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The Chicago Cubs Are On The Air...

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... that's the phrase that the late, great Vince Lloyd used to use each time he was introducing a Cubs radio broadcast.

This weekend is the first time I have spent any extended time listening to Len Kasper and Bob Brenly... and I've listened to some of the complaints others have had about them, and today, these two got to me in the wrong way.

They are beginning to sound like apologists for the Dusty Baker company line. I kept hearing phrases like "grizzled veteran" and I was ready to put a spoon down my throat.

Now, that's not saying that I want announcers who sit up there and criticize everything that's going on down on the field. You have to step back and consider the words of Brenly, who said at the Cubs Convention, "I was a .247 lifetime hitter -- I know how hard it is to play this game." You might say that he's trying to position himself to become Cubs manager, but I don't believe that. Brenly said, during the Fan Fest at Mesa last month:

I have the best job in baseball. I come to work every day, have a great view of the game, and I go home and it's not my fault.

I'm complaining too much here. I've watched enough baseball to know what it is I'm seeing -- to me, the announcers aren't much more than background. If there's something they see that I miss, that's great. But I can see the same things that they can. So, for the most part -- if you're going to criticize Kasper and Brenly, go ahead. Yes, we've heard better.

Think about it. We could have these two:

So, count your blessings.

Be happy! The Cubs won the series from the Pirates, coming from behind for a nicely-played 4-2 win this afternoon.

Greg Maddux, who left the game for a pinch-hitter in the sixth while it was still tied, threw his best game of the year so far -- giving up only five hits, no walks, and two earned runs. The two runs shouldn't have even scored; the third out should have been registered on a slow roller on which Jerry Hairston made a sloppy throw to Derrek Lee, pulling him off the base. Lee tried to tag Jack Wilson, but 1B umpire Tony Randazzo ruled he missed the tag.

Usually, when players feel that they haven't been wronged, but that they need to put on a bit of a show for the fans or TV audience, that's exactly what happens -- and that's what Lee did in this case, protest a bit and then let it go. Replays were, as they say, "inconclusive".

Lee, meanwhile, was hitting the ball all over the field, with three singles and three RBI, and this is definitely a good sign; he's never hit well in April his entire career, including last year, and he's showing signs of "career year". During a time when the keys to the offense, Aramis and Nomar, aren't really clicking yet, it's nice to see Lee carrying the ballclub.

One of the "grizzled veteran" comments was made when Jeromy Burnitz caught a medium-deep fly ball while Matt Lawton was in a hit-and-run running situation in the first inning, and he made a nice throw to double Lawton off first. The announcers gave all the credit to Burnitz, and yes, he did make a good throw.

But the play wouldn't have happened if Lee hadn't made a really nice scoop of the throw. Often, defense at first base is taken for granted. I'd think as Cub fans, we'd have seen enough of Wavin' Fred McGriff to know that having someone who can pick 'em at first, is important. And Lee can pick 'em.

I still do not understand why Dusty did not start Jason Dubois today. Either he and Todd Hollandsworth are platooning, or they're not. Yes, Mark Redman is a different sort of lefthander than Dubois is probably used to seeing. But how's he ever going to learn to hit guys like this unless he does it?

Hollandsworth's 0-for-3 at least included a walk. This can be forgiven because the ballclub won.

Speaking of 0-for's, Henry Blanco now is 0-for-11 for the season, in three games. We knew he couldn't hit much, but this is getting ridiculous. Yes, you need a backup catcher. Yes, Blanco is excellent defensively. Yes, it's not a bad idea to rest your starting catcher during a day game after a night game.

Any more of this, and you'll see calls from this space, and others, for a recall of Mark Johnson from Iowa. Johnson can't really hit either, but at least he "can't really hit either" lefthanded.

The bullpen also resumed its excellent work today -- Mike Wuertz, Mike Remlinger, Chad Fox and (gulp) yes, even LaTroy Hawkins combined for three innings of one-hit, two-walk, scoreless relief. Wuertz qualified for the win simply by happening to be the pitcher in the game when the Cubs took the lead. Maddux probably could have gone further -- he'd thrown only 77 pitches -- and maybe in the situation Dusty had, two out and no one on, he could have saved Dubois for later.

No matter. The game was won, and after all, that IS why we're here, isn't it?

One more thing about Maddux. He turned thirty-nine three days ago. What was he thinking trying to stretch an ordinary single into a double in the top of the fifth, trailing 2-1? Yes, he used to serve as a pinch-runner (in fact, his very first appearance on a major league field was as a pinch runner) -- but Greg, baby, you're no kid any more. Take the single when you get it.

So, the Cubs did what they needed to do at the very least, take two of three from a clearly inferior team. Sweeping a pair from Cincinnati, starting tomorrow, is in order.