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Baseball Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Words to live by.

Unfortunately, the facts from last night don't make that very easy: the Cubs lost 8-3 to the Padres, their seventh straight loss and completing the first-ever four-game sweep by the Padres over the Cubs in San Diego.

Here's a suggestion: do what I did. I had to go to sleep for work, as usual. I turned the game off after the top of the fourth -- when it was still manageable at 3-1.

Moments later, that's when the Padres started smacking the ball all over the yard, four runs including a Brian Giles HR, and when it was over Greg Maddux had his shortest outing in three years, and his ERA, which two starts ago was 1.35, went up more than a run, and now sits at 3.64.

So much for the brave talk (no pun intended) of an All-Star berth for Maddux, or for what some of you have begun to clamor for, a trade for him somewhere while his value is high. Actually, during the three innings I saw, I thought Maddux hit his spots pretty well, had his pitches moving and mixed them up well. He issued two walks -- one intentional -- and both came back to bite him. I'd have walked Giles intentionally, too, to pitch to a guy who had six RBI in 75 at-bats coming into the game.

The Cubs look bad, true. But the Padres are the hottest team in baseball right now. Sometimes running into a team like that magnifies what's making you look bad.

Somewhere in yesterday's comments I wrote about the 1977 Cubs, who on June 28 were 47-22, 8.5 games ahead in first place.

Look at that game log linked above very carefully. The '77 Cubs were 7-9 on April 30. On June 30 they were 47-24; they went 40-15 for the months of May and June (in fact, it was 40-13 before they lost the last two games in June). That's probably the best two months I've ever seen the Cubs have, even better than any two months you can pick out of their recent playoff seasons. They had a five-game winning streak, three streaks of six, and one of seven. At no time during those two months did they ever lose more than two straight.

Why do I mention this now? Because as good as that Cub team looked, that's as bad as this one looks. And it is true -- no team is as bad as they look when they're losing, and no team is quite as good as they look when they're on a streak like the '77 Cubs had. And in fact, that team wasn't that good -- they had .500 talent, and finished exactly .500, and had to lose their last five games to do it.

Yes, the Cubs look awful right now. Yes, talent is being misused (why was Freddie Bynum used to pinch-hit yet again last night, when the recalled Ryan Theriot was right there on the bench? Is Dusty going to sit him too, like he sat Michael Restovich for three weeks? Incidentally, Restovich cleared waivers and was outrighted to Iowa). Yes, the talent that is there is not producing -- example: Michael Barrett, whose numbers are still decent, hasn't driven in a run since April 21.

But the team has played 31 games. The Colorado Rockies have played 33, and are in first place. Do you seriously expect them to be there at season's end? Or even a month from now? The Angels were widely predicted to win the AL West. They're 14-19. They're a better team than that.

I know this Cub team is flawed. They need help, and Jim Hendry ought to go out and get some -- right now. Kerry Wood will be back soon -- maybe, as was suggested in last night's comments, he might even be pushed up and start Friday at Wrigley Field. Frankly, I think teams make too much of rehab starts. If he's ready -- and based on his rehab start, it appears that he is -- why send him all the way to Fresno to throw against Triple-A hitters? Theriot ought to be installed at 2B for an entire week, just to see what he can do.

I'm not giving up and quitting. Don't you either. If snarking and bitching makes you feel better -- well, there's other places to do that. Don't give up. Keep the faith. It's GOT to get better.