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Neifi Strikes Again!

Jeff & I were talking last night about how Jim Hendry must be the most popular GM in baseball right now.

Why is this? Because assuming the Dodgers and Padres get into the postseason, Hendry will have sent FIVE players -- one-fifth of the Cubs' 25-man pre-September roster -- into the playoffs:

Phil Nevin (his first playoff appearance), Greg Maddux, Scott Williamson, Todd Walker ... and Neifi.

I mention Neifi because yesterday was the start of the Cubs' annual Tent Sale, where they discount a lot of the merchandise they've put out all year that hasn't sold (there were, for example, a few 2003 NLCS caps still available), and also have game-worn jerseys.

It was there that I found something that ... well, I had to have it.

And so I am now the proud owner of a game-worn, 2004 edition Neifi Perez road jersey.

This was brought back to the bleachers to gales of laughter from Jeff, Mike, Howard, Phil and BCB reader Jesse Guam, who spent the first few innings sitting with us. Here's the kicker: the jersey is a size 46. There was also a 2006 Neifi road jersey for sale -- size 48. Guess it's true that he put on a little weight since then, huh?

The Cubs spent the rest of the evening smacking baseballs all over Wrigley Field, beating the Brewers 14-6. That evens the all-time series between the two teams at 69 wins each (including the interleague series played in 1997 when the Brewers were an AL team).

Sean Marshall pitched well enough to win -- he managed one of those silly "quality starts", six innings, three earned runs, which if you did it all year would get you a 4.50 ERA, hardly "quality" in my mind, but it was good enough last night, although he did get into trouble with walks, two of them turning into runs in the fourth inning when the Brewers briefly made the score close at 4-3.

The announced crowd of 31,932 brought the season total to 2,974,129, which means a similar-sized crowd tonight will break the 3 million mark for the third season in a row. At game time there couldn't have been more than 3,000 or so in the park, but it filled in later; I would estimate 10,000-12,000 attended, not bad for a meaningless late-September game between two bad teams.

Other notes: last night the A's clinched the AL West by beating Seattle 12-3; on May 30 they were 23-29, and since then have gone an impressive 68-37 to roar to the division crown. Another interesting note on team records this year: on July 9, at the All-Star break, the White Sox were 57-31, second to the Tigers by two games but leading the wild card by six. Since that date they have gone 30-40.

That is precisely the same record the Cubs have since July 9, when they were 34-54; they also have gone 30-40 in the second half.

This isn't to say the Cubs are as good as the White Sox; we know that's not true. Just thought it was an interesting note. Massive tie update: there is still a chance, believe it or not, of a five-way tie (at 83-79) among teams in all three divisions, which would drive the playoff schedule-makers nuts, I am sure.

One of the reasons this is possible is because none of the five teams involved -- the Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Astros and Reds -- play each other. Here's how it would have to work:

Phillies are 82-75, must go 1-4 (2 vs Was, 3 vs Fla)
Cardinals are 80-76, must go 3-3 (1 vs SD, 4 vs Mil, 1 vs SF)
Dodgers are 83-74, must go 0-5 (2 vs Col, 3 vs SF)
Astros are 79-78, must go 4-1 (2 vs Pit, 3 vs Atl)
Reds are 78-79, must go 5-0 (2 vs Fla, 3 vs Pit)
This may not be likely, but it is far from impossible.

That would create a three-way tie at the top of the NL Central, and the Dodgers and Phillies also tied with those three. One of the NL Central teams would be the division champion, and the four others would have to play off for the wild card (in this scenario, the Padres would be the West champion).

The Cardinals, incidentally, are in 1964 Phillies territory, having had a seven-game lead with thirteen games remaining; it could wind up even worse than that blown lead because the '64 Phillies finished second and under the current system would have at the very least played off for a wild card against the Reds, with whom they are tied. The Cardinals could wind up sitting home, given the number of teams with similar records. It'll be an interesting last five days.