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Creative Suffering

Mike reminded me of this about halfway through the disastrous ninth inning last night.

Back in the 1970's, there was an off-Broadway play titled "Steambath" that was adapted into a TV version that aired on PBS in 1973. In fact, it created a minor scandal at the time because a then mostly-unknown Valerie Perrine briefly appeared nude in the TV version, as noted in the Internet Movie Database link above:

Valerie Perrine became the first woman to display (on purpose) her nipples on American network television during the 4 May 1973 broadcast of this movie on Hollywood Television Theater (PBS). Valerie Perrine was seen taking a shower from the side. Only a few PBS stations were adventurous enough to carry the program.
WTTW in Chicago was one of those stations. Keep in mind that this was thirty-three years ago; nudity on broadcast television in those days was more frowned upon than it is even in this post-wardrobe malfunction era. Or, then again, maybe it's not.

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that "Steambath" was about, well, a steambath, where it becomes clear after a while that the people there are all in some sort of purgatory, and God is a Puerto Rican steambath attendant who, in some sort of bizarre way, is making various things happen on Earth, resulting in the characters winding up in the steambath. Which, as I said, was supposed to be purgatory. Or hell. Or some other not-so-nice place.

That's what last night's 8-5 loss to the Brewers felt like. Like "someone up there" is giving us all, as Mike put it (and I told him he probably had given me the title of this post), "creative suffering".

Is this what we have to look forward to? Forever in the purgatory of loss after loss?

This game was eminently winnable, as have been a number of recent home games -- although it's hard to remember for certain, because it's now been exactly four weeks yesterday, the 8-3 win over the Reds on May 30, since the Cubs have won a home game.

In fact, until Todd Walker's pinch-single scored pinch-runner Matt Murton in the 8th, the Cubs hadn't even had a lead in a home game since the last game of the Houston series, another game they had a late-inning lead and blew.

We're going to have to start categorizing these losses. How about this for groupings:

a) Games where the opponent scores in the first inning and never trails;

b) Games where the Cubs and the opponent fight scoreless into the middle innings and then the Cubs give up a dinky run or two and can't score;

c) Games where the Cubs blow an early lead and can't come back;

d) Games where the opponent hits about 15 home runs;

e) Games where the Cubs blow a save in the ninth inning.

There are probably more categories, but you get the idea. That's the fourth blown save by Ryan Dempster, and it's his own fault, because as I learned a long time ago:

When the other team gives you an out, TAKE IT!

The bad throw by Dempster that resulted in the Brewers' tying run came almost in that ugly slo-mo that you see in bad police chase movies. You know it's coming, and you sort of put your fingers over your eyes to hide them but then you open them because you want to witness the terribleness for yourself. (Terribleness. Is that a word? If it's not, it should be, because it describes this team pretty well.)

It's bizarre. A ball bounces off Dempster's leg for a hit. Then a walk -- and then the Brewers are willing to give up an out. Now think about this -- if Dempster takes the out, there are runners on second and third and one out. Instead, he threw the ball halfway to our seats in the LF corner, and there are STILL runners on second and third, only there are NO outs and a run in.

Now which would YOU choose?

The ball under Ronny Cedeno's glove for the second error was absolutely, positively predictable.

Incidentally, there were eight sacrifices in the game (six sac bunts, including the one by Gabe Gross on which Dempster made the error, and two sacrifice flies). This is one short of the NL record for such things.

In case you care.

It's HARD to care about these games, and I know you know how that feels.

I know a lot of you felt that Dusty Baker should have shown more emotion when he came out to argue what was an absolutely terrible call in the third inning -- Rickie Weeks hit a ground ball to short, and Gross was caught in a rundown. 3B umpire Jim Joyce ruled that Ronny Cedeno missed tagging him -- but if he missed the tag, it was only because Gross ran out of the baseline, and should have been called out. All of this eventually led to a Brewers run. Yes, Baker came out, and frankly, you are all right about this one. If there's any time to show a little passion, there's the time to do it, like he did that day in April 2004 when he screwed up a double-switch and wound up screaming and yelling at umpire C. B. Bucknor, which got him tossed and fined. And the Cubs WON that game.

Anyway, all of that ruined another fine outing by Carlos Zambrano, who was a bit shaky but still struck out eight and hit a bomb of a two-run homer which brought the crowd to life -- there has been absolutely NO life in home crowds lately. That was Z's second HR of the year and sixth of his career. The last Cub pitcher before this to hit two HR in a season was Kerry Wood in 2003.

Jeff Passan at Yahoo, whose columns have been getting more incisive all season, posted one about Baker and the Cubs last night, in which he scoped out the situation pretty well, but also noted:

...it's Baker who takes the brunt of the criticism when Aramis Ramirez hits into an easy double play with men on first and second and none out, and it's Baker who gets the funny looks when a routine ground ball rolled between first base and second base and Phil Nevin and Todd Walker stared at each other like they didn't understand what happened.

Well, they didn't. Baker doesn't. No one can comprehend the Cubs' troubles.

Exactly right.

Mike also said to me that all the other really bad Cub teams (and it's been, as you know, forty years since they lost 100 games) at least had some redeeming entertainment value. He says this one doesn't, but you can't deny that the ninth inning last night was entertaining, in a "Steambath" sort of way.

39,399 were in the "steambath" (that's a figurative steambath, of course -- the actual weather was actually a bit coolish for late June) last night -- and not too many no-shows from that number, either, maybe 3 or 4 thousand. There were plenty of Brewers fans on hand, too. They're back at .500, and only four games out of first place after the Cardinals lost their eighth in a row. Damn shame the Cubs didn't have their act together this year, because this division does look vulnerable -- four teams are now within five games of first place.

Meanwhile, we remain in purgatory.