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The Way It Could Have Been

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Timely hitting.

A starting pitcher winning in spite of allowing six (!) walks.

Good relief pitching.

Correct managerial decisions. (Yes, even that.)

Now isn't that the way EVERY game should be?

Of course it is, but hasn't been very often in this misbegotten season. Last night's 4-2 Cub win over the Astros had all of that and absolutely gorgeous weather as well; the things that are supposed to make summer nights perfect for a fan of any major league baseball team.

Too bad all it accomplished was getting the Cubs back to twenty games under .500.

I keep thinking about this statistic: while Derrek Lee was on the DL, the Cubs went 19-40. That means that during times he has been active, they are 17-16.

Does this mean they're a .500 ballclub for the season with Lee? Maybe, maybe not. It surely means they would have been better with him available for all 92 games, instead of 33 (he has played in 31, and hasn't truly been the same in the 17 games he's played in since his return, either, hitting .227/.346/.364 in 22 June at-bats and .250/.353/.341 so far in July, with one total HR in those 17 games). It wasn't just losing him, either -- it was the failure to get anyone to replace him until Phil Nevin a month later and having his lineup replacement be, primarily, Neifi Perez or Jerry Hairston or John Mabry; it was the failure of Aramis Ramirez to step up and be the leader of the offense (something I think Ramirez is not capable of doing); in the end, there are psychological effects on the rest of the team knowing that their best hitter, and further someone coming off a MVP-type season, wasn't going to be around.

There are, of course, other things (a revolving-door starting rotation, spectacular blown saves by Ryan Dempster, poor baserunning and defense) that have lost games for the 2006 Cubs.

Anyway, last night's game felt good, and I'm sure it did to the team, too, a necessary diversion from the disaster on Sunday. It seemed as if the ballpark would be half-empty; there were tons of empty seats at gametime, but they eventually filled up -- in fact, people were still coming into our section in the bleachers at 8:00, which doesn't make any sense to me. Why show up at a ballgame an hour after game time? In the end, there were maybe 2,000 no-shows.

Those who DID show up (including Mark, back from summer camp) saw Carlos Marmol throw an ungodly number of pitches, walking the aforementioned six but consistently getting out of jams; Phil Nevin hopefully punching his ticket out of town with yet another HR, his second in the last two days; and Neifi starting at 2B, leading to speculation that Todd Walker had been traded (he hasn't been, not yet, anyway).

Notes: Mark Prior "feels great" and will likely start Friday at Washington; that means that Carlos Zambrano should take the Thursday start against Andy Pettitte.

There is disturbing news this morning, first posted here in this diary -- 3B coach Chris Speier was arrested and charged with DUI early this morning on Chicago's Near North Side. Obviously, Speier's going to have a trial at some point, but I'm afraid this is yet another sign of how badly this entire ballclub is unraveling.

Finally, there is more news regarding the apparently imminent indictment of Barry Bonds, which could occur later this week, probably tomorrow when the grand jury's term is officially up. The key paragraph in that article is this one:

Bonds, who told reporters he's not worried about a possible indictment, also faces a possible suspension by Major League Baseball should he be indicted. Commissioner Bud Selig has yet to make a decision. But he told USA TODAY "there is precedence" for a suspension using the commissioner's "best interest of the game" clause based on pitcher Ferguson Jenkins' drug arrest and suspension in 1980.
I think this makes a suspension almost guaranteed if Bonds is in fact indicted, and as I have written before, the MLBPA really doesn't have a legal leg to stand on, given the "just cause" clause in the Basic Agreement. If a felony indictment isn't "just cause" for a suspension, I don't know what would be.

If Bonds is suspended, I suspect it would be for the rest of this season, and that would most likely end his career -- who's going to sign a 42-year-old (in fact, he turns 42 next Monday -- what a great birthday gift, an indictment, right?) with bad knees and with this sort of baggage?