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My Talk With John McDonough

Not long before today's shockingly solid 6-0 Cub win over the Cardinals, Cubs president John McDonough stopped by our section. Just as I had promised myself last Sunday when I saw him, I decided to introduce myself. OK, so my friend Phil says he gets the credit for introducing himself first, salesman that he is, but both of us talked to him for about ten minutes.

I did mention that I'm the guy behind BCB, which I know he's read (and was quite complimentary about), and so John, if you're reading this, I appreciate the time, and stop on by again sometime, maybe even take in part of the game with us.

He didn't really tell us anything that earthshaking, other than to say that he's "not a skybox kind of guy", and I'm glad to hear that, and that he very much likes Felix Pie and wanted to see him get a chance.

With today's announcement that when Alfonso Soriano returns, likely on Monday night, he'll be moved to left field permanently, it appears that Pie is going to get that chance. There's no doubt that Pie is now ready -- he ran down several balls today in a tough sky and tough wind that prove that he can play major league CF at a high level -- and Soriano clearly wasn't ready to play major league CF at that level. Since he played LF, and did it reasonably well, in Washington last year, that'll be his spot. Phil tried to convince McDonough that Soriano, having had 22 OF assists a year ago, could be used in RF; McDonough, ever the diplomat, just listened politely. (Nice try, Phil!)

This, of course, creates a logjam among the other outfielders. That leaves Cliff Floyd, Matt Murton and Jacque Jones to share playing time in right field -- only one of those men, Jones, is a true right fielder -- and it undoubtedly means that one or more of them will be traded sometime later this year (obviously, Floyd, having been signed as a free agent, cannot be traded for some time -- I forget the exact date, I know someone here will remember), and likely that leaves Daryle Ward, who lined to left as a pinch-hitter today, as the odd-man out, since it's clear that Lou Piniella would like to have a 12th pitcher on the staff.

He didn't need extra bullpen help today -- Jason Marquis, despite not having his best stuff and laboring through a 117-pitch appearance, had the Cardinals enough off-balance to hold them scoreless, and even better, walkless, through seven innings, including pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning with the score only 4-0, and again, inducing an inning-ending fielder's choice in the 7th with two runners on who had reached after the first two batters made easy out. Best of all, Marquis threw 77 strikes among the 117 pitches, lowered his ERA to 1.88, and raised his batting average to .300 with a gap double to the wall in left-center (and Mike and I both noted how fast he motored his way to second base, reaching it standing up easily).

Meanwhile, all the runs the Cubs would need came home on a Michael Barrett HR in the first inning, a ball that left the park just about twenty feet to our left; if you saw a guy in a black T-shirt and shorts watching the ball fly by us, that was me.

It was gorgeous today; game-time temperature was reported as 71, although it was a bit cooler at the ballpark, probably in the mid-60's, with light winds wafting in over the right-field wall; they picked up in the later innings, which is why Pie's speed and athleticism in CF helped quite a bit. He made three plays from the sixth inning on that all had a pretty high degree of difficulty, if such a thing were rated in baseball games.

One day after Ronny Cedeno made one of the worst bonehead plays I've ever seen, not only did the Cubs not send him back to Iowa, Lou Piniella wrote him into the starting lineup. We were shocked, but this sort of thing can be a huge confidence-builder. Cedeno did make another error, but also made a couple of slick plays later in the game and had two hits, including his first home run of the season. Go figure, right? Lou did the same with Will Ohman, letting him throw the final two innings. Yet another way to build confidence -- give the ball to a guy who's had a tough go of it with a six-run lead and tell him to throw strikes. Ohman didn't totally succeed at that -- 15 strikes in 27 pitches -- but at least, he didn't give up any runs, and only allowed a walk to Preston Wilson.

Mike and I commented that in most of the seven Cub wins so far this year, they have looked dominant, as they did today, while the ten losses have featured plays that will and have made our jaws drop in astonishment. If the ballclub can tighten up its play and perform the fundamentals properly, many, many wins will ensue, especially after Derrek Lee finds his power stroke (1-for-4 today, another single). I feel good things about to happen -- and tomorrow is a key start for Wade Miller, his first of the year on "normal" rest. It'd be nice to win this series.