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Witness To History, Part Deux

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This is history that, frankly, I'd rather Tom Glavine had waited till his next start to make, since in notching his 300th career win, it meant a Cub loss, 8-3 to the Mets last night, and despite the comments of Chuck at Ivy Chat in the past that I'd rather see history than a Cubs win, that's simply not true, particularly now, when every win is critical in a pennant race. In fact, with storms ripping through parts of the Chicago area last night, it might have been better had this one been rained out.

Incidentally, I find myself in agreement with Chuck this morning (yes, I know you're gasping). Chuck wrote of the scary-looking right quad injury to Alfonso Soriano which is apparently going to keep him out from 2-4 weeks:

Soriano has been causing problems for this team all year. On this team, he really should be playing right and batting 2nd or 5th in the order. Due to his weak mental makeup and lack of a smart approach to an at bat, he has to bat first and play left. Because of this limitation, the Cubs are worse in right field, employing mostly Matt Murton, Daryle Ward, Cliff Floyd. All those guys are left fielders. Soriano has the arm for right, but can't play there because it screws up his hitting.

Chuck's got it pretty much nailed here. I'm not sure I agree with "weak mental makeup", but Soriano doesn't approach at-bats well, and is one of the streakiest hitters I've ever seen in a Cub uniform. When he's going well -- as he was during the month of June, when he hit .336/.379/.697 with 11 HR in 28 games -- he can help carry a team. But when he's cold -- and since the All-Star break he's hitting .255/.277/.439 with 3 HR in 23 games -- he can drag a team down. Dave and I have discussed this quite a bit in the bleachers all season, how Soriano has almost never -- save that game-winning single he had against the Rockies on June 25 -- had a hit in a key situation all season.

So apart from the little bunny hop he makes before every routine catch in left field, will the Cubs miss him? I say no. The obvious move is to recall Felix Pie, shift Cliff Floyd back to LF, and have Jacque Jones and Mark DeRosa split time in RF (with DeRosa and Mike Fontenot splitting time at 2B). This won't help the defense much (except for the huge upgrade in CF with Pie), but most of us have noted the big boost in energy the Cubs have received each time Pie has been added to the roster. It may be a coincidence, but the Cubs' record in games in which Pie has appeared is 32-16, and 26-36 in all other games.

So this move ought to be a no-brainer today -- Soriano to the DL, Pie recalled. And one more move I'd make -- sign Jose Cruz Jr., who was waived by the Padres on August 1. His batting numbers were depressed by having Petco Park as his home park, and he has always hit LHP well (.276/.360/.464 lifetime). He could spell Floyd in LF or Jones in RF, and would give Lou a switch-hitting pinch-hit option.

About the two other significant events last night; first, Tom Glavine's 300th win. People are saying, again, that Glavine will be the "last" 300-game winner. "People" said this more than forty years ago after Early Wynn won his 300th game. There weren't any after that for a while, but Glavine is now the ninth pitcher to notch 300 wins since Wynn. It's an odd milestone in this sense -- the player accomplishing it doesn't necessarily have to be on the field when it happens, unlike a 3000th hit or 500th HR, and Glavine wasn't (and neither was Greg Maddux three years ago in San Francisco). The remnants of the Wrigley Field crowd (many of whom left after Will Ohman turned a still-close 5-3 game into a 7-3 game, and still more left when DeRosa accidentally hit plate umpire Marty Foster on a swing, causing a delay of a few minutes), a fair number of whom were Mets fans but also the Cub fans in attendance, gave Glavine a warm ovation after the last out, when he and his teammates celebrated on the field. I've now seen two of these (this one and Maddux', and I know Jeff and Jessica, who were both in SF in 2004 for Maddux', can say the same, but how many other fans can say this?) and despite the fact that I'd rather the Cubs had won, I was glad to have been a witness to this historic event.

The other significant event last night was the return to the mound of Kerry Wood for the first time in fourteen months. He got three ovations -- the first for warming up, the second when he trotted in from the bullpen (after everyone made sure it wasn't Bob Howry again), and another when his name was announced. Wood threw a scoreless inning, though I'd be less than truthful if I said it was "triumphant". His velocity was good, but he didn't have total command -- he went to a full count twice, and gave up a hit, throwing 8 strikes among his 14 pitches. That said, it was a good thing for him to get this first appearance out of the way and now he can move on to being a productive member of the bullpen.

Which is more than I can say for Will Ohman, who stunk again last night. Suddenly, Scott Eyre, who again had a scoreless appearance last night (the two walks were intentional), is the most effective lefty out of the pen.

This is what this club has done the last two months -- someone fails, someone else picks him up. It wasn't enough to win last night's game, but since the Brewers lost in a spectacular meltdown to the Phillies, blowing a 5-run 9th-inning lead, the Cubs remain only a game out of first place, going on the road on the same trip as Milwaukee (trading off opponents Houston and Colorado) where they've played well and the Brewers haven't.

Incidentally, the Cubs' +54 run differential is tied for best in the NL with San Diego, and despite the 36-21 run since June 2, the Cubs are still underperforming their Pythagorean projection by three games (should be 61-49 based on that).

So I'm still cautiously optimistic, but there's one important thing that still must be addressed: starting pitching, which seemed such a strength a month ago, is now shaky. Jason Marquis was mediocre last night -- he was getting the ground balls he needs to succeed, but they were all getting through for hits -- and with Rich Hill and Sean Marshall also shaky the last month, that leaves the Cubs with only two reliable, consistent, every-time-out starters. That's not enough. If there's a starting pitcher out there who's available at not too high a cost, the Cubs should make an effort to go get him.