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The End Of An Era

The Cubs beat the Rockies 5-1 this afternoon at Wrigley Field behind Glendon Rusch, and with the help of two homers from the suddenly-hot-again Derrek Lee.

But I know you don't want to talk about that. I know you want to hear about, and talk about, today's trade of LaTroy Hawkins, the end of the Hawkins Era (if there ever was such a thing).

As usual, the ballpark is the absolute worst place to get any information like this. Dave, who had the wrong starting time in his mind (12:20 instead of 12:05), called us with the info shortly before game time, so I walked around the bleachers spreading the good news. Walking by the concession stand you could see the TV monitors had been turned to Jim Hendry's press conference announcing the deal -- of course, no sound, so if you didn't know what was going on, you'd still have no clue.

They never announce such things and maybe there's good reason for that, but I wish they would.

Here's another wish: I wish LaTroy Hawkins well. Yes, along with most members of the CBA and many others here, I've spent a lot of time trashing LaTroy this season and last when he was blowing games left and right. But it's clear he was just in the wrong role. He proved that in Minnesota and again late last year, and again in the first two months of this season.

He's got talent and has, when used properly as a setup man, been an effective major league pitcher. I think the combination of the blown saves, and the booing at Wrigley Field -- which, of course, partly resulted from the blown saves -- made it absolutely impossible for him ever to be effective in a Cub uniform again. In that sense Hendry did him a favor -- unless the Giants intend to use him as a closer, which they might since their big free-agent closer, Armando Benitez, is out for most of the year if not all year.

But hey -- that's their problem now, right?

The Cubs acquired two 23-year-old pitchers from the Giants, Jerome Williams and David Aardsma.

Aardsma was a first-round draft pick (22nd pick overall) of the Giants out of Rice University in 2003, and his major league experience consists of eleven relief appearances last year. Some think he could be a future closer; he'll go into the Iowa bullpen, and he also gives the Cubs another distinction: he is the first person listed alphabetically in baseball encyclopedias (supplanting Hank Aaron), and the last alphabetically-listed player, Dutch Zwilling, a 1910's-era outfielder, also played for the Cubs.

Trivia, I know. Mike & I love this stuff.

I saw Jerome Williams pitch in the Arizona Fall League in 2002, when he was considered the Giants' hottest prospect, and he was VERY impressive then, not quite 21 years old. He threw well in 2004, winning ten games for the Giants with a 4.24 ERA, but did not pitch well early this season and had been demoted to Triple-A.

We all assumed that Williams would go into the Cubs' rotation to replace Mark Prior, who was placed on the DL today with what is called a "compression fracture" in his right arm, something described as "less serious" than a "linear fracture".

I'm not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. So I cannot say what this means, only that there is still a chance Prior may pitch later this year. Sometime. Maybe.

But the Cubs recalled reliever Roberto Novoa from Iowa today to take Prior's roster spot -- so that leaves a slot vacated by the Hawkins trade, one I presumed would be filled by Williams. But Hendry said both Williams and Aardsma would be headed to Iowa.

So we shall wait to see who will take Prior's starting slot -- which will next come up on Wednesday at Los Angeles.

In any case, good for LaTroy, and good for the Cubs. Both pitchers acquired, as I mentioned, are only 23, were both at one time considered very good prospects, and that gives the Cubs some Triple-A pitching depth they didn't have before.

About the game, all I really have to say is:


did it again. After slowing down for a week or two, he's hot again, and had his second consecutive two-homer game, the thirteenth multi-homer game of his career. This again gives him the NL lead in homers (16) and RBI (45). Aramis Ramirez put the exclamation point on today's game with a two-run homer off Byung-Hyun Kim, making the score 5-1 in the sixth and chasing Kim from the game.

Rusch labored through seven innings, throwing an unnecessary 116 pitches, by far the most he's thrown this year, and Mike Wuertz threw an efficient eighth. Now, having thrown only 12 pitches today (10 strikes), it'll be interesting to see if he can go back-to-back days if needed tomorrow.

An odd choice for ninth-inning pitcher was Ryan Dempster, throwing in a non-save situation. On the one hand, he may have needed the work (having not thrown since Tuesday); on the other hand, he threw 17 pitches, and what if he IS needed tomorrow?

Maybe this was a test. Closers need to be available, often, three days in a row. So I'd expect him to be ready to pitch tomorrow if needed.

We were joined by BCB reader Doug Miller (you all know him here as "zambranofan") and his son Aaron, who related their delay in arriving. Apparently the train they were taking up from their home in New Orleans hit a car on the tracks and was delayed a couple of hours. Nevertheless, they arrived safely, enjoyed the game and with the win I insisted they return.

A win tomorrow puts the Cubs back to the .500 mark, would give them a 6-4 homestand (which should have been 7-3) -- and more significantly, eight of twelve. Tomorrow's Rockies pitcher, Jeff Francis, another former #1 draft pick, has a very odd home/road split (for a Rockie, anyway) -- way better at Coors Field:

      G GS W L  IP    H  R ER HR BB SO ERA 
Home  4  4 3 0  24.2 22  8  8  2 10 14 2.92   
Away  5  5 1 2  27.0 34 20 20  3 17 19 6.67
Looks like another walk machine to me. Patience, Cub hitters.

Finally, the Neifi!/Barmes competition is getting more heated. Neifi! had two hits and helped turn a nifty DP today. Clint was 0-for-4, dropping his once-lofty average to .335. VOTE NEIFI!