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Baseball 101

The White Sox put on a clinic at the Cell today -- every time they needed a clutch hit, they got it. Every time their speed could throw the Cubs' pitching and defense off balance, it worked. Well, except for Sergio Mitre's nice pickoff of Scott Podsednik in the first inning. Incidentally, sitting behind the RF foul pole, about 250 feet behind Podsednik leading off first base, it took me only five innings to see his indicator for when he's going and when he's not. It's very subtle, but clear anyway and if I can figure this out 250 feet away watching him for one game, why can't the major league scouts see it?

Oh yes, I forgot -- they did figure it out, and Mitre pitched out during Podsednik's second at-bat. He stole second anyway. And then he stole third.

This is part two of the clinic -- that is, the one the Cubs put on this afternoon on how NOT to play baseball. Every time they could have advanced a runner, they didn't. When the tying runs were on base with no one out in the top of the fifth, did anyone score the runners? Nope, two strikeouts and a groundout.

The result was an ugly 12-2 loss to the White Sox today, the only runs scoring on solo homers. Haven't we heard this song before?

It looked promising, actually, in the first after that pickoff -- Frank Thomas hit the second-longest homer at the Cell this year, but the Cub fans in the crowd were happy that it was only 1-0. And Todd Hollandsworth decided to make up for his last at-bat at the Cell, almost exactly a year ago, when he fouled that ball off his shin and wound up out for the rest of the year -- by smashing a 400-foot-plus home run halfway up the seats in right, about a section over from where I was sitting.

But that was it, until Jason Dubois hit the Sosa-like consolation home run in the eighth, with the score 12-1.

Brian, Phil, Mike, Howard and I were all in attendance -- scattered all over the place. I was, as I mentioned, behind the RF foul pole -- and they didn't mention this as "partially obstructed", even though the pole was square in my field of vision. I suppose that's because from that seat, the pole was located exactly in between the pitcher's mound and third base. I did get a lovely view of the Joe Crede three-run job in the 7th, the one that clanked off the lower portion of the pole. Brian and Phil sat together behind 3B, Howard got a nice seat behind the plate (I found him there on my way toward the exit in the 9th inning), and Mike sat in the bleachers in left, where I'll be tomorrow.

It was hot today -- 95 degrees at game time; someone mentioned to me that they'd heard on the radio that it was the hottest day in Chicago in six years, and I believe it. We've had some fairly cool summers recently. So tell me this: on a day such as this, why would you dress your team in black jerseys that retain the heat? That's what the White Sox wore today. The Cubs wore road grays -- I think that's the first time they've done so with Mitre pitching.

This was my first visit to the Cell this year. They've made some changes -- the most visible of which is a large construct over the LF seats, which contains a small baseball field called "Fundamentals" where kids can run around and hit balls during the game. I'll try to check that out tomorrow. Otherwise, the Sox are in the process of changing all the ugly blue seats to baseball-green seats; so far they have converted the LF bleachers, the club level, and several hundred seats behind home plate, which they are calling "Scout Seats" and selling for $250 a game. They appear to be larger than regular seats, are nicely located, but otherwise not too much different from the ones they sold for about $45 last season.

This is how baseball money is made in the 21st Century. I can't even make the old Cub saw comment about the Cell only having three sellouts a year, because the 50-22 (!) White Sox have had several other sellouts and are, with the advent of summer, beginning to draw larger crowds.

Today, though there were a large minority of Cub fans in attendance, we got shouted down by the Sox fans, and this was even before they got revved up with their team's offense. Truth be told, the Cub fans in Yankee Stadium last weekend were louder (and just as loudly booed down!). By the time the five-run fifth was over, some of the Cub fans had begun to slink out of the South Side ballyard.

It was just ugly. As I said, every time the Sox needed a key hit in the early innings, they got one. They took advantage of defensive positioning -- catching Todd Walker and Neifi! out of position on several ground balls that otherwise might have been turned into double plays. There was even one tailor-made DP ball that took a bizarre bounce -- I couldn't tell if it was off of one of their gloves or off 2B -- and went for a hit.

Sergio Mitre never got his sinker working, and got himself into trouble by issuing four walks. Meanwhile, Cub hitters were as usual, hacking away. I have asked this question before -- why is it that Dusty Baker can't see that taking pitches can get the opposition into high pitch counts, thus getting into bullpens earlier?

I guess we may never get an answer to this question.

As bad as Mitre was, Todd Wellemeyer was worse. When he came in the score was 5-1 and he only needed one out to keep the game at least manageable. Instead, he wild-pitched in a run, then promptly gave up a homer to A. J. Pierzynski -- to the opposite field. He threw 56 pitches -- a ridiculous number for a relief appearance -- to get seven outs.

Joe Borowski threw a scoreless inning. Big whoop -- although the pitch speed meter did show him topping out at 90 on a couple of pitches. If this is the last appearance JoeBo makes in a Cub uniform, then that's a nice memory to leave us with.

And don't even ask me about Corey Patterson. He had four clueless at-bats -- sure, he got a hit, but that appeared to be a case of "swing bat wildly, hope it hits something". The two strikeouts were per his tradition -- mindless swings, mindless at-bats with no plan. Leading him off (at his request, no less) is destructive to him AND the team.

As I was leaving my seat in RF to go visit Howard, I was getting harassed -- good-naturedly, I might add -- by some Sox fans, to whom I said:

I was at Yankee Stadium last weekend and the Yankee fans were nicer to us than you guys are!

For some reason, they didn't like that very much.

I suppose that could be the last word, but I'm going to give the last word to Mike today, as he presents "The Hitchhiker's Guide To U.S. Cellular Field":

(as always, click on cartoon 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.)