Yes, they finally showed up in the bleachers today, about half a dozen mostly young men wearing bags over their heads.
And holding up a sign saying "Dusty Baker Fan Club".
No, I wasn't one of those people. Give them a few points for creativity, at least.
This was one of those days where I would have pulled my hair out watching the Cubs, if I had any, that is. They got a pretty good pitching performance out of Mark Prior -- nine strikeouts. Unfortunately, he also gave up eight hits and four walks, and the one hit that really killed him, and wound up costing the Cubs the game, was a little dink down the LF line by pinch-hitter Gabe Gross in the sixth inning, the last hitter Prior faced; it drove in the final two Brewer runs and they held on for a 5-4 win over the Cubs.
You could tell how much Ned Yost wanted this game -- he had his closer, Derrick Turnbow, come into the game with one out in the EIGHTH inning. Turnbow, who reminds me of 1980's era Cubs closer Calvin Schiraldi -- all hair flapping, and a body not suited at all to the term "professional athlete", throws ninety-eight MPH, and wound up striking out Derrek Lee in that 8th inning on the "Here, hit it" fastball. You can't criticize Lee for swinging at that pitch -- he had run the count to 2-2 on Turnbow, with the tying run on third and the lead run on second, but he just couldn't get around on it.
Which is why Turnbow has 23 saves, and one big reason why the Brewers are back to .500 and only 4.5 games out of first place in the suddenly-competitive NL Central.
And that's also why it's too bad that the Cubs couldn't have won even a handful more games during Lee's absence, because even they might be in that race now had Jim Hendry gone out and gotten someone early on, or gotten some pitching help, or a better bench, or...
Oh, well. No sense rehashing the last two terrible months.
Two players who obviously, definitely are being showcased, didn't do too badly today. Phil Nevin singled and walked; he did look a bit lost in left field, but any team that wants to deal for him isn't looking for him as an outfielder anyway, they're just looking at his bat. He drew a walk off Turnbow in the 9th, giving brief hope that the Cubs could tie the game, especially after a wild pitch sent him to second and Carlos Marmol was sent in to run for him, but Ronny Cedeno really had no chance at a 3-2 fastball to end the game.
We trotted out one of the hoary old superstitions and rituals from days of yore -- the Rally Twizzler.
I'm sure you all know what Twizzlers are -- red licorice sticks. Frankly, I can't stand them. But they're not for eating, they're for -- twizzling. You hold them in one hand and twirl them around. These particular Twizzlers weren't too sturdy -- the piece I was holding nearly broke off of about three of them, to the bemusement of Jon, who along with Jeff was afraid that the Twizzler would fly off and hit someone in the eye.
That didn't happen, but several twentysomethings sitting in front of us were also amused by the Rally Twizzlers, which DID work, up to a point -- they weren't brought out till the fifth inning, after which the Cubs scored all their runs.
And left a ton of men on base today, twelve in all; even though they did get some hits with RISP (Jacque Jones' 2-RBI single in the fifth, and his RBI double in the seventh), they also left way too many runners in scoring position. RISP were stranded in the third, fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings. It's even more pathetic that all they could get out of their old prospect Geremi Gonzalez was two unearned runs, that scored partly on Gonzalez' own error when he dropped a popped-up bunt. Otherwise he kept the Cubs off-balance for five innings.
This is the same, sad old song that's cost the Cubs way too many games this year.
The other Cub who was clearly being showcased was Scott Williamson, who I have heard now from MULTIPLE sources is being shopped around with some urgency; it was obvious that stretching him out to two innings was an attempt to show scouts that he's healthy and ready to go. He threw well -- 25 pitches, 15 strikes, good velocity, only one single allowed and a strikeout. I hope he's gone soon -- in fact, if Jim Hendry could get the White Sox interested this weekend, all he'd have to do is walk across the concourse to the visitors' clubhouse.
Carlos Lee, who has expressed publicly AND privately that he'd love to be a Cub, laughed and bantered with the LF bleacherites virtually the entire series. Not only would he be a great addition to the lineup, he would instantly become the most popular player on the club.
The weather was spectacular today. The baseball was reasonably entertaining, and the Cubs made a competitive run at today's game.
That is, of course, not what we want to see. "Being competitive" is usually a good euphemism for "sucks, but plays hard in sucking". I want wins as much as anyone else. There is something to be said for enjoying baseball with longtime friends, too. If that's all we have this summer, I intend to enjoy it. As best as can be done, of course, with the team we have, and as the summer goes along, I hope the truck gets backed up with a lot of the current players inside.
This weekend ought to be intense, and I expect a HUGE contingent of White Sox fans, perhaps more than have ever been seen at a Cubs/Sox series at Wrigley Field.