Rumor has it...
(knew that'd get your attention...)
... that the Cubs have petitioned the Commissioner's office to allow them to play the Cardinals every day for the rest of the season.
This series -- the first Cub four-game sweep of St. Louis at Wrigley Field since 1972, with today's 6-2 win over the Cardinals, also giving them their first four-game winning streak of the year -- makes absolutely no sense given the positions of the two clubs coming in. The Cubs played like the first-place team -- inspired, taking advantage of opportunities, getting good starting and relief pitching and playing good defense. The Cardinals looked lost in the field and at the plate; their best hitter had to be pulled from the starting lineup just before the first pitch and then wound up popping up weakly to end the game. Their best starting pitcher got pounded today, and they looked like a team falling rapidly down the standings.
You can't explain it. Mike has said, and I've written here many times: "Anyone ever tells you they have this game figured out, laugh in their face!" How else could you explain the Cubs being 10-3 against the Cardinals this season, and 33-58 against everyone else?
Back in 1978 the Cubs won their first 12 games against St. Louis and wound up 15-3 against them. But the '78 Cubs, a close-to-.500 club at 79-83, were far better than the '78 Cardinals, who lost 93 games. This year's Cubs will lose 90+, and the Cardinals, who unfortunately can't stay here for more beatings but will go home to play the Bobby Abreu-less Phillies this week, will likely recover to win at least 90, and take the NL Central easily.
The Cardinals aren't only 0-for-Wrigley Field (as one sign in the LF bleachers, the other side of which read "Cub Game or Mom's Birthday -- An Easy Choice", read); they're 0-for-Chicago (10 losses), having also been swept by the White Sox last month at the Cell. In the converse to the Cubs' mark against St. Louis, the Cardinals' 3-10 record against the Cubs means that they are 55-36 against everyone else.
Yes, I'm savoring this. Why not? The rest of this season is likely a lost cause, but two sweeps of the Cardinals in one season? Savor away, everyone. Does it remove the pain of the rest of the year? No. Does it remove the necessity of changes for next year's team? No. But it feels pretty darn good in the moment -- so let's enjoy the moment, brief though it may be.
The four-game series, with the increased capacity of the ballpark, drew 162,101, a record for a four-game series at Wrigley Field. And yes, most of those tickets were sold far in advance (except for those that "mysteriously" appeared for sale on the website in the last two days, dropped back into the pool of available seats from failed sales at Premium Ticket Services. Even bleachers were available as of early this morning), many of them to Cardinal fans who were much more silent than I've ever NOT heard them at a Cub-Cardinal series.
The game was for all intents and purposes over in the second inning, when the Cubs put together three straight hits to start the inning, led off by Ronny Cedeno's third HR of the year (and first since June 11). Carlos Zambrano chipped in with a single, and Chris Carpenter, who had beaten the Cubs with ease most of his career, had his shortest and worst outing of the year. This treated us to Tony LaRussa emptying his bench -- we saw a pitcher (Jason Marquis) pinch-hit (and single), and another pitcher (Anthony Reyes, yesterday's starter) pinch-run, and several double-switches making Mike & Howard and me dizzy trying to keep our scorecards up. Thirty-six players eventually appeared in this game; at one point Howard said, "This is like a spring training game!"
All of this was going on in front of Jeff's friends Mark & Gail and their two young sons, formerly of this area and now living in California, in to visit for the weekend. Krista entertained the boys in front of me while the Cubs entertained the rest of us, after colorful returns on local radars briefly gave us the idea that there might be a rain delay.
The teams did take batting practice, but a steady shower of about 15 minutes' duration had the ground crew covering the field, and weird-looking dark clouds swirling around, and the temperature briefly dropped 20 degrees -- all that had the effect of doing was preventing the day from being oppressively hot. The sun eventually came out and the temperature at game time, 79, rose slowly but not suffocatingly, and a breeze blowing out of the southeast kept it reasonably cool.
Finally, in the wake of the Abreu deal, I can report to you that from everything I've heard, the Cubs are likely NOT going to make any deadline deals -- nothing before 3 pm CT tomorrow, unless Jim Hendry gets overwhelmed by an offer.
There are several schools of thought here. Some of you, I know, say that the Cubs ought to deal Aramis Ramirez and Bob Howry and Scott Eyre and "blow it all up".
About Ramirez, I suspect that the Cubs have been told that he is NOT going to exercise his out clause, and will remain here for the duration of his contract -- or perhaps will even get an extension of the two years remaining. I have NO specific knowledge of this, but am speculating based on this: if they DID know, or have an inkling that he was going to leave, then they'd be trying very hard to deal him, to get some players in return instead of only a draft pick.
Trading someone like this (or trading Greg Maddux, which also is NOT going to happen) also presumes that you have a willing trading partner who is interested in actually trading you a player or players of value. Last night on ESPN, it was reported that the Angels apparently had made a deal in principle to acquire Miguel Tejada from Baltimore for Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar, only to have Orioles owner Peter Angelos put the kibosh on it.
That would have been a terrific deal for Baltimore -- but you can see that certain teams just aren't easy to deal with. And for Ramirez, you'd have to get real value -- and not some pie-in-the-sky stuff as was put forth in this diary suggesting the Cubs ask for Jered Weaver. C'mon. The Angels aren't going to deal the possible AL Rookie of the Year.
And neither are the Cubs going to get value received for Greg Maddux. In fact, I'd bring him back next year to be the fifth starter -- it's not going to cost very much (seriously -- how much more money does someone who's made $130 million playing baseball want or need?), and he can be an inning-eating fifth guy. The problem with him this year has been that he's been expected to be a #2 starter, which he no longer is.
About dealing people like Walker, Nevin, Perez, Rusch -- seriously, if you don't want them on the Cubs, why would you think other teams would want them? I doubt there have been any serious or even not-so-serious offers for any of them. The Perez and Rusch signings were bad ones, for they stuck the Cubs with two-year deals. Nevin and Walker are free agents and will walk, with draft picks returned, and in any case, the rebuilding of this sad and sorry roster for 2007 wasn't and isn't going to be done on July 31, 2006. I've seen comments such as "take any A-baller you can for Nevin and Walker" -- but that presumes that you can get anyone to take them in the first place. I suspect the answer to the question "Who wants Phil Nevin and/or Todd Walker" is: Nobody does. You can't FORCE teams to take your unwanted parts.
In any case, by tomorrow afternoon we'll know the first part of the "who's gone" answer -- but do NOT assume it's the end of the story. Players like Walker and Nevin WILL clear waivers, and could be dealt in August. Till tomorrow, savor the sweep -- we haven't had a lot of pleasure this year, take some! -- and hope the Cubs at least pretend that the Diamondbacks are wearing red caps, socks and shoes the next four days.