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May The Forceout Be With You

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I took Mark to see "Star Wars: Episode III" yesterday afternoon, so before I get to the Cubs' 5-3 win over the Dodgers, here's a mini-review of the movie.

I'm not one of those Star Wars fans who has breathlessly waited for each episode, but I have enjoyed each of the films for what they were... and I think that some of the more pretentious reviewers, particularly this one at the New Yorker magazine, have missed the point, although Anthony Lane, the New Yorker critic, did come up with perhaps the best review line I've seen in years. In discussing Yoda's tortured syntax, which did get a little tiresome (did he HAVE to use it in every single sentence?), he says:

"Break me a fucking give."
Anyway,"Star Wars" has become such a cultural icon that I think people expect it to be more, on its face, than what George Lucas intended for it to be.

It's a soap opera in space. It's supposed to be melodramatic. Lucas even said as much back in the 1970's when he originally positioned "Star Wars" as a nine-part serial -- and like Roger Ebert, I still hope Lucas might make Parts VII, VIII and IX.

In any case, I was entertained, I thought the characters were well-drawn, the dichotomy between good and evil obvious, and it's definitely a three-and-a-half star film.

It also got me thinking about what Cubs might be best for the various "Star Wars" roles... forgive me in advance, please:

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Dusty Baker
Anakin Skywalker: Corey Patterson
Mace Windu: Derrek Lee
Chancellor Palpatine: Sergio Mitre
Senator Organa: Aramis Ramirez
Count Dooku: Kerry Wood
C-3PO: Neifi Perez
R2-D2: Jeromy Burnitz
General Grievous: Jerry Hairston
Jar Jar Binks: Jose Macias
Yoda: Greg Maddux

OK, I'm done...

After the movie we went with the kids to a Memorial Day dinner at the home of the parents of one of Mark's classmates, and in talking to another parent, who happens to be Mark's baseball coach -- a man I've known for several years -- I learned that when we were both growing up we lived about six houses away from each other. I never knew him then because he's 11 years younger than I am...

All of this is to say that yesterday was a really nice day, capped with a win, the Cubs' fourth in a row -- the first time all year they've done so -- and once again, as during the first three, things seemed to click on all cylinders.

Jerry Hairston, who has minimal power, took the second pitch of the game out of the ballpark. Michael Barrett hit one farther than that to boost the lead to 4-0 in the fourth, and then Aramis Ramirez capped the scoring with a ball that might have hit a few Dodger Stadium early-departers (or late-arrivers!) in the parking lot. Ramirez has finally shaken off whatever's been bothering him (back, groin, cold weather, or just a plain-old-slump) and is 9-for-17 in his last four games, with homers in each of the last three.

This is exactly what this club needs; Derrek Lee, who went 0-for-5 last night, can't do it alone, and if Ramirez stays hot, it'll be harder for opposing pitchers to pitch around both of them.

Greg Maddux was terrific -- again not walking anyone for the third start in a row, and one of the two runs he allowed was unearned, due to his own fielding error. That's a rare occurrence -- he's one of the best-fielding pitchers ever, with fourteen Gold Glove awards to his credit. It was his best start since May 10, when he allowed no runs at all to the Mets and struck out ten. His three K's last night put him within 43 of the 3000-strikeout milestone.

Everything worked well last night. When Todd Wellemeyer suddenly lost the strike zone and walked the first two Dodgers in the 8th inning on four pitches, he quickly induced a double-play ball and then Will Ohman, who has become a very good LOOGY, was summoned to face J. D. Drew and got him to end the inning on a groundout. Even the solo homer that closer Ryan Dempster gave up to Olmedo "No-Parking" Saenz didn't mess up the bullpen's good roll. It sounds odd, but as I wrote the other day, the trade of LaTroy Hawkins may have solidified the relief corps by, in one stroke, defining all their roles.

For more on the game see the diaries by Josh and Ross on the right sidebar. For all the turmoil recently; for all the losses that one-upped the ones just previous; for all our angst, consider this:

If the Cubs can win tonight behind Carlos Zambrano, they will have yet another winning month at 14-13. And though the thought of winning the NL Central at this point may be a pipedream, the current wild-card leader is Arizona at 29-22 -- only 3 1/2 games better than the Cubs.

Finally, the usual "reliable sources" tell me that further trades may be on the horizon, which may include one or more starting players. Beyond this I cannot comment without compromising my source, and I'd like to keep the information flow. Stay tuned.