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Some Blasts From The Past

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I just didn't know what to write this morning after the Cubs finally got a good pitching performance out of the back end of their rotation, only to lose anyway, 2-1 to the Astros in 10 innings. They haven't hit lefthanders well all year, and last night made Wandy Rodriguez, who has a 6-2, 1.69 record at home, look like this lefthander. On the road, Rodriguez's 1-8, 8.16 mark this season more resembles this lefthander. (Sorry, JoshinLA.) So let's hope Rodriguez's turn in the rotation comes up at the end of this month when the Astros again visit Wrigley Field.

Thus, my notes on last night's defeat are short: Eric Patterson made his ML debut and laid down a sacrifice bunt in his first plate appearance. So far, yawn. I was surprised that Lou didn't let Bob Howry, who threw only 12 pitches in the 9th inning, at least start the 10th. Rich Hill threw well. No one except Ryan Theriot hit with any authority.

And so, winning the next two games is nearly mandatory. Despite the Brewers' loss in Colorado, and the Padres' loss in St. Louis, keeping the Cubs one game out of the division lead and two out of the wild-card lead, this doesn't feel very good, does it?

With that in mind, I thought I'd dig out a few comments I made during the stretch drive in 2003, at times when things looked bleak.

August 22, 2003:

So which are the real Cubs? The ones who blasted the Astros 6-0 behind Mark Prior on Wednesday? Or the ones who lost a not-as-close-as-the-score 9-3 game to the same team the next day?

Or are they the ones who nearly no-hit the Diamondbacks last night, and blasted three homers off Curt Schilling?

Or the team that got blasted by the same Arizona team today 13-2?

The team that ESPN.com's Rob Neyer termed the Bizarro Cubs continued their alternate-day pattern on this trip today, in this awful-looking loss, which had so much bad stuff I can hardly even sum it all up in a short post here, and I really would rather not. It got so bad that I decided to take time out and go get my car washed, and in listening to Ron & Pat on the radio, they were so bored that they started listing names of different animals, and how so many animal names have three letters (trust me, you don't want to hear the entire transcript).

All I can say is that no matter how loyal Dusty Baker is to his players, he's got to realize that Shawn Estes and Antonio Alfonseca are absolutely killing his team.

August 27, 2003:

If a bullpen implodes in front of 32,000 people, how loud a noise does it make?

Actually, not very loud at all, except if you count the cheers of the Cardinal fans as the Cubs blew a great performance by Kerry Wood and lost to St. Louis 4-2 last night.

OK, let's get this clear. Antonio Alfonseca should never again be allowed near a pitching mound wearing a Cubs uniform. You hear that, Dusty? Anchor him to the bullpen bench. Or better yet, Jim Hendry, just eat the one month left on his contract and release him.

August 28, 2003:

Now really, who do we think we are fooling?

Come on, a guy whose home run total equals his uniform number (zero) hits a walk-off homer?

Crushing defeats because of bullpen implosions do happen, but when they happen a second day in a row, maybe someone's trying to tell us something.

You already know about the devastating 3-2 loss to the Cardinals last night...

August 30, 2003:

Perhaps the luckiest guy in the bleachers today was the guy who got hit with a batting practice ball only about 20 minutes after the gates opened -- and it was nasty, drawing blood. Security had to call the paramedics, and he was led off in a wheelchair. I'm sure he'll be OK, as he was sitting up fine; it may require stitches, but all he got was a painful scare.

But for him, it was probably best that he didn't have to watch Shawn Estes blow up yet again, in an ugly 9-5 loss to Milwaukee.

I'm kidding, of course, about the guy's luck -- I'm sure he'd rather not have been hit in the head with a baseball -- but not about not having to watch today's fiasco.

Dusty, give it up. Maybe Shawn Estes was a serviceable pitcher once. Yes, he won 19 games for one of your division champions. But that was six years ago, and even then, he walked 100 batters that season. Yes, he snapped off a couple of lovely curveballs for strikes today. But that's not enough. He's not any good any more. He is, by far, the worst rotation starter in the National League this year. His ERA is a homer or two short of six.

Wow, that doesn't sound like a team that eventually won its division, does it? (And for those of you who thought I never criticized Dusty Baker, read all those posts again. They're all in my old site's archive. Dates above are the dates the games were actually played, rather than the dates of the posts.) Anyway, all of this is to tell you that with fifty-one games remaining on the schedule, we should not panic nor throw any towels (that's The Employee's job, anyway). Even that noted curmudgeon Jay Mariotti thinks the Cubs are just fine, thankyouverymuch:

The Cubs employ a manager, Lou Piniella, who owns the requisite experience, diamond-encrusted rings and strategic prowess to blow away his Milwaukee rival, pennant-race neophyte Ned Yost. The clubhouse, too, is filled with veterans who will provide production and stability while Soriano is gone, contrary to a Brewers club filled with kids not ready for a September gauntlet. And the competition has no match for near-automatic Carlos Zambrano, providing he drinks his fluids and doesn't stress out about his contractual limbo after speaking to New York writers about the topic. When you see the Brew Crew blow a 6-1 lead in the ninth inning only days after two players challenged Yost in the dugout for admonishing teammate J.J. Hardy, it's easier to stomach the "one-centimeter tear" in Soriano's right quadriceps. If you ever wondered why cheese has holes in it, the Brewers are Exhibit A.

There. Feel better now? Onward to tonight, where I am very happy that the Cubs will be facing Woody Williams, even though he's thrown fairly well against the Cubs this season. And I'm also thankful for archives on the Internets on days when I'm at a loss for words. Till later.