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Nothing's Ever Easy

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"When you come by, bring my stomach!" -- Jack Brickhouse

That's what Brickhouse, who in his later years became Master of the Cliche, used to say when the Cubs would get out of innings like last night's tense ninth inning.

Innings like that rarely ended games in the Brickhouse era, though, and even more rarely did the Cubs actually WIN a game like they did last night.

In case you still don't believe what you saw, yes, the Cubs really did beat the Reds 6-5 last night, ending the Reds' 8-game winning streak.

These other bizarre things happened last night:

  • Bob Howry got his first major league hit (in his second AB, which gives him a .500 lifetime average);
  • Henry Blanco drove in three runs. He now has as many RBI as Juan Pierre this year, with 203 fewer at-bats;
  • Dusty Baker actually double-switched Matt Murton INTO a game -- and did it properly -- and Murton got a hit!
  • Greg Maddux threw 66 pitches in 5.1 innings. Ryan Dempster threw 35 pitches in ONE inning.
All is forgiven -- for a day, at least -- because Dempster managed to get the save despite throwing perhaps his worst inning of the year. Just a little over half -- 19 -- of the 35 pitches were strikes. He walked three, walked in a run, and the game would have ended with a loss if Aramis Ramirez hadn't snared Brandon Phillips' line drive for the second out.

Ramirez nearly doubled David Ross off third, too, but since the line drive was to his left, he was leaning away from the base when he caught it, and Ross just managed to get in ahead of his tag.

Then Dempster got Ken Griffey Jr. to ground out to end the game -- and this was one time where the exaggerated shift that many clubs are using on Griffey (and others, including Adam Dunn) worked. Had the infield been at "normal" positions, Griffey's grounder to Tony Womack would have been a two-run single.

Dempster hadn't pitched since last Friday's 14-inning game in St. Louis, and it showed. This is the problem when you have either:

  • close games that you lose, or
  • blowout wins.
Neither of those types of games calls for your closer, and that's what the Cubs have had since last Friday. When a pitcher like Dempster, who does have tendencies toward wildness, doesn't throw for a week, he's going to overthrow, and that's what happened last night. I did think he got squeezed on a couple of pitches that could have led to strikeouts, instead of the walks.

This game, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't mean that much, of course; the Cubs are still twelve games under .500 and 12 out of first place (which was reclaimed by the Cardinals last night when they came back from a 6-0 deficit to beat the Brewers 10-6). But, it did get Maddux his 325th career win, putting him in 13th place on the all-time list by himself. Five more wins will move him up three more places (or "ordinals", as Mike likes to remind me, and I only used that word because, really, how often do you see the word "ordinals" used on a baseball blog?) on that list, putting him in 10th place. Two ER allowed in 5.1 IP dropped Maddux' ERA only 0.09 (from 4.77 to 4.68), but I thought he threw really well last night; the only runs he allowed were on solo HR by Adam Dunn and Scott Hatteberg, and he didn't walk anyone.

I have been asked when the Cubs will start dealing, and I have no doubt they will. But it is still only June 10. Take a look at the only "major" deals made so far -- the Cubs acquiring Phil Nevin, and last night's acquisition of Eli Marrero by the Mets, neither an earth-shaker. No team in contention has probably analyzed any pressing needs yet, and so the Cubs' dealable parts -- particularly Juan Pierre -- aren't dealable at this time. In a month, they will be.

Ex-Cub watch: Todd Wellemeyer, designated for assignment by the woeful Marlins, has been claimed by the even worse Royals. And in a pitcher exchange of ex-Cub for ex-spring-training-Cub, the Rangers DFA'd Antonio Alfonseca and added Bryan Corey to their roster.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention this today, even though I think it's not much more than a screaming headline: there is a report in Crain's Chicago Business which states that Ernie Banks is "interested" in buying the Cubs.

The sexiness of the potential flashy headline "ERNIE BANKS BUYING THE CUBS!!" is what the MSM will focus on, but here's the realities of the situation. Clearly, Banks doesn't have the capital himself to buy a team that could fetch upwards of $500 million on the open market, IF it were even for sale. Banks would apparently be the visible "front man" for another group:

He says two groups have approached him about participating in a bid: Giuliani Partners LLC, headed by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and Los Angeles-based buyout firm Comstock Capital Partners LLC.

Mr. Banks says discussions didn?t cover what, if any, financial backing he would provide or what stake he would have in the team.

Mr. Banks would lend star power to any buyout offer. He already serves as a Cubs ambassador at games and other team events.

Well... yes and no. Banks is now 75 years old, and his "ambassador" status consists mostly of appearing at the Cubs Convention. The mention of Giuliani is interesting -- his name has never come up before in any discussions of any possible sale. Further:
?It?s a trophy property with a scarcity value,? says John Rogers, CEO of Ariel Capital Management LLC, the Tribune?s sixth-largest investor, with 10.3 million shares.
Which is exactly why Tribune wants to hang on to it. Management there appears to really enjoy being owners of a major league baseball team. There's pressure right there NOT to sell. However, the article does go on to say that:
Investors are betting that Tribune management will be forced to reconsider what is and what isn?t for sale. The shares closed Friday at $31.96, near the high end of the Tribune?s purchase offer.

?There?s just too much pressure for them not to do something at this point,? says Chris Browne, whose New York-based Tweedy Browne Co. owns 1 million Tribune shares.

Browne, of course, has a vested interest in saying something like that, with 1 million shares in his company's hands.

I have been accused of being an apologist for the Tribune Co. because I allegedly "work for them". Full disclosure: I write an article every other month for the Cubs' in-house publication, Vine Line. I was approached by them to do this. They do not tell me what to write or not to write, nor would I write such an article if they told me so. I get paid $60 for each article... I think you can clearly see that writing such articles doesn't make me an "employee", nor would $60 every other month influence me in any way.

Frothing at the mouth and demanding a sale because the Cubs are having a rotten season doesn't accomplish anything. Might a new owner do better? Maybe. Or might a new owner become Peter Angelos, and we'd be caught in an even worse quagmire than we're in now?

Sell the team? Sure, IF the deal makes sense financially, AND it makes sense from a baseball standpoint. We do not yet know whether either of those conditions will be met by any potential buyer, and whatever Ernie Banks-fronted group -- if such a group even exists, which I doubt very much at this time -- can bring to the table, is very much pure speculation.