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Jody, We Hardly Knew Ye

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It must have been done at about 2:53 pm, according to the post-game press conference from Jim Hendry that I heard on the radio driving home, which was just about the time that Mike and I saw what was likely the season, flying out of the ballpark onto Waveland Avenue, a grand slam off the bat of a guy who entered the game hitting .216.

"It", of course, is the acquisition by the Cubs of Matt Lawton from the Pirates in exchange for Jody Gerut.

That's the same Jody Gerut who was acquired only 13 days ago from the Indians, and the same Jody Gerut of whom Hendry said, "We're committed to you for this year and next year."

How must that make players on other teams feel, if they are considering coming to the Cubs as free agents? Dave called to tell us of the deal, about 20 minutes after it was done and Gerut had been pulled from left field (that's the second time in recent years I've seen that happen -- Ellis Burks, playing for the Rockies against the Cubs on July 31, 1998, was yanked from center field after being dealt to the Giants), although with the way Dusty Baker has shuttled left fielders in and out, it didn't seem all that odd that Todd Hollandsworth was suddenly in the game.

Jeff and I agreed -- and maybe this was premature -- that under these sorts of circumstances, nobody would want to play here. The "two-year" commitment lasted two weeks. The only way this makes any sense at all, is if the Cubs discovered that Gerut's knee injury recovery was much slower than originally thought, and he might not be able to help the team a year from now.

Since I know some people who are close friends with Jody, in the next few days I'll try to find some things out about this deal and pass them along to you.

Look, Matt Lawton is a good player. In fact, he's having a better-than-average year, hitting .276/.382/.438 for an OPS of .820, better than his career norms, and he's got 28 doubles this year. No doubt, he'll be installed at leadoff, and once Nomar comes back on Friday, Nomar will hit second and Todd Walker will be dropped to sixth or seventh.

What this does to Matt Murton is uncertain. (No, I didn't plan that rhyme.) There will be no more platoon arrangement -- and this puts Hollandsworth on the bench where he is a much better contributor. Frankly, I'd rather see Murton sent back to Iowa or even West Tenn, to play every day and come back in September, and bring Ben Grieve or Scott McClain -- or, better yet, both of them, shedding one of the 12 pitchers -- to bolster the bench.

Yes, this move will improve the Cub offense. It is, however, a "win now" move -- Lawton will be 34 in November, and even if he plays well, I doubt he'll be re-signed as a free agent.

Can the Cubs still "win now"? Well, sure they can, even though they stunk out the joint in a 13-6 loss to the Diamondbacks, a game that, as the saying goes, "wasn't that close", made interesting only because of a four-run eighth off rusty D'back reliever Mike Koplove, and getting the bases loaded in the ninth off Tim Worrell.

Greg Maddux, who has now allowed ten lifetime home runs to Luis Gonzalez (in 97 career AB) after the fourth-inning shot onto the street (Mark, who came to the game with me today, had gone to get a hot dog at the time, and had to ask me where it went -- over our heads), threw three good innings and one really bad one (plus two batters into yet another one, the second of whom scored on Chris Snyder's grand slam, the first of his career). Greg's ERA soared to an ugly 4.67, and the rest of the staff didn't do much better today -- Mike Remlinger gave up Snyder's slam, and Sergio Mitre allowed three solo homers, including one to Gonzalez and one to Snyder, and when Snyder came up in the 9th with a chance to have a three-homer game, Mike reminded me of that feat -- to which I just shook my head. I wasn't really in the mood for history today.

Mike brought his sister and her family for their annual bleacher visit, and by the time the score got to be 13-2 they were considering leaving in order to make their train back to the far northwest suburbs -- but they did wind up staying the course, as well they should. Hardly anyone else in the crowd did -- after the 7th inning stretch, the song sung by yet another forgettable celebrity (I suppose I could make some crack about "Desperate Housewives", the TV show that this actor was from, being somehow appropriate for today, but I'll skip that, thankyouverymuch), about two-thirds of the crowd "headed for the exits", as Jack Brickhouse used to say after similar blowouts back in the 1960's.

I even decided to bring back the Tomato Inning today. That was pretty much a failure -- it was the second, which was a run-of-the-mill 1-2-3 inning. Perhaps some other ritual or superstition will happen during the next homestand. The best ones, as the Tomato Inning was, occur purely by happenstance, not design. The loss today also drops Mark's personal record to 3-2; we'll have to do something about that during the next homestand as well.

After the five-run D'back inning that made it 9-1, the Cubs were roundly booed coming off the field. Frankly, I do not find this unreasonable. The fans were exercising their right to show their feelings about the club's performance, and that is, I believe, an appropriate way to do so. During the four-run rally, the remnants of today's gathering cheered each hit, walk and run loudly -- and that's as it should be. May there be many more opportunities for the latter, than for the former, in upcoming games.

There may be chances for some booing in three weeks -- Kyle Farnsworth was traded to the Braves today. That's peculiar, as he had recently been installed as Detroit's closer -- I wonder if there were some off-the-field issues with him in Atlanta, as there were here. The Braves come in for a three-game series beginning on the 24th.

Anyway, tomorrow is a day of rest. The Cubs surely need one, and I suspect all of us could use a breather. Is losing 3 of 4 to the Diamondbacks at home, and 4 of 7 on the homestand, a good thing? No, it is not. Is it the way to contend? No, it is not.

I'd be way more worried if the date were August 31, instead of July 31. I can't let myself get pessimistic or give up -- because again, why be a fan if you're going to sit here and criticize moves or non-moves? Why play Jay Mariotti every day? Jay does that snarky, snarly thing very well himself.

Me, I want my team to win. Yes, they're not doing a very good job of it right now.

Jim Hendry made a statement today. It was a small statement. It may lead to more wins. There are reinforcements coming on Friday. Keep the faith. There are still 57 games remaining.

[editor's note, by Al] Well, of course not too long after I posted this, I thought of a much better title than "The Changing Of The Guard", so I changed it.