12 for their opening game vs. the Tennessee Titans.

MacPhail's proposal made sense, but the Marlins nixed it. MLB could still intervene, but as of tonight they haven't -- this seems to be typical indecision for baseball executive types, the same indecision that has the Expos listed as "Expos" on the draft schedules that have been released for 2005, not knowing where they'll play, though it makes absolutely total sense for them to be based at RFK Stadium in Washington while a new stadium is built for them in downtown DC. Presuming this happens, tonight's game was the last the Cubs will ever play in Montreal, after thirty-five years of colorful history, including a game in 1969 in which Ernie Banks was deprived of a home run on a rainy night in which the umpires ruled that the ball went under the chain-link fence that was then the outfield wall at Le Parc Jarry, the charming city park in which the Expos played -- I went there in 1976, and the most notable things about it, other than the swimming pool beyond right field (into which players occasionally homered, long before there was a pool at the BOB in Phoenix), was the aluminum seats off which foul balls clanged all night, and the fact that home plate faced northwest, which meant in the peak of summer, night games often had delayed starts due to the setting sun being in the batter's eyes.

Man, have I digressed tonight. Nostalgia, don'tcha love it?

Anyway, there is absolutely no contingency plan for making up an entire series that might be postponed this late in the season, especially one with playoff implications for both teams. MLB certainly doesn't want a scenario where they'd have to play these games after October 3, have all of them mean something, and have to postpone the entire postseason schedule for up to three days.

Last year, with Hurricane Isabel bearing down on the mid-Atlantic states, the Orioles and Yankees attempted to play a game at Camden Yards in a driving wind and rainstorm, with the result being a 1-1 tie and the game having to be replayed a week later as part of a doubleheader in New York.

This fiasco is probably a reason why the clubs and MLB are trying to find a way to play all six Cubs/Marlins games this year with a minimum of disruption to both teams. But for now, we wait.

Meantime, Kerry Wood rebounded from what might have been the worst start of his career, to throw eight lights-out innings against the Expos, working his way out of several jams with 11 strikeouts, though he was gassed after throwing 119 pitches. The Cubs also couldn't get any offense going either, despite seven hits, as the Expos turned two double plays, and also benefitted from today's Alou Baserunning Screwup -- it's fascinating to watch the new and interesting ways in which Moises gets himself caught off base. Today, he was picked off first with two out in the seventh. Apparently, either he hasn't noticed the presence of new baserunning coach Vince Coleman, or he has chosen to ignore him completely. This must have been hard for him to do -- the two of them were sitting right next to each other at the ball-signing event that my son Mark and I attended on August 11.

Speaking of Mark, he and two of his school friends came to watch today's ABC-7 11 am news, a little treat for them before the first day of fourth grade starts next week.

And, perhaps we still will all be treated to a game of "bonus baseball" next weekend when the Marlins visit Chicago. There was even a suggestion in the Cubs newsgroup that such a game be opened to $10 general admission tickets -- a lovely thought, but that would probably cause a riot at Clark & Addison.

There is precedent for moving games to Chicago from another city -- in 1991, a 55-ton slab of concrete fell off at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, forcing the Expos to play their last 13 games on the road. Among them were two games moved at the last minute to Wrigley Field, played as a doubleheader on September 22, swept by the Expos. If memory serves, all tickets were sold on a general-admission basis for that date, and attendance in those less trendy days was 16,061.

That, of course, wouldn't happen today, and so a conventional doubleheader, played on a date that's already sold out, is the best way to go. Let's hope the MLB honchos figure this out tomorrow, before South Florida is evacuated in advance of what appears to be the very dangerous Hurricane Frances arrives.