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The History Of The Cubs In One Night, Part II

Remember this awful movie?

No, of course you don't. It was pretty bad; hardly anyone saw it. I did, because I happened to like Mel Brooks movies. But his time was pretty much up by the time he released that clinker.

If you think I'm going to say that the Cubs' time is up because they laid an egg of a ballgame last night, a 4-3 loss to the Phillies that you had to see to believe, no, I'm not.

But even a ten-year-old baseball player (that'd be Mark, who was watching the fatal bottom of the ninth with me) knows that Michael Barrett, faced with several choices after dropping strike three on Pat Burrell, made exactly the wrong one.

Before I get to this wrong choice, a short digression.

Speaking of young ballplayers, this week's Sports Illustrated contains, in its Scorecard section (there's no online link to this one -- you'll have to find a copy of the magazine), a feature on Dusty Baker. What makes this one different is that quite a bit of it is about Dusty's now nearly seven-year-old son Darren, and my eyes about popped out when I read that Darren, in the summer, plays for the "Welles Park Cubs".

Welles Park, as you know from reading here, is the park where Mark plays. He happened to be standing next to me when I was reading this article, and when I pointed this out to him, he said, "Oh yeah, he plays with Jonah" -- that's the younger brother of a good friend of Mark's.

Anyway, Mark and I both knew that Barrett could have:

  • held the ball and let Jimmy Rollins run back to third base. The worst-case scenario here is that there are two out and the bases are still loaded.
  • bluffed a throw to Aramis Ramirez, in which case Rollins either goes back to third anyway (see scenario one), or keeps running and is tagged out.
  • run right at Rollins, in which case Barrett either tags him out, or he runs him back to third -- see scenario one again. In fact, some of you may remember the game last year in which Barrett ran all the way out to second base to tag a runner trapped in a rundown.
Instead, Barrett tries to get Rollins in a rundown, but Ramirez was still too close to third base and by the time Aramis, rightfully surprised at the throw, sent the ball back to Barrett covering the plate, it was too late -- Rollins isn't only the fastest man on the Phillies, he's one of the fastest players in the NL, and he scored easily to win the game.

This was only one of several extremely poor fielding plays on the part of the Cubs; Jerome Williams failed to cover first base on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Phillies pitcher Robinson Tejeda, which would have been the second out of the Phillies' three-run second.

If this play is made, the next hitter, Rollins, who hit a ground ball to second, would have been the third out, and only two runs would have scored.

Or, if the relay to first on that ground ball hadn't pulled Derrek Lee off the base, that would have been an inning-ending double play, same result.

Speaking of Lee, he contributed nothing to the offense last night except for a meaningless walk in the eighth inning. It's been very hot the last few games, both at home and on the road, and is likely to be so again today. I think Derrek really needs a day off. Today, a 1 pm ET start in 97-degree heat, would be an excellent time to do this.

I happen to like Jerome Williams' talent and he didn't pitch all that badly last night, but Glendon Rusch came in and threw two lights-out innings in relief (except for the time HE failed to cover first base); maybe it's time to put Jerome in the bullpen and put Glendon back in the rotation, where he thrived earlier this year.

Or, with both Kerry Wood and Scott Williamson due back on Friday, maybe Williams should be sent to Iowa so he can continue to start every fifth day, with the idea that he'll rejoin the rotation in 2006.

This is especially true given the bullpen meltdown again last night. Mike Remlinger's appearance made very little sense -- he was brought in to turn Rollins around to hit righthanded, but Rollins was 3-for-7 lifetime against Remlinger and doubled. Then you'd have thought that the left-handed-hitting Kenny Lofton would have done well against the reverse-split Remlinger, but Rem got him to ground out -- that would have been easier, incidentally, if Remlinger had remembered to cover first base.

And the game-winning strikeout play (that sounds odd, doesn't it) -- well, it only got that far because Mike Wuertz ran the count full on Pat Burrell and was, apparently, trying to paint the corner with another slider, one that Barrett couldn't handle.

Well, I can't sugarcoat this one. It's one of the most bizarre endings to a game I've ever seen -- that's the second really weird Cub-Phillie 9th inning this year.

After today's game, exactly one-third of the season will remain. The Cubs' standing didn't change after yesterday's action -- they still stand tied with the Mets, fifth in the wild-card race -- but dropped a game further behind Houston with their win at Arizona.

Ballplayers have to pick themselves up and figuratively dust themselves off after a loss like this. It's so weird that I imagine the Cubs could almost laugh at it.

This whole thing may be my fault, anyway. I noticed something while watching the game Tuesday night. I had started watching while sitting in one particular chair. I got up and moved to another chair to use my kids' computer. That was the eighth inning Tuesday, when they had the winning rally. I moved back to the original chair to watch the 9th. Bad move, maybe, but by the time Dempster had walked the bases loaded, I couldn't get up.

For the first few innings last night, I was sitting in various spots, doing various things. Moved back to the computer chair, top of the fifth. Blam! Right away, they got the bases loaded, nobody out.

I got up again. Came back to the computer chair, guess when?

Top of the 8th. I have to do this more often. By the time the 9th inning began, I had started to get ready to go to sleep to get up for work this morning.

I should have gone back to the computer.

It's not late September. It's still early August. The reinforcements arrive on Friday. And with the quick turnaround to a day game today, there'll be a game thread posted here in a couple of hours.

Keep the faith.