After the disastrous top of the ninth in today's ridiculous -- there's no other word for it -- 6-5 loss to the Braves, I just sat there staring at the field, as if by doing so I could change what had just happened.
Dave and Phil and Howard looked at me and said, "You're not saying anything."
What could I say? I said, "I don't really have anything to say."
What more can ANY of us say? How many times this season have I said, either here or to people at the ballpark, "How much worse can it get?"
And then it does. Just when you think you've seen the most stupid, pointless, poorly played loss of the year, along comes yet another one.
I don't need to go over the details here, do I? Suffice to say that two really bad defensive plays cost the Cubs -- the first, Jacque Jones losing the ball in the sun; he should have been charged with an error since the ball went off his body. Instead, it was the first hit off Carlos Zambrano.
I'll get to the other play shortly. First, let's talk about Z, who pitched two different games today. One of them was in the first inning alone -- he threw thirty-eight pitches and walked four, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.
After that he retired fourteen straight hitters, till he issued another walk to Chipper Jones in the sixth. And he'd have gotten out of the seventh if Jacque Jones (there were too many Joneses in this game, as far as I'm concerned) had been able to make that catch.
According to the AP story:
Pardon me, but BS. A major league player, who has been in the game as long as Jones has, ought to be able to see and catch a ball like that. Period. This is what you get when you get sportswriters as official scorers -- I have long been in favor of making the scorer a fifth member of the umpiring crew. Why should a person paid by a newspaper be accountable for something as important as this?
Anyway, even after that, and the bullpen represented by Bob Howry and Scott Eyre let the Braves eke out a couple more runs, the Cubs still had a 5-3 lead heading to the ninth.
I should mention, before I talk about that (see how I'm stalling? avoiding? Wouldn't you?), that the Cub offense came alive today -- eight hits and four runs off one of the better starters in the league, Tim Hudson, and Aramis Ramirez in particular looked good. He had three hits, and with the weather being nice today (71 degrees, light wind off the lake), and warmer over the weekend, this is Ramirez weather.
I mentioned to Dave that Ramirez has never hit well in cold weather in April and May, and his response: "Maybe they should ask for two months' salary back, then."
Point taken. Ramirez, who Dave has also criticized in the past for being a not-so-agile third baseman, made a terrific play on a Todd Pratt grounder in the 7th, preserving (for the moment, at least, till the next hitter) Zambrano's no-hitter. Z wasn't going to finish, anyway -- even if Jones catches that ball, Z was at about 115 pitches by then and he was not going to go out for the eighth. There were also two really nice running and diving catches by Braves LF Ryan Langerhans, or the Cubs might have scored a couple more runs.
What struck Dave, Phil and me most about Dempster's appearance in the ninth wasn't just that he walked two and gave up two hits -- it was that for the first three batters of the inning, his velocity was no higher than 87. Was he throwing just sliders? It didn't appear so -- the two singles were off 84-MPH fastballs. Dave thinks Dempster might be hiding an injury.
Like the Cubs don't already have enough of those.
Still and all, even with all the walks (nine of them, all told -- Z with 78 K's now leads the majors, but he also leads the majors with 44 walks, and the Cubs now lead the majors with 220 walks issued), the game should have been no worse than tied, when Andruw (oh, you know the last name) lofted a fly ball that Jacque -- um, yes, that name -- did catch. When Marcus Giles, upon taking third, noticed the throw sort of lazingly lofting toward the cutoff man, he broke for the plate.
Neifi Perez' throw nearly hit Ron Santo in the radio booth. Perez was given two errors on the play, though I can't see how the second one was given, except that Edgar Renteria took third base, which he would have done on the overthrow anyway.
Can we now please never have Perez in the starting lineup again?
On the other hand, if that wish is granted, the replacement is likely to be Tony Womack, who was called up today, with the invisible Ryan Theriot sent back to Iowa. This was a bad roster move and cannot be justified in any possible way.
The booing was loud, repeated and justified. It happened after the Perez throw, and again when the Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the ninth to Ken Lay -- er, I mean Ken RAY, who is 32 years old and until this year had not pitched in the major leagues since seven years ago with the Royals.
Here's the thing. This loss cannot be pinned on Dusty Baker or the coaching staff. It was just bad playing. Can you blame Baker for putting Perez in the game? Sure you can. But you can also blame Jim Hendry for signing him to a two-year deal in the first place. And me sitting here at my keyboard railing against Baker, Hendry, Andy MacPhail, the ground crew, the vendors, whoever, isn't going to do any good -- because whether any of us want management replaced, it simply isn't going to happen. That's the sad truth, unfortunately. We are just going to have to grin and bear this awful season, and hope it's blown up next winter. I have heard that Hendry is talking to a couple of teams about possible deals involving major league players -- so maybe he will pull the trigger soon. No, I can't tell you who -- not yet, anyway.
There is other news, not that it really matters:
- Kerry Wood will start Monday instead of Sunday. No one's been announced for Sunday yet, but I'd expect Jae-Kuk Ryu to be recalled for the start, with Michael Wuertz sent back to Iowa.
- Mark Prior will throw on the side at Wrigley Field tomorrow (and not with a towel, either, with an actual baseball, and if I see this, I'll report on it tomorrow afternoon), and then will be sent on a rehab assignment, probably at Peoria, Monday or Tuesday.
- Michael Barrett appealed his ten-game suspension and thus can play till the appeal is heard. I would expect a reduction to seven or eight games, based on what MLB Poohbah of Detention Bob Watson has done in the past.
- Freddie Bynum hit another HR. Unfortunately, that probably means we're stuck with him for another month.
- I tried a new cap today (see the cap standings.) That didn't work, either.
Till tomorrow. I could say that it won't get worse, but every time I do, it does. There will be a ballgame. It will be a sunny day. That's about all I can guarantee at this writing.