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That is, of course, what a lot of people think should be put in the record books next to just about every home run Barry Bonds hits.

And it was in evidence in the bleachers today -- in the form of foam asterisks passed out by some people connected to an anti-Bonds website cleverly titled In fact, security, much more in evidence today in the LF bleachers, with Bonds starting, actually took one to see if it was on their "prohibited" list of taunting devices. It wasn't. They didn't allow any anti-Bonds signs (which is why I may not be able to do what is, in fact, a very good suggestion made in this diary, at the game tomorrow -- I don't want to get tossed!) -- and in fact, there were multiple ejections of people reviling and ridiculing Bonds (I said to Mike, "I wish they'd be this tough EVERY day!"), including A HOT DOG VENDOR, AN EMPLOYEE, who raised a hot dog high in his hand and said "Wieners dipped in HGH!"

That vendor was walked out of the bleachers by security, and I presume, out of a job. Give him points for originality, at least.

(Incidentally, I was told that some of the extra security wasn't for Bonds -- it was for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was also at the game today. Draw your own conclusions.)

Bonds thrilled the very visible minority of Giants fans in the LF bleachers (some of whom bowed deeply to him after he came back to the field) by hitting his 728th career HR, and the Giants beat the Cubs 4-2, for two reasons:

  • as has been their bugaboo the last couple of years, a Cub pitcher was unable to post a third out after retiring the first two hitters in an inning easily -- Sean Marshall walked Bonds in the sixth, and then lost his concentration and gave up back-to-back HR to Ray Durham and Moises Alou, and
  • Ryan Theriot getting picked off first base while representing the tying run with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
Theriot actually had quite a good at-bat, fouling off five pitches before drawing a walk. Some of you mentioned in the game thread comments (I really couldn't tell from where we were) that Mike Stanton appeared to commit a balk on this pickoff, but there still isn't any excuse for Theriot to be anywhere near a place where he could be picked off. Bad baserunning and pickoffs and being caught off base have been running themes through the 2006 Cub season, and with Ronny Cedeno likely to be struck out by Stanton (as indeed he was to end the game), Theriot should have stayed there, in the hope that Matt Murton, on deck, could drive him in from first base.

Theriot and Murton. Now, there's something worth talking about. After having good games yesterday (and Theriot is hot, having gone 7-for-his-last-10, with two doubles and a HR), both of them sat on the bench until late in the game, for the left-handed hitting Freddie Bynum and Angel Pagan.

Is this what we are reduced to? Rooting for every single opposing pitcher to be lefthanded so that the guys who SHOULD be playing every day are? Theriot and Murton may not be the answer to 2B and LF in 2007. But they are closer to the answer than Bynum (who doesn't even belong on a major league roster, much less in a starting lineup), and Pagan, who's a fifth outfielder at best.

We had quite a bit more discussion on what may happen at the end of the season. The consensus seems to be, and I have heard rumors to this effect, that Dusty Baker will be quietly allowed to "leave", i.e. his contract won't be renewed. This will allow him to leave without being fired, and the Cubs to move on to their next choice of manager. And that appears likely to be Fredi Gonzalez. I occasionally bring the early Sunday edition of the Tribune to the ballpark on Saturday, to read the feature sections, and the Sunday sports section (this article is not yet online, but I assume it will be later this evening or early tomorrow morning) contains a long profile of Gonzalez, written by Melissa Isaacson, in which he is praised by almost the entire Atlanta roster, and also by Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz. Below it is a smaller article, which IS online now, a column by Bob Verdi talking about how Joe Girardi may or may not fit here as manager, depending on what you do or don't believe about the current Cub regime.

Those of you who practice Kremlinology with this ballclub will undoubtedly read something into the placement of these articles, both the timing and the physical placement in the paper (the Gonzalez article, top of the page; the Girardi article, below it). I'm not sure I believe in that sort of thing, but who knows.

More game notes: Sean Marshall threw well until he lost focus in the sixth inning; up to then he'd allowed only three hits, including the HR to Bonds. He deserved a better fate. Derrek Lee hit his first home run since June 28, and only his second since his injury in April (and broke a tie with Carlos Zambrano at four HR); we all agreed that Lee should probably NOT have been rushed back. Had he stayed out a couple more weeks and come back after the All-Star break (as originally guessed after the injury), he'd more likely have been closer to full strength then. As it is, he does appear to be rounding into full-strength form now -- and for those who say he should be shut down, what that would effectively do is shut down a ballplayer who has been used to playing every single day for many years, for almost a full season. These last four weeks are good for Lee to get his timing and confidence in hitting back, and presuming he keeps hitting as he has since his return (now 9-for-20 with a double, a HR and 4 RBI in 5 games), he'll go into the offseason confident he can pick up in 2007 right where he left off at the end of 2005.

And, the bullpen did a good job at keeping the game close, for the abortive ninth-inning rally.

With Jason Schmidt going tomorrow -- will Dusty play the "platoon" guys? the LH hitters? Or the guys who REALLY belong out there? We know what he SHOULD do. Thankfully, two of the four pitchers who are to pitch for the Pirates this upcoming week (Paul Maholm, Zach Duke) are lefthanded. At least we'll know Theriot and Murton will get playing time then.

Wake up, Dusty. Play the guys who have a chance of success.

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