What can I say?
What can any of us say after the Cubs completed the most dominant homestand in recent memory -- 7 wins in 8 games, scoring 67 runs (average: more than eight per game) -- and thoroughly dominating both bad teams and good. The Mets are ... well, supposedly they're a good team, but the holes in their rotation, their bullpen and their offense after Jose Reyes and David Wright were glaringly obvious last night and this afternoon. This is why a lot of us who study and follow baseball closely have dismissed the opinions of the so-called experts; this year, after the Mets acquired Johan Santana, the national media (and some of the Chicago columnists, too) anointed the Mets NL champions, implying Santana would win every game he started.
Baseball doesn't work that way, and from what I saw the last two days, the Mets have one dominant starter (who we didn't see), a good closer (who we didn't see either), and a ton of holes in the rest of their pitching staff. Reyes and Wright were non-factors in this miniseries; Carlos Beltran didn't do much, either, and I think Carlos Delgado is in decline.
All of this is just background; the Cubs blew out the Mets again today, 8-1, and once again Ronny Cedeno -- yes, RONNY CEDENO, the guy we made fun of for more than two years, who made enough boneheaded plays to make the Blooper Hall of Fame, suddenly seems to have come of baseball age.
Today, he drove in the first run of the game with a double, hustling to second base as Mets RF Angel Pagan knocked the ball around in the corner, and Kosuke Fukudome streaked home. Then, ONEDEC (Cedeno spelled backwards because he's "turned it around") hit a grand slam in the 8th inning, landing on the street just behind us where a very happy guy wearing an orange T-shirt caught it, just inside the foul pole.
A grand slam -- his first. A double. Five RBI. Playing SS with confidence. This is the guy I've seen in consecutive spring trainings playing this way. Has he finally "gotten it"? It's probably too early to make that judgment off a couple of games. However, I'd say Ronny has earned more playing time; maybe, as the Cubs shouldn't rush Alfonso Soriano back from the DL, they don't have to rush Ryan Theriot back from his back spasms. This is a good problem to have -- too many players getting hot at the same time. You could play Theriot at 2B, Cedeno at SS, and Mark DeRosa in LF, with Reed Johnson in CF -- all of those are hitting well. But then what of Felix Pie? Felix had two more hits today and reminded us of his defensive value with a couple of nice running catches.
Kosuke Fukudome deserves his own paragraph today -- he had three hits and reached base all five times up. He had two walks -- the team drew eight more walks today, which means we're going to have to get used to longer games, with more pitches taken. Win 'em and I'll sit there all night watching the bases get clogged with Cubs.
Not only is the baseball all being played well on the North Side of Chicago, the weather -- which we all feared after seeing 16 games on the schedule in the month of April -- has cooperated. Apart from rain on Opening Day and a little drizzle last Saturday, it's been sunny most days, including today, when it was supposed to rain, and the temperature soared into the mid-70's, with a nice breeze. It's really only been brutally cold a couple of days.
This raised the question in my mind, so I asked Dave: "What comes first? Team chemistry and a team you 'like', or does winning breed that?" He didn't really have an answer and neither do I. It's the old "chicken and the egg" question. We like this team because it's winning, and we're learning to like new players like Johnson, and new-to-good-play guys like Cedeno. I think this breeds good team chemistry -- it's got to be more fun to come to work every day for these guys when they are winning. Dave did say that the way this team is playing reminds him a little of the 2005 White Sox -- getting every break, a little luck, timely hitting and good pitching. It's a little too soon, I think, to make such comparisons. As for me, I'm enjoying the ride, and I'm sure you are too.
Ted Lilly threw very well today -- he had one shaky inning in which the Mets scored their only run, and another in which he walked the bases loaded and got out of it with a couple of popups. The 107-pitch outing (64 strikes) got his ERA "down" to 7.30, and that first win is always nice to have. Now, he needs to build on this for his next start.
I sat with BCB reader Damen Jackson today; always nice to see Damen and talk baseball. He took quite a few photos which he'll either post himself or email to me. One of them will be of the Mets broadcast booth, which had a large sign reading "ALOU" on it before the game, later moved inside. This puzzled us, as Moises Alou isn't even traveling with the team while he's on the DL. If any Mets (or Alou) fan knows why that was there, enlighten us, please. BCB reader southsidecubsfan also stopped by to say hello this afternoon.
So the Cubs go on the road the hottest team in the NL -- since the 0-2 start, that's 14 wins in 18 games, and 7 of 8, one of the best April starts in recent team history. Yes, there is a long way to go -- and I was reminded of that in checking the future schedule; this two-game series is the only time we'll see the Mets at Wrigley this year (barring a postseason meeting), and it will be exactly five months from today -- September 22 -- when the two clubs will meet again, in the penultimate series at Shea Stadium.
Finally, a couple of notes: thanks to BCB reader northsider who posted the overflow game thread, since I forgot to do so this morning... and I also heard today that there may be concerts at Wrigley again this summer, sometime after the All-Star break. No, I don't know who yet. Now, take it easy, savor this wonderful just-completed homestand, and relax till tomorrow night's game in Denver.