SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I've been sick.
Well, not really sick, but congested and coughing and this morning I finally hied myself down to one of the walk-in clinics in the area.
Fortunately, it's just a minor viral infection and after some over-the-counter meds and a prescription for some cough stuff that's supposed to prevent the coughing fits I've had while I'm trying to sleep, I feel better already.
I feel way better too, after the Cubs' 7-5 win over the Giants today, in front of a sellout crowd at Scottsdale Stadium, many of whom were wearing the now-almost-cliched green for St. Patrick's Day.
Well, yours truly included; I have this hideous green cap that the folks at Children's Memorial left at work one day, and I took it home. This is probably the only day I'll ever wear it.
The Cubs and Giants were both wearing green caps too today; they looked really strange against the navy-blue Cub and black Giant warmup tops that have become de rigeur during spring training.
And about those Giants jerseys. What is the deal? They are black, and have black numbers with orange outlines, making them nearly impossible to read if you're more than about ten feet away. Plus, on a bright sunny day like today, it's got to be uncomfortably hot in dark colored polyester like that.
Sermon over, on to the game.
Scottsdale Stadium has had a bit of a facelift over the winter; most of the construction had to do with new practice fields for the Giants, but there are also larger souvenir stores (larger prices for the program, too -- $5, and for all the ads in it, it ought to be free), and a big party deck taking about half of what was berm space in right field.
And today's spectacle was Barry Bonds' first appearance in the field in 2006. His appearance was met with mostly cheers from the Giants' fans, but also some loud heckling from Cub fans and whatever other anti-Bonds folks were in the crowd. He did get a hit, and scored a run on a long double by Mark Sweeney, after which he left the game (four innings' worth).
He's slow. He turned an ordinary single by Juan Pierre into a double because he just can't run any more (and with the 41-year-old Steve Finley in CF, that didn't help either). He loafed on and off the field after each half-inning.
Frankly, I'd rather he'd just vanish from the baseball landscape forever.
Giants fans, for their part, seemed much more enamored with late-inning replacement, backup OF Jason Ellison, who had a single and a double and a large cheering section for both.
The rest of the game was all Cubs; they had only five hits (the Pierre double, two Jacque Jones singles, and a pop-fly single -- that could have been caught by a faster LF -- and long HR by Aramis Ramirez), but the Giants also issued two walks, a hit batsman and their minor league infielders who started today (Angel Chavez and Tomas de la Rosa) combined for four of the five San Francisco errors; their defense looked absolutely awful, and the five-run Cub second, followed by Ramirez' HR (which would have been a two-run job if Jones hadn't gotten thrown out stealing -- he looks like whatever baserunning speed he has is starting to ebb away), looked like it was going to put the game away early.
Greg Maddux also looked sharp till he ran out of gas in the bottom of the fourth and gave up three straight hits and a run (which would also have been another if not for a really questionable baserunning choice by Sweeney, who got thrown out at third). Maddux was also the first Cub starting pitcher to bat this year -- Dusty Baker said he's going to start doing this to get his starters used to batting -- and he looked bad there, popping up a bunt attempt and weakly grounding to first.
But the rest of the staff did a nice job, until Will Ohman -- "Bad" Ohman today -- came in for the ninth, and gave up four straight hits to Giant scrubs, including a booming 420-foot triple to Kevin Frandsen, and had four runs charged to him, and somebody named Federico Baez had to come in to get the last out.
Yes, I know, I know, Mark Prior is likely going to start the season on the DL. What this means is that someone like Rich Hill, Angel Guzman or Sean Marshall is going to have to step up. Or perhaps the Cubs will pull off a last-week-of-camp deal, as they did in 2002 when they acquired Matt Clement.
Anyway, I feel better, and watching the Cubs win always makes me feel better, sloppy though it was.
I won't be heading to Tucson tomorrow to see the Cub/White Sox matchup; also, I'm having trouble downloading some pictures I took today, so I will try to get them posted tomorrow.
Finally, in the second inning there was a foul popup that a woman in the first row had in her glove, after which it popped out onto the field. 1B umpire Ed Montague came over, picked up the ball, and pocketed it, to a loud chorus of boos. He even stuck his tongue out at the people in the general area, and got booed again.
He redeemed himself after the inning ended when he came over and handed the ball, not to the original fan who caught it, but to a kid in the first row. That produced actual cheers for an umpire -- something you rarely see at a ballpark.