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Happy Birthday, Neifi!

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Neifi! turns 32 today and celebrated by hitting a three-run homer, two singles and a double, and scoring three runs.

Derrek Lee did him one better -- having five hits, four RBI, a three-run jack of his own, and he is now leading the NL in all three Triple Crown categories. His 50 RBI in 51 games project to nearly 160 for the season.

Before I talk more about the Cubs' sixth win in a row, 9-5 over the Dodgers, giving them their first three-game series sweep of the season, I have a couple of rants.

[rant one]

The people at Comcast Sports Net are idiots.

I do understand TV schedules and how at times, both Chicago teams wind up on CSN and thus, one must go to CSN Plus.

There wasn't a CSN Plus last night -- usually these games go to CLTV, at least on Comcast Cable in Chicago. And Comcast's own on-screen schedule showed CLTV showing "Baseball" from 9 pm to midnight CT -- that should have been the Cub game. Instead, there was the usual dopey talk show with Lou Canellis.

On CSN's main channel, the White Sox were dragging out their 10-7 loss to the Angels by hitting way too many foul balls -- and I'm not even talking about Hawk Harrelson here -- and so, at 9:10 when the Cubs' first pitch happened, the Cubs were nowhere to be seen. Instead, we got a lower-third-of-the-screen scorebox updating the game.

This isn't necessarily so bad -- though CSN didn't manage to spell John Koronka's name right -- but what was really bad was what happened after the Sox game was over.

I have worked in the TV business long enough to know that when a sports event runs over its allotted time (in this case, past 9 pm CT), they are supposed to do what's called a "panic close" -- i.e. they dispense with extra commercial breaks, closing billboards, etc.

CSN did NONE of this. There was a leisurely recap, then a "we'll be right back", then what seemed like about a four-minute commercial cluster including two airings of the same spot for a local pizza joint, then closing billboards, then a promo for a Sox game that doesn't air till next Monday.

I spent part of this time watching LaTroy Hawkins implode yet again, giving up a grand slam which resulted in 10-6 Phillies win over the Giants. I won't gloat over this misfortune -- I'll only say that this confirms my happiness that he's no longer a Cub.

The Cub game didn't pop up till the top of the second, at which time two runners were already on base.

Finally, Len and Bob didn't say a word about this, and there were no highlights (not that there were any) of the first inning.

This never happened with Fox Sports Net. What made it worse was -- I have Comcast digital cable. They've got about 500 channels. There isn't ONE of these that can carry the Cub game?

Ridiculous.

[end rant one]

[rant two]

You can say that not having Neifi! in the top five of the All-Star balloting is understandable -- after all, writing in votes is much harder than just punching a ballot.

That's even more painfully obvious when you look at the early All-Star voting results.

As I wrote last night -- how can you vote for Nomar when he's hurt? Are these people just voting for someone they've heard of? At some point this system is going to have to change -- and even worse omissions are:

  • Derrek Lee, having an MVP season, with less than half the votes of Albert Pujols;
  • Larry Walker and Ken Griffey Jr. running 3rd and 4th in the NL outfield voting;
  • Mike Piazza leading the catchers' vote. Michael Barrett's having just about as good a year and running fifth.
I guess the "fans" will get the All-Star teams they deserve, but those of us who really know what's going on in baseball will have to grit our teeth and see some deserving players stay home. Sure, Lee will make the team -- but he ought to be the starter.

[end rant two]

And we can afford such rants, because as Mike said, the Cubs are suddenly winning games in the same way they were losing them -- instead of bad bullpen pitching, we are getting solid performances from everyone; instead of running ourselves out of innings, we are getting timely hits; and John Koronka (whose mother, girlfriend, and girlfriend's mother were shown way too many times on camera by CSN) threw credibly in his first major league start.

For more in-person details on last night's game, I commend you to the diaries by Clay and Bryan. Thanks, you guys.

On to San Diego, and for those of you who were ready to tank the season -- the Cubs are currently two games (one in the loss column) out of the wild card lead.