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The One That Got Away

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In the fourth inning, Steve, who sits in the section next to us, came by and whispered to us, "The Cubs just traded for Alfonso Soriano. It's Corey Patterson, Sergio Mitre and Todd Wellemeyer."

That got me, and the two younger guys in front of me, fingering at our web-enabled cellphones to see if we could find out anything about this. I said to the guy in front of me, "My phone's faster than yours is," which led to his noticing that we both had Sprint service, and Mike chimed in with the line of the day:

You should check to see whose antenna is longer!

That cracked us all up, and I noted that mine had a slight bend in it, and perhaps I better not take this any further.

By then Steve had come back to say that Soriano had been flipped to the Red Sox, straight up, for Manny Ramirez.

That's when we realized he was pulling all of our chains. At this writing, it appears that Ramirez still might be dealt; he was pulled out of the Red Sox' starting lineup tonight, and such a move is often a prelude to a deal.

Jim Hendry ought to call Theo Epstein again, after today's pathetic excuse for an offense lost a winnable game 3-2 to the Diamondbacks; this means that the best the Cubs can do in this series is a split, and that is simply unacceptable for a team that wants to contend over the final two months of this season.

I'll get to some of the particulars in a moment, but first, a story.

I arrived at the bleacher gate too late to get my Super Big Gulp Diet Coke, so I called Howard, who I knew was coming later, and asked him if he'd mind picking up one for me. Arriving an hour or so later, he did so, and I thanked him and paid him, and in addition reimbursed him for some tickets. Then I walked over to talk to Bill from Rockford, who wanted to introduce me to some friends he knows from Arizona who were in town for today's game.

When I got back I discovered that Howard had accidentally knocked the drink over. I had actually seen him walking in the other direction on my way back to my seat; Jeff told me that he was thinking about buying a Diet Pepsi and refilling the cup, but he was afraid of upsetting the cosmic balance of diet soda by mixing these two rivals.

I really was thirsty, but it was OK. Knocking over my drink is usually good luck -- especially when Howard or his son Jon does this deed.

Not today, though.

And the beef I have is this: what on Earth was Dusty Baker thinking in his double-switching madness today?

After Jody Gerut pinch-hit for Mike Remlinger (who did a good job today -- I wonder if he's on the trade block) in the 7th, he remained in the game in left field. This made sense, as Matt Murton (oops! My prediction that he might hit his first ML homer off Mike Gosling today, failed -- and he didn't have a very good day at all) was taken out. This gave the Cubs a left-handed bat in the lineup, even though the pitcher was then batting ahead of Gerut.

That was fine; I figured Todd Hollandsworth would pinch-hit for the pitcher, in the 8th or 9th.

Nope! After Roberto Novoa coughed up the lead by giving up two doubles sandwiched around an intentional walk, Hollandsworth was double-switched into the game.

This made no sense by any possible stretch of anyone's imagination, even Dusty Baker's. It meant that Jose Macias was going to have to bat for Glendon Rusch; why is this a good thing? Why wouldn't you want Gerut batting after Hollandsworth? Plus, this wasted a player in the event that the game went into extra innings.

Naturally, Macias struck out to end the game. I wished Dave had been there -- because he's the one who wanted Macias up in that last-of-the-9th-hypothetical-World-Series situation we discussed yesterday.

It was an odd game. The Diamondbacks made three errors, and one of them (on a grounder by Rich Hill, allowing a run to score) should have been scored Fielder's Choice/E-4, giving Hill an RBI -- because with one out and a man on third, the groundout would have scored the run. It didn't get put in the boxscore that way, though. Hill also pitched pretty well -- two earned runs in six innings -- but you can't win with this sort of weak offensive output.

Furthermore, Derrek Lee apparently took it upon himself to try to steal third base after reaching on a sharp grounder that Royce Clayton bounced into about the 10th row behind the first-base dugout. Lee's a good baserunner and good-percentage basestealer (about 76% for his career), but he was thrown out. Too bad -- because the next two hitters got hits, which would have scored at least one, and perhaps two runs.

Then, Bob Melvin fooled me, and Mike said, "Caught you!" when I automatically wrote Arizona's closer, Brian Bruney, on my scorecard when the last of the 9th began. He'd been warming up and I assumed he'd be coming in. But Melvin apparently didn't want him blowing a save two days in a row; Greg Aquino, who was supposed to be the D'backs closer from the beginning of the year but got hurt, stayed in for a two-inning save, his first of the year. What is a Hollandsworth? Not much today, as he was called out on strikes. And as I said the other day, I think Derrek Lee's in a bit of a funk (his average is down to .359), and tomorrow might be a good day to start Gerut in left field and Hollandsworth at first base.

Tomorrow might also be a good day for Jim Hendry to figure out a way to get Manny Ramirez to Wrigley Field. Yes, the Cubs will get reinforcements at shortstop and in the bullpen next Friday, as the club announced today that Kerry Wood, Scott Williamson and Nomar Garciaparra will all be activated that day, to face the Mets in New York.

That'll help -- no doubt about it. But this team needs an injection NOW. I don't think I've ever heard the ballpark as quiet as it was after Macias' strikeout ended today's game. Everyone filed out quietly; there wasn't even the usual PA announcement to thank us for coming and give the linescore totals.

The Cubs must win tomorrow to salvage a .500 month -- they haven't had a losing month since July 2003 (except for the 1-2 last October), and you know what happened after that. There is still much time to make up ground, and keep hope.

But it had better start tomorrow.