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That Giant Sucking Sound...

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... you heard from Philadelphia today was the Cubs' season beginning to go down the drain.

To continue the metaphor, there are stoppers coming tomorrow. Is it too late?

Not with 54 games left, it's not too late. But it had better start now.

The Cubs lost to the Phillies 6-4 today, losing the series. Hey, look! At least it wasn't another one-run loss. Incidentally, that boxscore (at least at the time I posted it) shows the Cubs at 54-55; it's wrong.

What's most galling about this is that the Cubs twice rallied back and made it close, only to see Mark Prior allow two solo homers in the middle innings, to Chase Utley and Todd Pratt -- yes, the same Todd Pratt who I declared in 1995 to be Worst Cub Of All Time -- and that was the difference in the game.

OK, time for a digression. Here's the reason I gave Pratt that title. On June 15, 1995, Pratt led off the 11th inning against the Giants with a walk. One batter later, Brian McRae doubled him to third. One pitch later, the Giants' Steve Mintz threw a wild pitch.

Did Pratt score? He could have, easily. The game would have been over, Cubs win. Nope -- instead, he hesitated and wound up with a caught-stealing, as Giants catcher Kirt Manwaring was given enough time to get the ball and flip back to Mintz for the out. The Cubs lost the game in 13 innings.

The Cubs let him go at the end of 1995 -- a year in which he went 8-for-60 (!) with a .209 OBA, worse than even Corey Patterson.

Since then, he has hit a game-winning HR in the NLCS (1999 Mets), and has racked up a .352 lifetime OBA, and been a competent backup catcher for the Mets and Phillies. Far better, in fact, than virtually every backup catcher the Cubs have had in the ten years since they let him go.

Today's HR was Pratt's 44th career homer. Until today, only one of them had been against the Cubs.

The Cubs did seem to have some fight in them until these two solo homers undid Prior -- you've all noted the fact that his curveball wasn't working, and it could be the heat and humidity, or maybe that's just a ridiculous excuse. It's time to stop the excuses and time to start playing winning baseball.

When the Cubs hit well -- they did have eleven hits today -- the pitching fails. How this team, which lives and dies by the home run, could have failed to hit a home run in this entire series, in a launching pad like Citizens Bank Park, is absolutely unfathomable to me. According to the above-linked recap, this is only the second time in CBP's history that a visiting team hasn't homered in a series.

Is it over? No, it's not over. Am I going to sit here and rip the Cubs like some do? No, that's not in my nature. I'm a fan. Yes, I want them to win, but I'm not a fair-weather fan. These losses disappoint me, they don't prompt me to Jay Mariotti-like railings.

It hasn't been a good day. My car is still making horrible-sounding scraping noises; it's going in tomorrow. I haven't been able to shake the sinus congestion I've had for a week now -- the doctor's office even got a call (I never do that!).

Like most of you, I came across the Cubs because of family -- my dad took me to my first game, and he didn't know what he was starting! The Cubs become family, and I know you know that feeling. You can be disappointed without being draconian.

Two-thirds done; that's where we are tonight, and pretty much back where we started -- even at 54-54. That means, if you presume that 90 wins will take the wild card, the Cubs must go 36-18 over the remaining 54 games to do so. Yes, it is true that this club has shown no inclination that it can do such a thing.

But.

There will be four new players on the 25-man roster tomorrow -- Nomar Garciaparra, Kerry Wood, Scott Williamson, and someone replacing Jerry Hairston, likely (shudder) Corey Patterson, though Adam Greenberg and Felix Pie are also possibilities.

It's likely that Ronny Cedeno will be sent down to play every day for Nomar; now, it'll be interesting to see who Williamson and Wood replace. Mike Remlinger could be DFA'd. Mike Wuertz or Roberto Novoa could be sent down -- and what I'd do is get rid of all three of those guys and bring up an extra bat, either Ben Grieve or Scott McClain, so that you avoid silly situations like having to have Wuertz bat for himself (gee, what a surprise -- he struck out looking) in the sixth inning because your bench is too thin.

If you don't keep the faith, then why are you here? The Cubs may not make it this year -- but I'm not quitting. Don't you either.