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The Same Old Song, Part Deux

And I don't even HAVE a song to quote today.

This game was depressingly familiar, except that the Cubs actually took a 2-0 lead before coughing it up and losing to the Astros 3-2, being swept at home by Houston for the first time since 2001.

Matt Burtz ("gauchodirk" here on BCB) joined me again.

The Cubs are now 0-4 in his presence this year, including two really bad blown leads (he was there for the Mike Piazza 3-run HR off Ryan Dempster back in May).

I'm not going to ban him from the bleachers yet, though, because we enjoyed discussing various parts of Cub history, including, after Juan Pierre stole his fourth base of the game, my querying him on who holds the club record for such things (it's a 19th-Century guy, George Gore, who had seven in a game in 1881, when the game was quite different from today; the "modern" record is five, set by Eric Young in 2000).

All that thievery was pretty useless, as only in the first inning did it result in a run being scored.

The Cubs left runners in scoring position in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, and the worst one was the seventh -- when Freddie Bynum led off with a triple.

It's just this simple: if there's a leadoff triple, there's almost no excuse for not scoring a run. Ronny Cedeno could have suicide-squeezed. Phil Nevin pinch-hit, but they could have sent Greg Maddux up there to squeeze. Or even Neifi -- who was on deck when the game ended with a John Mabry groundout (why, I have no idea, because Matt Murton was also on the bench).

The Cubs are absolutely awful with RISP, and thus, fell to 5-13 in one-run games.

If they'd won even FOUR of the ones they lost, that would make them 30-35, which would at least be closer to the rest of the division, not close to the Pirates, who, thankfully, lost today, keeping the Cubs out of a last-place tie.

It wasted another good outing by Carlos Zambrano, who allowed five hits and one run in seven innings. Bob Howry deserved better than the loss; one of the two runs he allowed became unearned when Todd Walker's off-balance throw to Ronny Cedeno was ruled an error because Cedeno, according to 2B umpire Dale Scott, was off the bag.

Replays apparently showed that Cedeno did keep his foot on the bag long enough to record the out.

This is just the way this season has gone.

Here's a good thing that happened today: Ronny Cedeno had a sixteen-pitch at-bat. Yes, he flied out to end it, but that showed some pretty good bat discipline. Or, you could view it as Matt did, when he said, "He probably swung at ball four about three times", while fouling off ten consecutive pitches.

Still, if more Cub hitters would do this, work counts and make pitchers work hard, that would allow the club to get into bullpens earlier; with most clubs struggling to get good relief pitching, this would undoubtedly result in more scoring.

We were also talking about the lack of Cub HR this season -- Jacque Jones' HR in the 2nd was only the 19th Cub HR at Wrigley Field this year, and only the 51st the club has hit all season. That's more than only the Royals.

That's pathetic.

And I would argue that the absence of Derrek Lee has been responsible for most of this. Why? Well, first of all, the lineup replacement for Lee has been primarily Tony Womack, Neifi Perez and Jerry Hairston (with a bit of Phil Nevin). Combined, those four have hit five home runs (three by Nevin since he was acquired).

Lee would have hit, I believe, at least ten home runs in that time, and perhaps as many as fifteen. Plus, he would have made Aramis Ramirez a better hitter hitting behind him. Yes, losing ONE player, when he is your best hitter, can have that much of a domino effect.

There's not much more to tell. Brian's friend Jimmy brought his two small children (one about three, the other a baby), and they were both pretty good through the whole thing, not complaining at all, until he left after the 7th inning. Little did those two kids know what they've been exposed to. The weather was nice. Yes, I'm reaching here.

This has nothing to do with baseball or the Cubs, but the "k" key on my laptop broke off yesterday. As you can see... kkkkkkkkk ... it's not causing me to not use the letter "k" (and if this reminds you of Monty Python's Travel Agent Sketch, it ought to!), because I can still touch the little touch plate and type the letter. I did find an eBay auction selling replacement keys for Dell laptops, so for $5 I ordered one.

Today was Dusty Baker's 57th birthday. It was also Billy Williams' 67th birthday. And, it is the anniversary of the infamous Lou Brock trade, generally thought to be among the worst in baseball history. See this diary for discussion of what the worst all-time Cub trade might be, and here is my take on why the Brock deal was made, based on what was going on at that time.

Since then, of course, the trading deadline -- which used to be June 15, the date on which the Rick Sutcliffe deal was made in 1984 -- has been moved back to July 31, which makes a lot more sense, as playoff races are much better sorted out by then.

The Cubs are going to be dealing, it seems pretty clear, in the next few weeks. Juan Pierre showed today that he still does have value to a contending team. I'd expect him to be the first one gone.

Finally, I spent a fair amount of time on this blog asking Cub management to turn the volume down on the PA speakers. At last, during this homestand, that's been done, and it's at a reasonable level where you can hear the announcements, music, ads, etc. without having your ears split open. And so I say: