Who knew it would be so populated with BCB readers? Some observations and comments from a Friday through Sunday's game visit. We couldn't stay for the Monday game, but with the way the Cubs are hitting....... who cares?
By coincidence, we stayed at the San Diego Marina Marriott, which is the team hotel. It seems the team, or most of them, are in the South Tower. Cubs fans abound. Checked in, saw Todd Walker leaving to go to the park (This is something like the 3rd or 4th time since Spring Training I've seen Walker in street clothes with some sort of FedEx or DHL package. As he was walking quickly to leave the hotel, he opened his DHL letter package and stuffed the empty envelope in a trash can. I easily resisted the urge to garbage pick it and sell it on ebay. Someone else didn't, however.)
Got to the park early after a late lunch in DW's Pub at the hotel. I've lived in the San Diego area before, so being there ain't no big thing. Petco's team store has an area where you can walk outside and be in the left field corner. The only thing separating you from the field is a chain link fence. My wife and I hung out there for quite a while, watching the pitchers go through their pre-game stuff. Next to Dempster, although Dempster seemed somewhat subdued today, Scott Eyre is the biggest extrovert among the pitchers, and maybe the team. He just about performed for the crowd. At one point, he tried to get Scott Williamson to play diagonal catch with him, throwing across and over all the other guys who were side by side. Williamson wouldn't go for it. Later, he and Williamson were throwing knucklers to each other. Williamson actually has a good one, and Eyre couldn't catch it. He offered to give my wife his glove as he said she could do a better job than he could with it. Then, they played long toss, Eyre in the left field corner and Williamson in center by the Padre bullpen. Eyre kept trying to throw balls over Williamson's head into the Padre bullpen, but Williamson either caught most or tipped them away. Finally, frustrated he couldn't get enough past Williamson to his liking, he instructed the only young kid in the group behind the fence to cover his ears, then yelled "Douche!!!!" very loudly at Williamson. For some reason, this cracked up all of them. Eyre later tossed a baseball over the fence to my wife, bowing gracefully as he did so.
As for the game, it's been dissected enough already. Allow me to second the idea that Freddie Bynum has no business being on the team. I was hesitant to say that earlier, but after this weekend, he's got to go. And, I'll tell you who else agrees with that sentiment- Ron Santo. After the game, my wife and I end up back at DW's Pub in the hotel. Santo comes in, sits at a table next to us, and starts making conversation, since we were wearing Cubs attire. We talked for about ten minutes until another person he was waiting for joined him. He said Bynum plays left field like "shit" and should not have been out there. When Murton pinch hit late in the game he couldn't understand why Murton didn't stay in the game, especially after the way Bynum butchered the fly ball. In Santo's exact words "he's not a major leaguer." He was encouraged by Zambrano's performance, generally thinks highly of Baker, and said he's never seen a team just stop hitting like this one has. Another quote, as he raised his white wine glass "It's enough to drive you to drink." He also said that on the other hand, Chan Ho Park pitched better than he had seen him pitch in years and that Park had "some real good shit out there tonight."
I mentioned to him that I had met his son Jeff last year at Sluggo's in Mesa and we talked about This Old Cub. He called it a "gift", saying he got to spend an entire year with his son, and even if no movie had come out of it, just spending that amount of time with Jeff was the gift in and of itself. He got all misty-eyed talking about it, and so I said that next year should tie up all the loose ends from the movie when he finally makes the Hall. He said the same about that as has been quoted elsewhere, that raising his flag at Wrigley was good enough for him.
Any of you who have seen Santo up close know what I'm talking about, but given his infirmities, this guy is amazing. It's an effort for him to get around, but he does it, and without complaining. And, I'm here to tell you, shaking hands with him is like shaking hands with a side of beef with fingers. He's got a vise-like grip. And he's also a helluva nice guy. No pretensions. What you hear on the radio is what you get in person. He's too busy enjoying living to be anything else. And I'm not just saying that because when my wife and I left and I was paying the bill, I discovered Santo had bought us a round of drinks.
Marshall didn't have his best stuff, but suddenly it's the sixth inning and the Padres got their first hit. We're in section 116 on the third base side (112 the night before) and there are a LOT of Cubs chants throughout the game, which eventually escalated into a couple of ejections of a drunk Padre fan and a rowdy Cub fan. That aside, no one anywhere though can figure out why Bynum was sent up to pinch hit late in the game. The Cubs don't lose this one so much as the Padres got lucky and subbed in Bowen for Piazza around the 6th or 7th inning. The Cubs were stealing on Piazza at will, and this likely led to Bochy pulling him. As much as Bynum has no business on a roster, Piazza has no business behind the plate anymore. If the Cubs don't steal so much, maybe Bowen isn't hitting in the 10th. Oh, and every time a breeze kicked up, we realized it was just a Jacque Jones at bat.
Santo's back in the Pub after the game, but he joined a group of people and promptly dissected the game for anyone within the sound of his voice. He's discouraged right now, but he thinks they'll turn things around. As we were leaving he yells to us, "they'll be okay, don't worry!". He then had another pull on his Bud Light and mouthed "maybe".
Guzman is nothing if not inconsistent. Barrett made repeated trips out to the mound as you could tell they weren't communicating. We were back in section 112 today, and when Guzman is on, he's got nasty stuff. When he's not on, he gets his outs with Murton crashing into the left field wall catching very long fly balls. In the second inning, our section was yelling for a pinch hitter for Guzman already, seeing as how bases loaded and one out situations have been hard to come by. Casey Stengel would have done it, yelled one old guy. And he was right.
Guzman HAD to be pulled in the fourth, but why they didn't go to Rusch, seeing as how he had aleady been up, I can't figure out. Overall, the pitching in the first three games has been very good to outstanding, the Cubs just can't hit. They NEED and HAVE to make a trade for a bona fide hitter. If they don't, Lee might as well take his time coming back. With another hitter, the Cubs CAN contend, the pitching, especially Eyre, Williamson, Howry and Dempster, are THAT good. Hairston is NOT the answer, include him in any trade. And send Bynum packing, did I mention that?
Overall, a very nice trip, despite the results. The Santo encounter was a Brush With Greatness for me, and worth the trip right there. We'll likely make this an annual trip, especially seeing as how Dodger Stadium isn't a safe place to go anymore.