CHICAGO (AP) -- Colorado Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings set a major league record today by throwing only 46 pitches in a complete game victory against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Jennings was helped in this remarkable feat by the fact that every single Cubs hitter swung at the first pitch he threw.
That's absurd, of course, but the Cubs' offense is getting a bit absurd these days. Twelve different Cub hitters DID swing at the first pitch today, including the first two to look at Rockies reliever Jay Witasick. Nine other hitters took a called first strike. It wasn't until Brian Fuentes came in to pitch in the ninth inning that four of the five hitters he faced actually looked at the first pitch they saw.
How on Earth is this offense ever going to get untracked until and unless they... repeat after me, everyone:
Not only that, Jason Jennings came into the game leading the NL in walks with 37, and the Cubs STILL didn't try to get on base this way. Meanwhile, Cub pitchers issued five free passes, even though only one of them scored.
Why is it that Dusty Baker and Gary Matthews and the rest of the coaching staff simply refuse to acknowledge that on-base percentage IS the name of the game today? For all Baker's supposed people skills, sometimes it takes baseball skills to win ballgames and his stubborn insistence that everyone go up to the plate hacking away at everything they see is, quite simply, costing the club wins.
This ruined an otherwise pleasant day, weatherwise (sunny, with puffy clouds, with nice temperatures in the upper 60's), and otherwise -- as today, Byron Clarke of The Cubdom, Scott Lange of The Northside Lounge and I convened the First Unofficial Cubs Blog Army Summit Meeting.
Scott came in with his dad (and they'll both join me again tomorrow), and Scott, Byron and I had a photo taken which Scott promised to e-mail me this evening (and which I'll post either later tonight or tomorrow). Until today, Scott was undefeated in his trips to Wrigley Field, 4-0 -- so I guess we could blame him, but instead, I'm going to blame the Cub offense. Frankly, Carlos Zambrano, despite throwing very well (three earned runs in five innings, and the 110-pitch count surprised my friend Craig, also in for a visit from Kansas City, because it didn't seem as if he had thrown that many pitches), should have won this game. When the Rockies took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third -- after one of those darned walks, Dusty! -- I said to Craig, "One run won't win this game."
The Cubs made me truth-tellers in the bottom of the inning, with a nice three-hit, one-run rally. But that was it for Cub scoring, as they played like they were impatiently looking at their watches at an airport security line the rest of the day. Scott pointed out to me that not only was everyone swinging at first pitches, but there were no fewer than eight ground balls hit right to Todd Helton at first base for easy outs (five unassisted putouts, two 3-1's, and one where Helton stepped on the base and then caught Aramis Ramirez in a rundown for a tag double play).
This sort of offense, my friends, is not going to win many games, especially if this is all you can muster against a guy who came in with a game-time ERA (7.05 -- get it?).
Too little too late, the Cubs scored a run in the bottom of the ninth, but even that wasn't what I would consider "offense". Corey Patterson singled and was forced out. Michael Barrett was hit by a pitch, both runners moved up on a ground ball to deep shortstop, and then Fuentes wild-pitched the run home. Big whoop.
If this season is still to be salvaged -- and it IS way too early to give up, only 45 games in -- some changes must be made, and I'm not even suggesting trades, although some of those may come.
I'm suggesting a sea change in the way Cubs hitters approach their times at bat. Work the count. Make the opposition starters throw a ton of pitches, because if you can get deep into most clubs' bullpens, you are going to score some runs (note to Dusty: see what other teams do off the Cubs' bullpen!).
Tomorrow, Scott and I will reconvene the CBA summit, day two, and Mark Prior will be attempting to even the series. It goes without saying that it's an absolute must for the Cubs to win the three remaining games on this homestand.
Keep the faith, all.
UPDATE [2005-5-26 20:50:31 by Al]: Forgot to mention this earlier. While we were waiting in line to get into the bleachers before the gates opened, two very large men were harassing some of the security people and the gate chief. It was clear that they were very drunk -- amazing at 11 am on a Thursday.
A security supervisor came over and explained that they should go away, have some coffee and sober up and come back in an hour, because they would not be allowed in at gate time, 11:20.
Good for them, I say. Well done.