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Mount Lou Erupts

You've all been waiting for that, right?

That's essentially what Lou Piniella said in his postgame comments after the Cubs' sixth straight loss, 5-3 to the Braves. I don't have a direct quote as I have only heard it on the radio, not in an online source, but essentially, he said, directed to the media but I suppose also to fans, "You've all been waiting for me to do this, so I did it."

Lou also admitted that replays clearly showed Angel Pagan was out at third base on a very close play -- and he shouldn't have been doing that in the first place, representing the tying run in scoring position with nobody out in the 8th -- but I think Lou's outburst was carefully calculated to try to light a spark under his team. Didn't work, at least for today, since the next "spark" that happened was Andruw Jones' 9th inning HR (that landed about 10 feet from our LF bench) that put the game out of reach.

There were other mistakes today:

  • Rich Hill's failure to take the obvious play on a sacrifice attempt in the fourth inning, instead throwing the ball away after looking at second base. Lesson: when the other team gives you an out, take it! This was after a leadoff walk -- two leadoff walks led to runs today for the Cubs. Hill faced only three batters in each one of his innings, except the fourth, where he gave up all three runs (one earned) charged to him.
  • Hill's inexplicable attempt to stretch his RBI double into a triple. Why would you do this? -- you're in scoring position with the top of the order up, and Alfonso Soriano, hitting next, had homered (a monster shot, at least 450 feet -- it was announced at 420, but landed across Waveland on the fly) in his previous at-bat.
  • Will Ohman walking the first batter he faced after getting him down 0-2.
  • And, Michael Wuertz putting the game out of reach allowing Jones' HR. Then he struck out the side, too late.
The big event, of course, was Mt. Lou erupting, a calculated event, something everyone's wanted to see. He kicked dirt all over two umpires, including crew chief Bruce Froemming, and kicked his hat four separate times before finally picking it up. He was ejected before he'd done any of this, obviously saying one of the "magic words", and apparently just wanted to get his money's worth, in addition to inciting the crowd and maybe his team.

What shouldn't have happened is inciting the crowd to throw trash, including dozens of the blue travel mug giveaway from today, onto the field. That's never acceptable, and only makes Cub fans look bad. Boo all you want. Express disapproval. But don't throw things. Braves manager Bobby Cox pulled his team off the field -- appropriately, I think -- until all the trash was cleaned up, presumably because he didn't think they were safe out there.

For a while, the Cubs did a nice job of getting back into the game after spotting the 3-0 lead -- scoring first on Soriano's HR, then on Hill's RBI double, and the tying run on a ball that should have been credited as a hit to Aramis Ramirez, but instead was a tough error credited to Braves 2B Martin Prado, depriving Ramirez of a hit and an RBI.

In the end, another bullpen failure meant that didn't matter, and the Cubs are now nine games under .500 -- I'd say still perhaps in contention in the mediocre Comedy Central, but Phil's friend Tom stopped by with a 2005 media guide and pointed this out to me, and I think it only fair to mention it since I'm the one who always says "miracles can happen":

No Cub team has ever come from being more than 10 games under .500 to have a winning season. The only team to come from 10 games under to finish over .500 was the 1968 club, which on July 5, 1968 was 35-45; they went 49-33 the rest of the way to finish 84-78.

This team looks incapable of matching that, quite frankly. The '68 team was as many as 16.5 games out, never got closer than 12 in a year dominated by the Cardinals, the last year of a single champion before divisional play.

Something has to give, and here's some info I have not seen anywhere else: I have heard today that Daryle Ward (or possibly Matt Murton or Cliff Floyd) is to go on the DL tomorrow (back trouble, allegedly, despite the fact that he pinch-hit today), and Felix Pie will be recalled. Good -- but ONLY if Pie is installed in CF every single day, batting sixth or seventh. Stay tuned.

More info: the comments made by Carlos Zambrano on the Score today (regarding some "family problems" he had had over the last couple of weeks) confirm some information I had heard a while back, but did not want to post here because it was uncorroborated. And frankly, I am sorry that Z has had this sort of trouble (supposedly, something regarding his brother in Venezuela, with whom he is very close) -- but you simply cannot bring this sort of thing to the ballpark, or indeed, extrapolating this, NO ONE should bring these sorts of troubles to their workplace, if it is going to affect their work. Both Zambrano and Barrett were fined for yesterday's outburst, but not suspended -- frankly, the team can't afford to suspend them. But I do think, despite this from the above-linked article:

Zambrano and Barrett have expiring contracts, and both emphasized their loyalty to the organization. When asked if he wants to remain a Cub, Zambrano said, "Of course." Barrett added: "I love this organization from top to bottom."
... that Jim Hendry must, must, MUST begin to investigate trading both of them, and sooner rather than later.

Finally, in addition to all the trash thrown on the field, there were a couple other incidents in the bleachers today. Someone started tossing around a beach ball that looked like a baseball for a while -- frankly, I have never understood the mindset of someone who says, "I'm going to a baseball game -- I think I'll take a beach ball with me!" -- until security took it away. Good.

But security, I thought, was overzealous in taking away three brown grocery bags (from Jewel -- we Cub fans can't even afford the fancier-ass bags from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods) that three fans in the second row in the section next to us had put over their heads. At first, they told them not to wear them, but when one of the twentysomethings put it back on, the bags were confiscated. This is too much -- since when is there a ban on personal expression like this at Wrigley Field? The bags should have been allowed. Not only that, they were colorfully decorated with Cub logos and some other stuff I couldn't quite read.

Free expression, guaranteed in our Constitution, doesn't necessarily apply to private organizations like the Cubs. But stifling it in this way sure doesn't make them look very good. Let people wear bags if they want to.