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The Dog Days Of June

That doesn't sound right, does it.

The usual phrase is "The Dog Days Of August", the days where teams out of the race seem as if they are phoning it in; the days drag on and on and the summer humidity in the Midwest is just about to get to you to the point where you welcome the first autumn cold front that comes through and brings a breath of air that you can actually breathe.

This isn't supposed to happen in June, is it. First of all, it hasn't been all that hot in Chicago so far this summer, and yesterday, it was downright coolish -- the temperature barely reaching seventy degrees.

And, neither has the baseball played by our favorite northside team been very "hot". They'll play well for a day or two -- as they did on Monday and Wednesday in Cleveland -- and then stink it out, as they did in last night's 7-2 loss to the Twins.

Phil Nevin homered to give the Cubs a brief 1-0 lead in the second, before Carlos Marmol coughed it up in the bottom of the inning; one inning later, a single, walk, double and further single created three Twins runs. (The four walks Marmol issued didn't help matters any -- he's struck out 20 in 21.2 IP, but also now walked nine.)

And I know some sportscaster at some time or another must have said this, but it fits, so I'll repeat it...

"That, as they say, was that."

Nevin's HR leads me to believe that some team, somewhere, who's looking for a power hitter, will approach the Cubs with an offer as the trading deadline approaches. Nevin has put the lie to the belief that he can't play the field any more; he's played a credible first base while hitting .268/.317/.625 in 56 at-bats. Once Derrek Lee returns -- and he will be playing for Iowa today and tomorrow in a rehab assignment -- there's really no place for Nevin on this year's Cub ballclub, unless they want to send Matt Murton to Iowa and put Nevin in LF, a move that makes absolutely no sense given the fact that the rest of this year ought to be meant for planning for 2007.

See, but here's the problem: if the Cubs really do want to deal Nevin -- and I think they should -- he's got to play. What they can do is indeed send Murton back to Iowa, play Nevin every day till he's traded (preferably for a decent pitching prospect), and then bring Murton back for LF duty. I know people are going to scream at me for this, but what alternative do the Cubs have? Sit Nevin on the bench, let him hit four times a week, and have him rot there and let him go as a free agent? Nevin hasn't played the outfield since 2003, but it doesn't seem to me to be that much of a stretch to put him out there for a couple of weeks.

Play him for that couple of weeks and he's dealable, most likely to an AL team that can both use him in the field and as a DH. Murton won't be hurt by a couple of weeks at Iowa, and then he can be brought back for the balance of the season. The bottom line is, I'd rather get SOMETHING in return for Nevin, who has NO future with the Cubs, than just see him walk at the end of the season. In that way, the Cubs could possibly turn Jerry Hairston (and by extension, Sammy Sosa), into a useful prospect. Perhaps Nevin could even be packaged with a relief pitcher, depending on how desperate some AL team is for help.

There are two another choices here, but one the Cubs are unlikely to take: 1) DFA John Mabry, put Nevin in LF, and platoon Murton and Jacque Jones in RF until Nevin is traded, or 2) putting Nevin behind the plate at catcher for a few games until Michael Barrett's suspension is over.

But sitting Nevin -- as Dusty Baker seems inclined to do with him -- particularly when he's one of the hottest hitters on the ballclub, seems counterproductive on several different levels.

I see I've digressed quite a bit here. There are other parts of this Cub team that we hope will be dealt before July 31; the names are well-known to you, of course: Juan Pierre, Todd Walker, Scott Williamson (if he ever comes back), maybe even Bob Howry and Scott Eyre, and possibly Jacque Jones, if anyone could be convinced to take on his contract.

I know some of you are in Minnesota for this series, so if anyone's got a report from the Humpdome from last night's game, please post a diary of your experience. I have attended one game there -- this one back in 1983 -- and with a crowd of only 12,260, sounds echoed all over the dome. I imagine the energy level from last night's 34,461 was a little bit higher.