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Yes, It Can Get Worse

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Greg Maddux put on a pitching -- and baserunning -- clinic today at Wrigley Field, allowing four harmless hits and an unearned run and the Cubs put together a snappy 3-1 win in less than two hours...

Wait.

That's NOT the way it happened?

That's the way it SHOULD have happened, but Ryan Dempster blew his first save of the year, and it happened so quickly -- single, single, three-run HR by Mike Piazza into the basket -- that by the time it was over, dust settled on the Cubs' 4-3 loss to the Padres, our mood matched the gray and cold skies. We hardly said a word to each other in the LF corner during the bottom of the ninth inning.

It should have been a day of celebration. Maddux again looked like the guy who breezed through his first five wins of the season; the first two hits off him were a ground-ball double in the first that was fair by about a foot, and a third-inning single that never left the infield. Of the 22 outs he recorded, fourteen were on ground balls, and he threw only 73 pitches, bringing up memories of this 78-pitch complete game he threw at the Cubs in 1997, generally thought to be the lowest-pitch CG since the 1940's.

You can quibble with taking Maddux out, but no one was complaining when Scott Eyre got out of an jam with a double-play ball to end the 8th.

Seriously, how can you blame Dusty Baker for this one? I've read your comments and they're along the lines of "damn Neifi for not bringing in Jones with less than two out and Jones on third". It is true that major league players ought to do that. If you've read George Will's terrific book "Men at Work", you'll remember a fairly long section, ironically enough about Mark McGwire (long before the steroid era -- the book came out in 1991), who spent time during batting practice saying out loud, "Man on third, one out", and trying to hit BP pitches for fly balls.

Could Baker have substituted Matt Murton? Sure. Would that have been a guarantee of a sac fly? No. And if Dempster had done his job -- something he's been nearly automatic about -- Perez' failure to drive Jones in would have been meaningless.

I am well aware of this team's flaws, and Dusty Baker's flaws as a manager. This game was lost because the closer couldn't close. That sort of thing happens -- only it's magnified because of the amount of losing, and the methods of losing, the ballclub has gone through lately.

The title of this post comes from the fact that I walked over to the CF season ticket holders yesterday and said before the game, "It can't get any worse."

Naturally, it did.

So today, I went there and said, "It CAN get worse."

And it did that too.

I've run out of things to tell them. Any ideas?

Matt Burtz (BCB reader 'gauchodirk') joined us again today, even though he hasn't been at a victory yet this year. In an attempt to change his luck, he brought his wife Jackie and her friend Lindsay (self-described as "The Girl Who Knows Nothing About Sports"). Didn't help. At least it didn't rain today, and the wind wasn't as wicked as it was yesterday.

I also met another BCB reader named Matt, who goes by the username 'Chico Walker'. Somehow, that seems appropriate today. Have a look at Walker's career stats -- looks like sort of the Neifi of his day. Oh, and I almost forgot:

THE PA SPEAKERS ARE STILL TOO LOUD! PLEASE TURN THEM DOWN!

Anyway.

What more can you say on a day that should have seen Maddux tie Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan on the all-time list with 324 wins? And on a day when Maddux stole his eighth career base, and was the first Cub pitcher to steal a base since... Greg Maddux, last August 6 vs. the Mets, in another maddeningly frustrating loss.

Maybe that's why Piazza was gunning so hard to hit the ball out of the ballpark -- he was embarrassed by the SB, and has now thrown out only four of thirty-six runners attempting to steal. Incidentally, Piazza's HR -- just into the LF basket -- may have been helped, as was the Michael Barrett grand slam a few weeks ago, by the larger bleacher structure which has cut down the effect of the wind blowing in, not a lot, but in this case, maybe just enough to turn a ball that last year would have stayed in the park, into a devastating HR.

So let us look ahead, shall we? The Cubs today sent Angel Guzman back to Iowa, and recalled Jae-Kuk Ryu. The Cubs' player depth chart now shows four starters, and Ryu as a reliever. When Kerry Wood is activated on Wednesday, as this article indicates he will be, I would imagine that Roberto Novoa will be sent back to Iowa.

Incidentally, according to this 25-man roster list, Ryu has been assigned uniform #20.

That's probably a good idea -- give that number to a pitcher, rather than a position player. Felix Pie has been wearing #20 for Iowa, but I imagine he might want another number when recalled, to avoid comparisons with that other "hot prospect" center fielder.

I suppose you all want to know if I'm giving up. There's no doubt that if things continue this way, the Cubs will become sellers -- that is, if anyone would be interested in someone like Juan Pierre when he's hitting .231. But no matter how you feel about Dusty Baker, I doubt he's going anywhere. Bringing in a yeller and screamer? What is that going to accomplish? Many of you have complained that this team has no "fire". And yet -- Michael Barrett showed some yesterday, and then you complain that Baker's "lost control" of the team.

Which is it? You can't have it both ways.

Further, I am not going to let this ruin my enjoyment of the ballpark, the bleachers, or the lifelong friends I have made there. Look down your nose at that if you want to, but that isn't the problem, no matter what some here think.