OK, maybe it's not cause-and-effect, but we all noticed it, and I'm sure you have too: there is a certain energy that seems to just come to this team when Felix Pie is playing, and it happened again today, as Pie was recalled from Iowa with Daryle Ward heading to the DL (as first reported here at BCB yesterday), was immediately inserted into the starting lineup in CF, hitting second, and responded with a single and a pop-fly hit that should have been a second single, but with his speed turned into a RBI double, and the Cubs had a no-brainer of a game, a badly-needed easy 10-1 win over the Braves, snapping the losing streak at six.
Actually, they badly needed this about a week ago, but better late than never -- and Mike and Dave and I all agreed, if they can head up to Miller Park and sweep the Brewers (yes, I know, not an easy task, although the Cubs will not face Milwaukee's two best pitchers, Chris Capuano and Ben Sheets. Instead, they'll face Dave Bush, Claudio Vargas and Jeff Suppan, in that order), then this season can still be turned around.
Now, before you say I'm hoping where no hope should be found -- I'm not saying this WILL happen, nor do I expect it to. But the Cubs DID win two of three at Miller Park in April, and so yes, I think it's possible.
Back to today -- I think Felix Pie may have played his last minor league game. As I said, he brings an energy that cannot be measured on a stat sheet to the ballclub -- but it's there. You can feel it the minute he steps on the field for batting practice, the minute his name was announced in the starting lineup (though, of course, he shouldn't be hitting second on a regular basis, today it worked).
Now, the question is, what to do with the three-headed monster that's left to play right?
The obvious choice is to deal Jacque Jones, but not just give him away. The club could use some bullpen help (DUH!) and perhaps Jones, in combination with a prospect or two, could bring some. Again, I know the Cubs have been after Scott Linebrink almost all year. Jones would look far better in LF in San Diego than Terrmel Sledge. Before you accuse me of making up deals that are unrealistic, I know Jones alone wouldn't bring Linebrink here. But maybe Jones with someone, or two someones, would.
If Jones is dealt, Cliff Floyd and Matt Murton could platoon in RF -- which would be really brutal defensively, but once they settled in to definite hitting roles, I think the Cubs could live with that. Murton is hitting .282/.364/.385 vs. LHP this year and is .321/.398/.492 against LHP in his career. Floyd is .296/.355/.398 vs. RHP in 2007, .281/.367/.493 in his career. Part of the problem with all the OF so far is that there have been no clearly defined roles -- I doubt any of them have really known when they're starting and against whom. A deal of Jones and a strict platoon of Floyd and Murton would work, especially with the energy of Pie in CF.
The rest of the team came with their hitting shoes on today; the big blow, of course, was Mark DeRosa's grand slam in the first inning, after a weird play where Aramis Ramirez was hit by Jones' batted ball -- and at first appeared to be hurt, but wasn't -- and we all figured the inning was over when DeRosa saved it. Derrek Lee also homered today and had two more hits and leads the NL at .361; Alfonso Soriano homered for the second day in a row and also singled and tripled, and, perhaps at last, is becoming the player we expected him to become after having all that money thrown at him in the offseason.
And, I can't say enough about the great job Sean Marshall did keeping the Braves off-balance all afternoon, striking out eight and walking only one (weirdly, the one was pitcher Lance Cormier), and for a while, I thought he might be able to finish the game and give the beleaguered pen the day off -- but you could tell he was running out of gas when Brian McCann singled in the 7th, and we all figured the next hitter, Matt Diaz, would be the last hitter of the day, whether Marshall got him or not, and when Diaz singled in the only Atlanta run of the day, interim manager Alan Trammell (hey, maybe THAT was the key to victory today!) came to get him.
Trammell will be running things while Lou Piniella serves his "indefinite" suspension for yesterday's show -- obviously, this is "indefinite" till tomorrow's meeting with the commissioner's office. It isn't clear whether Lou bumped umpire Mark Wegner; if he did, even accidentally, he's probably got to sit down for 3-5 games. If not, sitting out today is probably enough. I think MLB knows Lou sort of had to put on that show, and knows the Cubs can't be without him too long.
Alan Trammell has now managed for the Cubs 1/43 (2.3%)as many wins as he did the entire 2003 season.
We watched dark clouds approach the ballpark from almost all sides early in the afternoon and heard reports of people being asked to go to basements in the Aurora area, and felt several wind shifts for the first couple of innings, and when it started raining lightly in the second, I put my large ABC-7 umbrella up -- upon which I understand the WGN cameras took a real nice closeup shot of all of us. If you saw that umbrella, that was us! We learned this because no fewer than three different people called three of us to let us know they'd just seen us on the WGN telecast.
Finally, here's the Bad Security Confiscation of the day: if you have been around the bleachers at all for the last 30 years, you know there are several blind Cubs fans who sit with the season ticket group near the CF concession stand. One of them, a man named Howard, has brought a cowbell nearly every day since 1970, ringing it after Cub home runs (something Vince & Lou used to do in the radio booth). Today, he was told he can't bring it any more, because it is "too loud".
Excuse me? Too loud??!?!?! In the bleachers? This strikes me as overzealous and cruel, especially to someone as loyal as Howard, who I have known myself for more than 20 years -- really nice fellow, and I've even sat next to the cowbell myself a few times, and it's not "too loud".
If you're reading this, management, let the cowbell back in. It's rung in celebration. We haven't had that much to celebrate lately. Let's enjoy it while we can!
On to Milwaukee. This season isn't done yet.