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It's Been A Long Time

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Remember this game?

Well, maybe you don't. At the time, it wasn't very memorable.

But before last night's 8-7 Cub win over the Mets, it was the last time the Cubs won a game in New York. That includes the final two games of that disastrous September 2004 season, the three games they played in Yankee Stadium last year, and all three games against the Mets in Shea in 2005. In fact, before last night, the last time the Cubs even had a lead in a game in New York was for one inning on June 17, 2005, against the Yankees, before they blew that game too.

At last, Greg Maddux broke his six-game losing streak and won his 326th game, matching the old Philadelphia A's pitcher Eddie Plank for 12th place on the all-time wins list. Maddux' line doesn't look that great -- all seven Mets runs were charged to him -- but three of them scored after he left the game with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.

This is why quotes like this one from Dusty Baker drive me nuts:

"The bullpen was very good," said Cubs manager Dusty Baker, whose team was swept by the Nationals before coming to Shea Stadium. "They were spent after this past weekend. I'm really proud of the way they came in and got the outs."
What game was HE watching? Yes, they got outs, but two runs scored on two of those outs, and it took three pitching changes before the Cubs got out of that seventh inning with the one-run lead they wound up protecting. The only relievers who deserve praise are Bob Howry, who did get the last out of that seventh inning without allowing any further damage, and Ryan Dempster, who posted an uneventful ninth for his seventeenth save.

For a while I didn't think I'd even get to see this game; my cable was out all afternoon (and popped off again for a couple minutes after the game started, too). It's weird how dependent you get on that; I actually had to think about how I'd follow the game with no TV available (likely, it would have been a combination of radio and Gameday). I know for many of you, this is routine; but for those of us in the Chicago area, we're used to flipping on the TV (once we figure out what channel the game's on for any particular day -- there's no rhyme or reason to the schedule) and watching.

For once, this was a game worth watching. Aramis Ramirez continued his blazing-hot streak with his sixth HR in his last four games; Jacque Jones and Michael Barrett also homered.

Now, these are the players that some of you want to trade away (and I've been an advocate of that too, at times). And yes, these three have real value.

But at this stage of the season, what are you going to get for them? Prospects? Suspects? Barrett's the only one I'd deal right now (although Ramirez and Jones -- as you know -- I'd happily send to the Yankees in an A-Rod deal, if that ever came to pass), and even for Barrett, the market might not be that great. How many teams are looking for catchers right at this moment, especially catchers who don't have a very good reputation for defense?

So that's the trouble with this Cubs team. We know they need to make changes. We know the parts they're trying to dump have little value. But you have to start somewhere. One guy who perhaps increased his trade value last night was Phil Nevin, who will now likely see much more 1B playing time with Derrek Lee back on the DL. Nevin hit two doubles, drove in two runs, and played reasonably well in the field. Hope the scouts were watching.

And about deals -- a great deal of angst was spilled here yesterday regarding the rumor that Alfonso Soriano was about to be traded to the White Sox. First, who cares what the White Sox do? The Cubs are not in the same position they are -- though, sure, we'd like to be -- and thus any deals the Cubs make are going to be made for different reasons (clearing deadwood, accumulating prospects) than what a contender does (trying to win now). Also, that deal is apparently not going to happen and might have even been a Kenny Williams bluff. Soriano might go to the Angels, or Yankees, or stay put -- and also, according to Baseball Tonight last night, the Brewers are going to make a pitch to keep Carlos Lee, rather than deal him or let him walk at the end of the season.

There are six days till the trading deadline. After that, if Jim Hendry hasn't made a deal or deals -- sure, criticize. But bitching about him simply because other teams have made deals or are rumored to be making deals simply doesn't make sense.