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Oh, Tony, Grow Up!

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That's what Mike said when a Braden Looper pitch apparently hit Ronny Cedeno in the 8th inning of the Cubs' 6-5 win over the Cardinals this afternoon.

Plate umpire Ed Montague eventually ruled that the ball hit Cedeno's bat, which brought Dusty Baker out of the dugout to argue as animatedly as I've ever seen him, leading to his ejection and people actually chanting "Dusty! Dusty!" -- something I'd never thought I'd see, especially after this year.

Seriously, Tony LaRussa has been playing these Mickey Mouse mind games with Baker ever since that tense September 2003 series (or maybe even before that, if you have read the book "3 Nights In August", about the Cub/Cardinal series in August of that year), and it's time for it to stop. There is absolutely NO way that the pitch that hit Scott Rolen -- on a 1-2 count -- was intentional. Why would the Cubs want to do that? It wound up loading the bases, setting up Juan Encarnacion's double which cut the Cub lead by two runs.

On the other hand, Looper's pitch that hit Aramis Ramirez absolutely, positively was intentional, and I'm surprised the benches weren't warned after that -- if they had been, Looper would have been tossed after throwing high and inside to Cedeno.

I can imagine I'm going to get flamed over at Viva El Birdos for saying this, but really, it IS time for LaRussa to grow up. Ozzie Guillen plays these sorts of games and HE has to grow up, too. LaRussa's been managing for over 25 years -- he ought to be able to get his teams to win without this sort of nonsense.

Maybe he's getting a little worried. The Cubs are now 8-3 against the Cardinals and yes, I know St. Louis is still four games in first place but they sure don't look like a first-place team when they play at Wrigley Field. Their defense has been suspect, their pinch-hitting poor, and their bullpen looks awful. Albert Pujols, who is beating the heck out of the rest of the league, is 6-for-38 against the Cubs this year with only one home run.

Meanwhile, the Cubs fell behind early after Carlos Marmol, who breezed through the first two innings, started walking people, as he has done in all of his last several starts. This gives me the idea, as has been discussed elsewhere, that Marmol might be better suited to relief pitching, maybe even closing. He can throw lights-out for an inning or two, and then either starts overthrowing, or losing focus, or both, and the walks both dragged out the game and helped lead to St. Louis taking the lead -- although thanks to Novoa (yes, THANKS to Novoa), the lead was maintained and Marmol wound up with a well-deserved win.

The story of the game again was the Cardinal defense -- yet another Scott Rolen error allowed an inning to continue after it should have been over, and Juan Pierre ripped a bases-clearing triple just inside the first-base line, and although the Cubs had other chances, the six-run inning turned out to be enough after Ryan Dempster had a 1-2-3 ninth. I've been saying for quite some time that one of the reasons that Dempster has had so many failures is that closers generally need consistent closing work three or four times a week to be successful. With the Cubs not having many save opportunities, Dempster was unable to get into a pitching rhythm, as he had last year. Now, the last two days, he has had back-to-back save opportunities, and did better today than yesterday. If you don't think that's important, consider this: this is only the second time all year that Dempster has had save opportunities in consecutive games -- the other was June 9 and 10 at Cincinnati.

We had a group of what appeared to be what Howard called "frat types" in front of us, but when Jeff talked to them, they turned out to be three thirtysomething sisters and their boyfriends/fiances -- and so, all of them received BCB cards; if you're here from those cards, welcome!

It was quite hot today -- over 90 degrees and humid, although with a nice breeze, and the heat's supposed to stick around all the way through Monday or Tuesday; hey, this is what I always hope for when it's 43 degrees and freezing in April, hot days like this -- it's what summer in Chicago is all about.

I still believe there will be a deal or two made by Jim Hendry before Monday's trade deadline (3 pm CT, in case you were wondering) -- but I will almost guarantee you (see, I've learned, you have to hedge in this business!) that those deals will NOT include Greg Maddux. Although there may be two or three teams interested, none of them seem willing to give up what the Cubs would want in return. Yes, it's true, Maddux isn't what he used to be. But he is a Hall of Fame pitcher. And that deserves a bit of respect in a trade situation -- more than two mediocre A-ball pitchers (as the Cubs got for Scott Williamson). Prediction: Maddux not only starts tomorrow, but then again Thursday vs. the Diamondbacks, and for the rest of the season in a Cub uniform.

Finally -- and don't faint, yes, you are going to see criticism of Cub management here. I heard a rumor today that the Cubs were considering raising ticket prices in 2007 by up to 7 per cent.

This would be a big, big, big, BIG mistake. All of you know, and many of you are a part of this, how restless and unhappy the bulk of Cub fandom is over this calamity of a season. Ticket prices are quite high, compared to most other teams in baseball. Yes, up to now, tickets have sold in great bunches, both season tickets and single-game tickets (the Cubs, as you likely know, set a record for first-day-of-sales this year with nearly 600,000 sold).

If ticket prices go up -- AT ALL -- there's going to be open revolt, I think. Yes, I realize the cost of everything continues to rise, and I realize that the Cubs might indeed want to increase payroll in 2007 to attract the Carlos Lee's of the world. It says here that they can well afford it without a ticket price increase.

As a gesture of good will toward fans who have suffered long enough, I call on the Cubs to hold the line on ticket prices for next year. It's the least they can do.