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Bizarro Baseball

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If you are, or were, a fan of Superman, you no doubt know of Bizarro Superman, who is the alt-version of Superman, possessing his powers but otherwise completely the opposite; as is stated in the link above, he is:

a grotesque imitation of Superman fashioned out of lifeless matter.
Today's 13-12 Cub loss to the Braves was exactly that: a grotesque imitiation of baseball fashioned, ultimately, out of lifeless matter.

How else can you explain a game in which one team had eighteen hits, eight of which were home runs, but also struck out eighteen times -- NONE of which were credited to the opposition's starting pitcher.

Who, incidentally, also accounted for the ONLY batting strikeout by the other team until the very last out of the game.

And that other team had sixteen hits, fourteen of which were singles, one a double, and the other a triple by about the unlikeliest guy in the lineup to hit one... and yet, they managed to take the game into extra innings... before losing it in part because a popup hit the third baseman in the head.

What else can you say about a lineup that, at its Bizarro peak, had all five of the Cub second basemen (Neifi Perez, Freddie Bynum, Todd Walker, Jerry Hairston and Tony Womack) in the game at the same time? The wind seemed as if it would whip up when the Braves were up, hitting their eight home runs (a club record, breaking one that had stood for thirty-nine years, and also breaking a Cub club record for HR allowed), and it would die down when the Cubs would loft the ball in the air. I thought Aramis Ramirez had won the game with a fly ball to CF in the 10th, that appeared to have the arc to land in the seats, but it died in flight and landed in Andruw Jones' glove. The Braves hit eight home runs and only four other fly balls, since as Dave remarked to me, they seemed to be just swinging wildly at everything with the 18 K's -- sixteen swinging, one called, and one on a fouled bunt attempt by John Smoltz.

Meanwhile, the Cubs had no fewer than fourteen fly balls caught by Braves outfielders, many of them appearing to have the HR distance before fading and being caught. One of them drove in a run -- a Michael Barrett sacrifice fly in the fourth. There were five errors in the game -- although the popup off Ramirez' head shouldn't really be called an error; I almost felt sorry for him when that easy pop, which led to the winning unearned Atlanta run off Scott Eyre, hit him and bounced about thirty feet away. What else can you say? The Cubs did show signs of life today; they had two four-run innings and a three-run inning, the latter helped along by a misplay by Smoltz; that was the second misplay between him and first baseman Adam LaRoche, whose Attention Deficit Disorder troubles are well known, and led to him being pulled from a game a couple of weeks ago. LaRoche has talent -- clearly, as he hit two HR today -- but occasionally appears lackadaisical in the field, and he himself admits that he at times loses focus.

At least it was a day, with the sun blazing and wind blowing out and hits, whatever type you like, bounding all about and out of the yard, where WE didn't lose focus. And I do give credit for this Cub team, which, yes, I know is not very talented, to come back against a more powerful Atlanta ballclub -- OK, maybe more credit than is due, because the Braves really don't have a good bullpen (this was alleged closer Chris Reitsma's fourth blown save of the season, more than Ryan Dempster has. Of course, Reitsma's had a few more chances).

I do blame Dusty Baker for this. All year we've heard about Freddie Bynum and the reason he's on this team -- his speed. Well, he got on base twice today, with two hits and then in the 9th on what was ruled a fielder's choice when catcher Brayan (no, that's not a misspelling) Pena couldn't tag Neifi Perez after his triple.

There's one out. Bynum represents the winning run on first. WHY WASN'T HE RUNNING? Had Bynum reached second base, he would have scored on Tony Womack's single one batter later and the Cubs would have won. Yes, this is Baker's fault. You got the guy you wanted, Dusty, the speed guy. SO RUN HIM WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE TO!

This game might still be going if the ball doesn't hit Ramirez in the head -- and I'll give props to Jerry Hairston, who went into RF on a double-switch in the 11th, for a pretty good acting job trying to convince 1B umpire Chuck Meriwether that he had caught Marcus Giles' game-winning single. But it was clearly a trap -- we could see that all the way across the field.

Distressing? Sure, it's another loss. Depressing? Sure, but in a way, at least the Cubs hit, and (after Jae-Kuk Ryu, who had NO stuff OR command today, allowing four HR in twenty-eight pitches) the bullpen didn't do too bad a job (even with Glendon Rusch allowing two MORE HR, giving him 13 HR allowed in 37 IP this year), and the hitting was actually timely.

It doesn't matter, of course -- that was the third straight one-run loss, and the Cubs are now 3-9 in one-run games. They are also 4-14 in games decided by five runs or more. These are signs of a very bad team.

Dave and I were discussing the Braves' bullpen today as they were imploding, and the fact that the Cubs might have some attractive trade pieces for them -- Scott Williamson and/or Bob Howry. They'd probably have to eat some of Howry's contract to deal him, but that'd be worth it at this point, or maybe, better yet, a month from now when Atlanta is more desperate. The guy I'd love to get is Wilson Betemit -- who has no position as long as Giles, Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones are there, and could be plugged in at 2B for the Cubs.

Food for thought.

Here's some more. I was surprised to learn that, after eighteen years, beer vendors had returned to the bleachers.

Sort of. The vendors don't roam the aisles; they have been placed at stationary locations, one in RF, one in LF, to take some of the pressure off the static beer stands which have been getting lines far longer than they anticipated with the available space. It didn't seem as if this caused any more drunkenness than I've previously witnessed. Of course, today that might be because half the crowd had emptied out by the time the eighth inning announcement that 41,698 tickets had been sold, a few more than Saturday.

Finally, I have learned that Jim Hendry, Andy MacPhail, scouting director Tim Wilken, and quite a large support staff, have all flown to Mesa today to prepare for the upcoming draft, which begins a week from Tuesday. Supposedly, the reason for this is that the office space at Wrigley Field is too cramped. But it would seem to me to be cheaper to just rent office space in the Chicago area, rather than fly all those people to Arizona for ten days.

But hey, that's just me. Plus, would YOU want to slog to work every day in 105+ degree temperatures? Yeah, I know, it's a dry heat. But still.

The Reds come in tomorrow. They like to hit home runs. If the wind is still blowing out -- and at this writing, it appears it is going to be, another game like today's could ensue.