No, not this guy.
I'm talking about our favorite team, the Cubs, who can look very, very good when playing a contending team like the Cardinals or Astros, then fall flat against the likes of the Reds and Brewers.
Today's 3-2 comeback win over Houston at Wrigley Field made the Cubs 7-5 against the Astros this year and a combined 17-11 against the two top teams in the NL Central.
Never mind clicking on the Windows Calculator, I've done it for you. That's a .607 winning percentage, which would be a 98-win season.
But this is a .500 ballclub (they'll have to go 4-2, at least, the rest of the way, to finish at .500), and that's one of the signs of such a club, playing up or down to the level of their competition.
Today, it was up, and the Cubs have four more games with the Astros, so they'll undoubtedly have a large say as to whether Houston goes to the playoffs as the NL Wild Card, or not. The two clubs have split six games so far in 2005 at Minute Maid Park, and with the Phillies' win over the Reds today, Houston's wild-card lead is down to one game with six to go.
The Cubs, White Sox and Bears all played at home in Chicago today for the first time since September 11, 1983; most sources agree that date was the only other time on which this oddity has occurred. For the record, the White Sox won that day; the Cubs lost; and the Bears won 17-10.
Today, only one of the teams did the same thing as that day 22 years ago -- the White Sox won their game. The Bears lost theirs; and the total announced attendance for the three games was 126,388, including in our Wrigley Field bunch Mark (at his 13th game this year, record 8-5, way better than mine -- and he got Matt Murton, by all accounts a very fan-friendly player, to sign a ball for him when Murton exited the batting cage under the bleachers), his buddy Mitchell, who kept everyone in stitches; loyal BCB reader Dennis and his girlfriend Colleen, who were up here having evacuated Houston in anticipation of Hurricane Rita (Dennis will also be at Minute Maid Park this coming weekend), and my ABC-7 colleague Stacey Baca and her husband.
The 38,121 at Wrigley Field raised the season total to 3,024,331, making this the third straight year over three million; with two close-to-sellouts for the two remaining dates, the total will be close to 3.1 million.
I know I'm going to get arguments from some that we should all stop giving the Tribsters any money, and by doing so they will have a magical epiphany and it will instantly result in putting precisely the championship team that all of US design, on the field for Opening Day 2006.
It doesn't work that way, and I love watching the Cubs in person and I love baseball and the friendships I've made through the game, and yes, I know it's quite a bit of money -- frankly, boycotts of this nature never work, and neither does carping and griping. Over the offseason I hope to open many discussions of the type I opened yesterday (and believe me, any further rumors or inside info I come across, I'll share with you), and at least we'll have fun talking baseball in the winter months, hoping the Cubs do at last put that winning team on the field.
In the meantime, a few more nice, taut games like today's would be nice, although I'd certainly prefer no more rain interruptions -- today's, 58 minutes, was about half an hour shorter than yesterday's. It rained on and off most of the morning, but you could tell the club was bound and determined to at least start the game -- because the alternatives included playing the game tomorrow, an off day for both clubs. The rain began just before game time and trust me on this one, Derrek Lee's homer into the CF basket wouldn't have landed there except that the wind picked up right at that moment. Good for Derrek; his 45th HR was also his 97th XBH. And yes, the top two in the batting order today -- Jose Macias and Neifi Perez -- went 0-for-8, otherwise Lee might have had more RBI. Frankly, 105 RBI isn't very many for 45 HR -- example: Mark Teixeira, who has 43 HR for the Rangers, has 138 RBI, and that's with the likes of Alfonso Soriano hitting in front of him.
So, the Cubs need a #1 and #2 hitter who can get on base. We know this.
Right after Lee's HR, it started raining very hard for about five minutes -- right as Nomar was batting; he struck out.
The rain was off and on till the top of the third, when it came down way too hard to play; this is what Jeff had heard on the radio listening to the Bears game, that it would start just about 2:00. In the meantime, Jerome Williams had done his alternative-reality thing again; either he has a great first inning and then blows up, or a terrible one and then settles down (as he did in Milwaukee last week).
This time, he nearly blew up in the second, allowing the Astros to load the bases with nobody out, with two walks and a single; but then he got out of it with a strikeout, a line drive that Nomar picked off neatly, and a strikeout of Andy Pettitte -- but not before he went to a full count on the .085-hitting pitcher. GRRRR! Why can't these guys challenge hitters who can't hit?
After the rain delay, both teams went up and down fairly quickly; the Astros took the lead in the sixth on a couple of two-out hits, including a triple by Cub tormentor Orlando Palmeiro ("the clean Palmeiro", I said to Mike, who replied, "For now." Cynicism reigns!). Williams allowed only the two runs, despite being in constant trouble with six walks allowed -- he got out of two tough jams, one with a double play, the other with a Corey Patterson-esque pickoff of Jason Lane at third base.
But the Cubs took it back in the bottom of the seventh on Jeromy Burnitz' 299th career HR, a two-run, opposite-field shot. It seems likely that the Cubs will not pick up Burnitz' option year, and the talk is that he'll probably retire. So I'd love to see him get his 300th in a Cub uniform before the end of the season, and perhaps before the end of the home season on Wednesday. After Burnitz' homer the Cubs loaded the bases on walks -- when's the last time you saw THAT happen? -- but couldn't add to the lead.
Didn't matter. Mike Wuertz -- who has shown signs that he might be a useful part of the 2006 bullpen (85 K's in 72 IP) -- and Ryan Dempster (31st save in 33 chances) finished up uneventfully, although not till Jeff Bagwell, pinch-hitting, flied out to the warning track; that ball would have easily been a home run if it had been hit with the wind blowing the way it was in the first inning. Just before Bagwell came to the plate, the Astros sent Charles Gipson in to pinch-run at first base, reminding me of this 2003 game where Gipson, then playing for the Yankees, was sent up in an identical situation -- two out, visitors down one run, right-handed power hitter (Raul Mondesi) at the plate.
Gipson was picked off that day by Joe Borowski to end the game.
And of things like that, baseball lore and continuity are made. Jeff officially anointed Mark as part of our group today -- not just an adjunct to me as my son, but a full-fledged member. Of course, that would mean saving seats from time to time, but as Mark is ten and too young to get to the park on his own, that'll have to wait for future times, in future bleachers.