Those of you who are of "a certain age" will remember Pete Reiser, who was a coach for the Cubs in the late 60's and early 70's, under manager Leo Durocher, for whom he had played when Leo was the manager of the Dodgers in the 1940's.
I mention Reiser because he could have had a Hall of Fame career -- take a look in particular at his 1941 numbers, at age 22; -- but for his penchant for constantly running into outfield walls chasing aggressively after fly balls. He was carried off the field on a stretcher at least 11 times, and retired as a player at 33, having accomplished only a fraction of what his talent might have given him.
What does Pete Reiser have to do with last night's 9-3 Cub loss to the Reds? Plenty, after I sat down and thought about it. I think Kerry Wood is a pitcher's Pete Reiser.
Think about last night's game. Wood had given up a homer to Felipe Lopez in the first and a longer one to Adam Dunn (trade for him, Jim! Trade for him!) in the second. One out and a single later, Wood picked up an Aaron Harang bunt attempt -- or tried to; you could tell that he was thinking "throw to second" before he even had it in his glove, and muffed it, all hands safe. Players don't often show on-field emotion about things like this, but you could tell Wood was upset.
What happened next? Well, he could have blown up and given up a big inning -- but instead, he bore down and struck out Ryan Freel and Lopez, to end the inning with no further damage.
No. See, Kerry Wood is Pete Reiser -- he's running through figurative walls. I can just see what's churning in his brain after that error -- he feels he has to double his efforts, and the strikeouts were great. But I'll bet you something in one of the pitches he threw to Freel or Lopez was the cause of the "shoulder tightness" he felt that forced him out of the game after the third inning. He just doesn't think -- at age 28 he's still a thrower, not a pitcher.
Bill James once wrote that fans love guys like Reiser, because they're always perceived as "giving their all". But would you rather have someone like Reiser (or Wood) doing those sorts of things and missing half-seasons at a time? Or would you rather have their considerable talents on the field, contributing?
James said that Amos Otis was his favorite player, because Otis knew how to play "percentage baseball" -- not taking chances when chances weren't absolutely necessary. Otis wasn't a superstar, but he did have a long and productive career and was a key contributor to five Kansas City playoff teams.
Kerry Wood's going to have to change not only his mechanics, but his "bull in a china shop" approach to the game, if he's going to become more than a pitching version of Pete Reiser.
Apart from that, the home runs by the Reds were pretty much the story of last night's loss. The Reds took over the NL lead in homers with their four long flies. The Cubs hit two of their own (Derrek Lee and Jeromy Burnitz, back-to-back) in the seventh), briefly making the game almost-close at 6-3, before Glendon Rusch decided he'd join the "I-Can't-Field-A-Bunt" Club, muffing one and missing another one for an infield single -- getting an error on neither, incidentally, making all three runs he allowed earned -- and the game was out of reach at 9-3. In fact, by the time Rusch had made this mess, I had nodded out in my chair. I guess I didn't miss too much.
The good news here, if there is any, is that if Wood has to go back on the DL -- that Rusch, who has been far more effective as a starter than as a reliever, would likely take his rotation slot. Wood will be examined today by Reds team physician Dr. Timothy Kremchek, and his next turn would be Monday against the Giants. If Wood has to go on the DL, and this happens, I'd just as soon see Ben Grieve recalled, because as I have said so often:
The Cubs don't need twelve pitchers!
I'm going to keep the rest of this post (reasonably) short, because there isn't much more to tell -- and further, there's going to be another one in a couple of hours, what with the late-morning start of today's game. The lineup reverted to its free-swinging ways; no walks, and Reds starter Aaron Harang (admittedly, their best pitcher) threw a 100-pitch complete game (the Reds' first CG of 2005).
Dusty decided to put newly-acquired Jody Gerut in the leadoff spot. Good idea? Nope! He went 0-for-4. Baker pet Todd Hollandsworth also took an 0-for-4 collar, though he scored the third run after reaching on a fielder's choice. With Gerut playing right field, Burnitz had his first Cub appearance in CF, and played credibly, at least -- but I still don't much see the point in doing such things, unless there were a power bat acquired to play left, in which case Power Bat would play left, Burnitz could play CF on occasion, and Gerut could handle RF -- thus setting up a Gerut/Hairston platoon.
This, however, is a topic for another day. If the Cubs win today, I'll consider it mission-accomplished in Cincinnati.