Now I know what happened to the Red Sox curse.
Nomar Garciaparra brought it with him when he came to the Cubs.
Now that's silly, of course. The so-called "Curse of the Bambino" is a myth, invented in the 1980's by Boston sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy.
Besides, the Red Sox weren't cursed. They were jinxed. And yes, there is a difference.
Trust me on this one.
Anyway, you couldn't blame Nomar if he believes this, though. After an amazing spring training where he blasted baseballs all over metropolitan Phoenix, and played defense like a man possessed, he appeared to be continuing it with two hits on Opening Day.
But he's had only six hits in the thirteen games since then, and tonight, after hitting a ball that wound up being turned into a double play in the third inning, he collapsed into a heap in front of the plate.
The preliminary diagnosis is an injury to the left groin.
OK, you're saying, at least it's not the Achilles again; that was something I feared when I first saw the injury.
But groin problems can be worse -- just ask Aramis Ramirez, who missed two weeks last year with a "groin" that was supposed to keep him out for two days. They'll do an MRI on him tomorrow and until then, all we can do is hope for it to not be as bad as it looked, which is pretty darn bad.
All of this puts a damper on what should have been a very, very nice night for all of us. The Cubs beat the Cardinals 3-1 in their first meeting of the season, moving over .500 (8-7) for the first time since they were 1-0.
In fact, because of last year's bizarre schedule which had no meetings between the two best rivals in the NL after July 20, this is the first meeting of Cub and Cardinal in nine months. And after tomorrow, they won't meet this year for another three months, and that'll be in St. Louis again, on July 22. The Cardinals don't come to Wrigley Field until August 11.
Who's making this schedule out, anyway? The guys who program the TV networks?
Don't answer that question.
I had said in the game thread that I had made a mistake in the original game time -- ESPN mandated a 6:10 start, but I had originally posted 7:10 before I changed it early today.
Should have stuck with 7:10. There was an hour and twenty-two minute rain delay before the first pitch, so it wasn't till around 7:40 that Jeff Suppan retired Corey Patterson leading off the game (how many times are we going to have to write that before Dusty bats him sixth or seventh where he belongs?).
Thank goodness for Derrek Lee, who had two doubles, a single, a stolen base, scored twice and was also spotted taking tickets before the game at one of the turnstiles at Busch Stadium. Lee, traditionally a slow starter, has been Mr. Everything for the Cubs so far this season and is now hitting .411/.500/.732, with 23 hits and 17 RBI in 15 games. (SHHH! In deference to Dusty Baker, we won't mention his ten walks too loudly!)
Lee's not the sort of vocal, demonstrative leader that Nomar could become, but leading by this sort of example can almost be better at times. The ballclub needs this sort of leadership right now, with its doubleplay combination both down with injuries.
The Cubs seemed to come out and approach this game with a sense of purpose. It may be too early to have one of those "message" games, but winning at St. Louis, a house of horrors for years, in decisive fashion in front of a full house, has to buoy the spirits and confidence of every single member of the ballclub.
Michael Barrett showed signs of breaking out of his offensive slump with two hits today. But Michael -- what's with that goatee you're growing? That sort of thing looks good on some of us. But not you. And hey -- kudos to you too on throwing out yet another baserunner tonight, David Eckstein, the eighth runner he has caught stealing already this season.
And I haven't even mentioned Carlos Zambrano, who was absolutely outstanding tonight -- and hit his first career triple, on top of his excellent pitching. Eckstein's single in the third was the only St. Louis hit until Albert Pujols homered in the sixth for the only Cardinal run -- and let me say, it was unintentionally funny to see Todd Hollandsworth attempt a leaping catch of the Pujols HR. Why? Because it was about thirty feet over his head. There's no shame about giving up something like this to a guy who hit forty-six of them a year ago.
Even though Z had thrown 104 pitches through eight innings, I think Dusty made the right call letting him attempt to finish. He couldn't quite make it, and LaTroy Hawkins had to come in and get the last out -- not before scaring the you-know-what out of us with a warning-track flyout to Patterson to end the game.
But considering there's a day game tomorrow -- this allowed virtually the entire bullpen to be fresh.
During commercial breaks I was flipping through the MLB Extra Innings channels and the 12-10 Texas win over Tampa Bay, then in the bottom of the 9th, caught my interest... mostly to lament how good Cub broadcasts could be if they'd been able to lure DeWayne Staats back to Chicago.
Now, we wonder what Jim Hendry will do to replace Nomar on the roster if he must go on the DL. Neifi! went 0-for-5 today, dropping his average to .297, and we must face the idea that the first digit thereof may not be a "3" or higher for the rest of the year. There's not much help at Triple-A... seriously. Richard Lewis isn't ready, and he's not really a SS anyway. Neither is Ronny Cedeno a major league player, and Dusty doesn't seem interested in playing Mike Fontenot.
It's too bad that when the Cubs were making the Sammy Sosa deal, they didn't hold out for Brian Roberts instead of Jerry Hairston -- Roberts has already set a career high for homers (6), and is a much better hitter than Hairston, and if the Cubs had him, we could probably live with Neifi! on an everyday basis.
But we don't.
So, recover quickly, Nomar. Because there aren't very many other good SS options.