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The More Things Change...

... the more they don't. It didn't take 24 hours after Ryan Dempster was named the Cubs' closer, till he started acting like a complete idiot (and I use that word in the fun, Boston-Red-Sox sense):

Yes, that's Dempster, in the middle, head down, wearing a blond wig that cascaded down past his shoulders during batting practice. (Note Will Ohman on the left, with newly Cub-fashionable shaved head. Note also that I was WAY ahead of the trend here)

And the evening had begun so promisingly, too. I brought Mark back to the park, after Sunday's win, for good luck. He dutifully finished his homework on the bench, then went off and acquired his second baseball in as many days.

I still don't have a BP ball this year. Helps to be nine, I suppose.

There was more serendipity before the game. Howard had an extra ticket -- and the demand for extras was pretty low last night. Then Judy and a friend came over from CF and said they needed one. Howard had disappeared, I assumed to go dumpster-diving for Corey Patterson second-chance scratch-off cards.

Mike said he had seen him down by the gate, so I went to look for him. I ran into him on the ramp coming back up and said, "I've sold your extra ticket!"

He replied, "I sold my extra ticket!"

Hey, first come first served, right? So I told him to go tell Judy he had sold it.

Turns out the guy who was waiting for Howard to come back to give me the extra ticket to sell to him ... had bought the ticket directly from Howard in the first place, without knowing that it was being saved for him, because he had gotten tired of waiting.

That, my friends, was the highlight of the evening.

Because then it started to rain. And rain, and rain some more. This is a view over the stands just after the first rain delay ended (you can see the ground crew exiting the field):

It was Mark's first rain delay at Wrigley Field (he sat with me through a memorable rain delay in Baltimore two years ago), and Mike said at one point, "The kid either brings wins or rain."

Unfortunately, last night it was just rain, and as it was a school night, we had to leave during the second delay, because I couldn't have him out till midnight.

That's just about when the Cubs' 7-4 loss to the Mets ended. I wound up watching until the Mets' pitching change in the sixth at home; right after that came Jeromy Burnitz' RBI single and a three-run homer from Michael Barrett, and things must have been looking up.

LaTroy Hawkins, relegated to the eighth inning, couldn't stand the prosperity, and let Doug Mientkiewicz break the tie with a homer, and then Dempster gave up four hits in a two-run Mets ninth to let them put it away. Good news: he didn't walk anyone. Maybe he should have worn the wig during the game, too.

Sight seen (on TV): Nomar Garciaparra sitting in the dugout with his teammates. Good, right? Well ... not when the camera catches you yawning.

Meanwhile, let's talk about Jason Dubois, shall we?

Published reports in the MSM yesterday indicated he'd be starting. He didn't. Todd Hollandsworth went 0-for-4 again, and Holly had to stand in LF watching as Kaz Matsui's second-inning HR flew over his head in a driving downpour. And, he's hitting .211.

How is this helping the team? And why was Dempster, the new closer, put into a game in the 9th inning with the Cubs trailing? If, indeed, Jim Hendry dictated these two moves, it almost seems as if Dusty Baker was thumbing his nose at Hendry by not doing them.

I didn't think Jon Leicester, making his first major league start, threw too badly. He made only two mistakes, the home run pitches to Matsui and Mike Piazza, and the Piazza homer might not have happened if Aramis Ramirez had been playing a couple of steps back, two batters earlier, when a high bouncer from Carlos Beltran just barely got over his leap for an infield hit.

At this point ... all that can be said is that today is another day.

Oh, and the weather's a lot better today.

Finally, amuse yourselves with this... Sammy Sosa missed last Friday's game with what was termed an "abscess on his foot". He was expected to play the next day.

Saturday, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said he might play "Monday".

He didn't play Monday, and now he may miss the Orioles' only appearance in Chicago in 2005, this coming weekend.

Think any of the 35,000 who have already bought tickets for all four of those games will be upset about that?

(as always, click on images to view full-size in new browser window; if you are using IE, you may have to click the lower-right corner of the image to expand it to its full size; in Firefox click anywhere on the image. Photos by Al)