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Left Field Doesn't Suck

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No, it really doesn't, and the Society Of The Bench (Mike's name for our little band, which dates back in some form all the way to 1920) is almost certainly moving permanently to the extreme left-field corner, top two or three rows.

Why? Because we were used to a small enclave of a couple of benches of only a few seats, without too many people around us, with easy ingress and egress, and that simply doesn't exist in right field any more.

So, Jeff and I went to check it out yesterday, and today we all plunked ourselves down there -- and you know what, it's pretty darn good. The sightlines are different, but no higher than we were before (the top row is row 11, we used to be in row 12), and we have a great view of the foul line so, as Mike said, "We can judge all those close calls very well now," and since the entry and exit stairs are right next to us now, we still have that easy in-and-out process.

We pretty much shocked all the other bleacher season ticket holders -- until they came over and saw where we were, and almost unanimously said we'd made the right choice. Ron from LF came over to talk and said he'd instinctively turned toward RF, and then realized he needed to turn toward the foul line instead.

So -- if you are looking for me or any of the people you've met through BCB who sit with us... you can now find me right on the foul line, last row, LF corner. In fact, when the wind starts blowing OUT later in the week, I think I'd better bring my glove, because I'm thinking this is probably prime HR territory. It's already a bit warmer over there than in RF, on wind-blowing-in days, because the buildings on Waveland block some of the wind.

And, what better way to symbolically smash the bottle of champagne and christen the new section, than with a stirring come-from-behind win over the Cardinals, 3-2.

I went on the record to Dave and Phil, and they agreed, that today was the first evidence that the new bleacher structure lessens -- even to a small extent -- the effect of the wind blowing in.

There's no way Michael Barrett's pinch-HR that tied the game in the sixth inning would have reached the basket (where it landed) with the old configuration -- the open fence would have allowed the wind to push it back, leaving it at best a double, at worst an out. The larger bleacher structure, taller and more substantial, deflected enough of the wind to help the Cubs today.

That was after an inning in which the worst fears of Cub fans came true -- Ronny Cedeno really, really has to work on his defense. A ground ball, with the not-so-speedy Scott Rolen running, routine to Cedeno, was thrown away -- Derrek Lee tried to save it, but it went as an error on Cedeno, instead of an inning-ending out (and was Ronny's 2nd error of the day), scoring a run after Carlos Zambrano made an error. That rattled Z who had been breezing along; he walked Skip Schumaker, and then Yadier Molina drove in the second run -- after Jacque Jones, who came to the Cubs with a reputation of being strong-but-scatter-armed, airmailed a throw to the plate. This made Z throw seventeen pitches after the Cedeno error, forcing him out of the game after six.

Even after that, we had the sense that the Cubs could come back if the Cardinals would just lift Carpenter; that wish came true after the sixth, when Tony LaRussa pulled Carpenter only 97 pitches into a very good outing.

And this is where the Cardinals differ from last year. They really seem to miss Julian Tavarez and Ray King; instead Josh Hancock (who the Cardinals got after the Reds released him supposedly because he was too fat) came in and immediately gave up a single to Matt Murton, and then the Barrett HR.

The rest of the Cardinal bullpen wasn't much better; Randy Flores finished off that inning but then Brad Thompson's second pitch of the eighth inning was hit -- nearly to us, just one section over -- for Derrek Lee's game-winning HR. Lee, who had originally set a deadline of today for settling on a contract extension, has relaxed that deadline, and there are rumors that a deal with Lee has been reached "in principle", with details to be worked out and finalized soon.

Good. Lee's a cornerstone. Lock him up!

Now, as shaky as the Cardinal bullpen was today, that's how good the Cubs' pen was. It worked exactly the way management must have sketched it out in January: Scott Williamson a scoreless 7th, Will Ohman playing the LOOGY, striking out Jim Edmonds, then Bob Howry finishing off the 8th, and Ryan Dempster a (relatively) uneventful ninth for his first save.

That's the way good bullpens do it. Dave said the Cubs have the "best bullpen, top to bottom, in the National League." Wow. I truly respect Dave's baseball knowledge -- and maybe he'll be right, if this scenario is repeated, say, forty or fifty more times. A game like this is a confidence-builder, no doubt about it, and the Cubs are quietly going about making a statement to the Cardinals, who seem lost and confused. There's something missing on that ballclub, and it doesn't appear they quite know what it is yet.

There's been a ton of criticism of Jacque Jones here and elsewhere, and I must remind you -- you're like the people who think that because the Brewers are 5-0, they're going to run away with the division. Yes, Jones is 0-for-12 with six strikeouts. That's bad. But do you think that many good players go through 12 at-bat stretches during the year like that? Of course they do.

If it lasts much longer, yes, I'd sit him a day or two, particularly if it comes to facing a tough lefty in the next week or two.

Today, I also met dedicated BCB readers tomas21 and sparkles721, who were both at the game, as well as a visit from author Kevin Kaduk, who will be signing copies of his terrific book "Wrigleyworld" tomorrow from 1 to 3 pm at the Barnes & Noble in Schaumburg.

I don't want to leave out from today's post, a note on Jim Hendry's two-year contract extension, long expected. If you've been here long enough, you know this is something I'd wanted. Enough of changing regimes every three years. And if the Cubs keep playing like this, expect Hendry to similarly extend Dusty Baker's deal in the near future.

Finally, there's... one... small... problem with the Society of the Bench's new left-field perch.

It's right under one of the new speakers. And... it's REALLY LOUD! Turn it down a little, guys, OK?