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Witness To History

Somewhere, buried in one of these threads, one of you made the comment that Barry Bonds will soon be "the greatest home run hitter of all time".

To which I responded: "No, he won't. He'll have hit the most home runs of anyone. But that doesn't necessarily make him the greatest HR hitter." To me, that title will forever belong to Babe Ruth. Dave & I discussed this today -- though Bonds was clearly the best all-around player of his era before he did any illegal PED's (Note: this is still unproven, but there is strong circumstantial evidence), Ruth changed the way the game is played. There were years where he outhomered entire teams -- it would be as if Bonds would have hit 200 HR in a season.

With that in mind, I will say that I was glad I was witness to history today -- Barry Bonds' two HR this afternoon, the 752nd and 753rd of his career, set all kinds of marks:

  • It was his 71st multi-HR game; that's one behind Babe Ruth for first all-time.
  • It was his 7th career game with six or more RBI.
  • He has now hit 19 HR this year. That's the most for any player in the year in which he turned 43 -- surpassing Carlton Fisk.
But best of all, the Cubs won the game anyway, 9-8, and the most important play of the game wasn't a longball, it was something that seemed completely unimportant at the time, and almost laughable: Ted Lilly, batting for himself in the last of the fifth even though it was clear he was going to be removed after 102 pitches. Lou, I assume, did so because two players, Cliff Floyd and Daryle Ward, had already left due to minor injuries and he didn't want to deplete his bench any further in the 5th inning. Ward has a strained calf, Floyd a sore neck. Both are, as are we all, day-to day.

Anyway, Lilly singled, and then, seeing Matt Morris and Bengie Molina totally ignore him, took second on an uncontested steal, the first of his career.

This is important because Lilly then scored on Alfonso Soriano's popfly double down the RF line. There's no guarantee Lilly would have scored from first.

And this run, at the time giving the Cubs an 8-3 lead, seemed unimportant, but the bullpen today did not do a particularly good job, and that run wound up being critical. Billy Petrick gave up a two-run HR to Molina hit into the teeth of the wind, which had shifted from west to northeast with the passage of a cold front (despite all the storms this week, they once again passed by the ballpark, where there were no rain delays the entire series). Michael Wuertz was also ineffective, and when Will Ohman was summoned to face Bonds, he thought he had him struck out a couple of times, only to leave a ball up on a 3-2 count (my friend Jon said the Cubs should have walked him, forcing in a run. Maybe. That would have made the score 9-6 instead of 9-8), and Bonds placed it carefully in the LF basket. Flash cameras were strongly in evidence for all of Bonds' at-bats, even shining through the sun that came out late in the day. So Bonds is right when he says, "People say they hate me, but they all go 'Click-click-click' with their cameras."

Fortunately, Carlos Marmol shut the door and though he didn't have his best stuff, he retired all four batters he faced, and Bob Howry had a 1-2-3 9th for his 7th save. Fortunately again, since the Cubs ran through most of the bullpen today, there will likely be a fresh arm tomorrow if Ryan Dempster is, as expected, activated from the DL. Either Petrick or Sean Gallagher will return to Iowa.

Bonds' first HR landed on Sheffield; a ball was thrown back on the field, but according to the Yahoo recap above, it wasn't the HR ball. Dave Davison, one of the regular ballhawks, got it, and sent a throwback ball back.

The Cub offense did another good job of producing runs today, taking advantage of horrendous Giants defense in the first inning (three errors) to score four runs, and they wound up with 14 hits and four walks, scoring nine runs again without benefit of a home run. Aramis Ramirez had three hits and two RBI and Jacque Jones, suddenly looking like a major league hitter again, had four singles, bumping his average up to .244, which is still mediocre, but better than the .220s where he's been mired most of the year.

Late in the game, some of the LF bleacherites started chanting "HGH! HGH!" at Bonds -- give them credit for originality, at least. Then they went into the sing-song "Baaaa-ree! Baaaaa-ree!" Bonds, as is his wont, completely ignored all of it. You could tell his knees were bothering him early, as the two first-inning doubles might not have been so with a faster left fielder. But obviously, they didn't hurt him from hitting this afternoon.

So Bonds heads on to Milwaukee, Bud Selig's home turf, and if he hits a HR or two in the first game of the series, it'll be interesting to see if Selig shows up for the other games.

Today was a scheduled giveaway for kids -- a Build-a-Bear. Mark was with me and got one -- or, I should say, got a voucher, because some sort of shipping delay prevented the bears from arriving. The Cubs did the right thing to avoid having a lot of unhappy kids -- the voucher, which you filled out with a shipping address and left with the club, said that Build-a-Bear was sending "an extra gift". We'll see what that is.

Finally, a couple of words about today's roster moves. As you know, Cesar Izturis was sent to Pittsburgh for a PTBNL; the Pirates are picking up most if not all of the remaining contract. Apparently he was one of Jim Tracy's favorites in Los Angeles, and Jack Wilson isn't, so Izturis will get his chance to show that he can still play. Jake Fox was recalled to make his ML debut, and hit into a double play as a pinch-hitter in the 9th. He's the 9th player on the current active roster who did not start the year with the ballclub. The MLB Trade Rumors post on this deal says that the Cubs have some interest in Xavier Nady -- that would give the Cubs a major league RF with a power bat who hits righthanded, an important acquisition in my opinion if Jim Hendry can make it happen. I don't think he's done dealing, from rumblings I've heard, and I have no specifics. Jacque Jones, for his part, with his four-hit day, has probably staved off being traded, at least for now.

Both Drew from Rockford and Sparkles (who had really wanted to see Barry Bonds play at least once) joined us in the bleachers today. Sparkles got her wish -- saw Bonds homer, and saw the Cubs win.

The Brewers maintained their 3.5 game lead with their 10-1 win over Arizona, and now we all root for the Giants to play their best this weekend up in Milwaukee. Onward -- this has been a productive homestand so far, with a 6-1 mark. Till tomorrow. (And sorry, I don't have time to go through the 1000+ comments in the game thread, an all-time record!)