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A Total Loss

Did you ever have an experience where you went somewhere, did something, and yet when it was over, you felt like you hadn't been there at all?

That's what last night's 4-3 Cub loss to the Padres feels like this morning, basically because it was raining so hard for most of the game, it seemed as if it were taking place somewhere else than where I was sitting, hardly able to see most of the action under my umbrella in the left field corner. Except for the Typhoon Game in 2003, when it was far windier and colder than it was last night, I don't think I recall ever seeing any game played for that long (well over an hour) when it was raining that hard.

As a result, Khalil Greene's three-run homer and Jody Gerut's RBI double, all the San Diego scoring in one inning off Jason Marquis, was about all the two teams could muster; after the fifth inning there were only four baserunners (Geovany Soto, who singled in the 6th; SD's Edgar Gonzalez, who singled and doubled, and Aramis Ramirez, who walked).

It got so bad that Jeff, Howard and I finally gave up and left after the 7th -- I couldn't see any more, having to hold the umbrella so low, and the only thing of significance that we missed were three shutout innings thrown in relief by Michael Wuertz (finally! Lou doing something sensible to save his bullpen).

Incidentally, if you thought you saw me in the first inning holding up the big blue umbrella, you were correct. I received two text messages and three phone calls right after -- none of which I actually was able to answer, because as I discovered, somehow the ringer on my phone got turned off.

Anyway, here are some photos from last night, and after that I'll have some more things to say about something that's been debated at length here over the last couple of days. Thankfully, the Cardinals also lost last night, so the Cubs remain a game ahead in first place.

LF bleachers
LF corner; you can see my blue & white umbrella in the lower portion of the photo

Bullpen abandoned
Cubs pitchers have abandoned the bullpen for the dry oasis of the dugout

More rain
Right field bleacher fans raise umbrellas

It's a dirty job but someone has to do it
The hard-working ground crew tries to keep the infield dry

Click on photos to open a larger version in a new browser window. All photos by David Sameshima

It does appear, from everything I have heard and confirmed, that the Cubs are indeed going to sign Jim Edmonds, possibly today, and that he may be in uniform at Wrigley Field on Thursday. I simply do not understand this at all. This move is clearly driven by Lou Piniella, who seems to have a fixation: "I have to get another lefthanded power bat." Well, Lou, got news for you: Jim Edmonds isn't a lefthanded power bat any more. He's got a .233 SLG this year -- that's lower than three of the Cubs' starting pitchers (Z, .481; Ted Lilly, .364, Jason Marquis, .313). It's lower than Felix Pie's SLG (.286), the player who Edmonds will likely replace on the roster. Why not just play Pie and see how he can do? As I noted yesterday, Pie hasn't started more than four games in a row this season. How can you possibly get into any sort of rhythm, learn the pitchers, etc. if you're not getting at-bats?

Pie's defense and baserunning are also far superior to Edmonds' at this stage of their respective careers.

I really don't know why I even have to write these things. They should be obvious. I have consistently complimented Lou Piniella in this space, most recently on Sunday when he completely outmanaged Arizona's Bob Melvin. But Lou seems to have a blind spot where Pie is concerned. Do I think Felix Pie is a superstar, or even going to be one? No, I don't. But I think he can be a serviceable platoon center fielder, and if he played against RHP and Reed Johnson against LHP, the Cubs would be just fine.

The signing of Edmonds smacks of moves the Cubs used to make under the Wrigleys, a dying ownership group that tried to grab hold of names they had heard of, trying to squeeze one more drop of blood out of the proverbial turnip. I can't count the number of times in the 1970's that Cub management traded for or signed fading stars, but here are some of the most egregious examples:

1973: bought Rico Carty from Texas on August 13. Carty won the NL batting title three years earlier when he hit .366 with 25 HR and 101 RBI. But by 1973 he was done, couldn't run any more, and was a DH that the Cubs tried to force into the outfield. He hit .214/.276/.257 in 22 games for the Cubs (sound a bit Edmonds-like to you?) and the Cubs then sold him to the A's. Later he was picked up by Cleveland, where he had some decent years as a DH.

1978: traded for Davey Johnson on August 6, five years after his 43-HR season for Atlanta. Johnson did hit .306/.393/.490 in 49 Cub at-bats, but he was done, never playing after that.

1979: bought Ken Henderson on June 28, five years after he had a 95-RBI season for the White Sox. He was only 33, but hit .235/.361/.333 in 81 Cub at-bats. That prompted them to bring him back the following year, where he hit .195/.333/.305 in 82 AB before being released on July 20.

1980: traded Karl Pagel (the 1970's version of David Kelton and Jason Dubois) for Cliff Johnson on June 23. Johnson had some power -- he had hit .270/.347/.520 with 20 HR in only 304 AB for the Yankees and Indians the year before -- but the problem was, he didn't really have a position. He came up as a catcher, but was terrible defensively. He played first base OK, but the Cubs had a first baseman (Bill Buckner). During days when Buckner was hurt (often), they tried Johnson there... and also played him three games in left field, which was an absolute disaster. That whole team was; it lost 98 games. The Cubs sent Johnson to Oakland for a minor league pitcher who never panned out and he had some decent years left as a part-time DH, mostly for Toronto.

1981: the most laughable example, and one I'll never forget. Jack Brickhouse started one broadcast in June by telling us how excited he was that the Cubs had picked up a former star outfielder, and then we learned who it was: Bobby Bonds, purchased from the Rangers, making the Cubs his eighth team in seven years. In his very first game as a Cub on June 4, 1981, he got injured in the field in the bottom of the first inning, breaking his wrist, and was out for two months. He hit .215/.323/.380 in 45 games and retired.

The point is, why go back to the bad old days? Of the five Cub teams mentioned above, none of them had winning records and only three of them (1973, 1978, 1979) even marginally contended. The 2008 Cubs are already the best team in their division and are winning games without making moves. I'm not going to say anything about Jim Edmonds' supposed bad clubhouse presence or the way he allegedly hotdogs every catch he makes or the fact that he used to be a Cardinal (who cares? He isn't any more); those may be factors in whether you acquire a player, but the bottom line is: Jim Edmonds at this stage of his career is a bad baseball player. The Cubs may be looking to catch "lightning in a bottle" as they did in 1998 when they signed Gary Gaetti. But Gaetti had hit .265/.339/.454 for the Cardinals with 11 HR in 306 AB when St. Louis inexplicably released him on August 14, 1998, and the Cubs actually needed a third baseman at the time. Five days later the Cubs signed him and arguably, without him they wouldn't have won the wild card.

That's not the case this year. The Cubs can win without Jim Edmonds. He's not a good fit. Jim Hendry, please. Stay away.