When Jessica returned from one of her many sojourns through Wrigley Field, she reported that she overheard someone saying, "I don't know how I feel about cheering for Jim Edmonds. It's just weird."
That's exactly right. It's just weird, and Edmonds got both booed and cheered today -- a mix of sorts when introduced, and when coming out to the field for the first time; cheers when he singled in the second inning, and then booed when he hit into a double play in the fourth and struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh.
That's what today's 4-0 Cubs win over the Padres was -- many ovations, and some booing, for several different players and situations. (And if you are of "a certain age", you will remember the title of today's post as coming from the song "It's A Beautiful Day For A Ballgame", the song that is heard at the ballpark before each game, and used to be the game intro song on WGN radio.)
Ryan Dempster was the recipient of two loud ovations; first, when he came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth after throwing eight shutout innings and it was clear that Lou was going to let him at least start the ninth. Dempster was outstanding today, scattering those four hits through 8, walking only one and striking out twelve (a new career high for him). When he ran into trouble in the 9th -- Brian Giles, who has his number, having three of the six eventual hits off Dempster, doubled and Kevin Kouzmanoff singled (Larry Rothschild got booed when he quickly ran out to talk to Dempster before Kouzmanoff's AB), Lou didn't hesitate to go to Kerry Wood, as Dempster had thrown 115 pitches (77 strikes, very impressive). Dempster left the field to a huge ovation.
Wood, who looked shaky yesterday, dispatched Khalil Greene and pinch-hitter Josh Bard on strikes, and the game ended with another ovation.
Meanwhile, former Cub Greg Maddux gave up hits left and right to the Cubs over the first four innings -- six of them through four -- but escaped any scoring; once in the fourth on the Edmonds DP ball, but before that after throwing a pitch to the bricks behind the plate with Aramis Ramirez on third. The ball bounced so quickly off the wall back to catcher Luke Carlin that Ramirez, who had broken quickly enough, was still out by about 20 feet. Too bad, because Edmonds, who was batting at the time, singled, and so did Ronny Cedeno, and the Cubs could have had a big inning. Maddux gave up hits to the first four batters in the fifth, and that plus a sac fly chased him.
Whereupon he left to loud cheers that I can only describe as "wistful" -- it was a "thank you for the memories" cheer, and perhaps also a "please come back for one last hurrah if you can" cheer. Maddux, from what I hear, has told friends this may be his last season, and, with the Padres mired in last place, he was asked if he thought this would be his last appearance in Wrigley Field, and he refused to answer.
I'm not predicting anything, and frankly, if Maddux pitches like he did today (his shortest outing of the year), maybe the Cubs would have second thoughts about bringing him back. Sentimentally, sure, it'd be great. But Jim Hendry & Co., if they are even considering this, would have to first decide if he's got enough left in the tank.
Same thing with Jim Edmonds, and I have received emails today from people saying they would never, ever root for him, and I just don't understand that. Did I want him here? No. Do I think he has anything lef? No. But if he does produce, and helps the Cubs win, I'm all for it. We were trying, in the bleachers today, to think of any player, anyone, who was as hated as Edmonds is by Cubs fans, who eventually became a Cub, and really couldn't come up with anyone. Howard Johnson was about as close as we could come; he played half a season for the 1995 Cubs and was just about as done as I think Edmonds is now. But Johnson wasn't really hated by Cubs fans; he was only disliked because he was a Met. Having Edmonds is like what it would have been to get Lenny Dykstra, long after he was done.
Enough about that -- I want to rave about Dempster again; this was his best game as a Cub and probably his best since July 3, 2001, when he threw a four-hit shutout against the Expos in Montreal, when still a Florida Marlin. And he only struck out two that day. It's too bad he didn't finish... the complete game has really become a thing of the past. There have been only six CG thrown in the National League so far this year, and only two CG shutouts -- one by Tim Hudson, one by Ben Sheets.
Kudos also today to Ronny Cedeno, who had two hits, drew a walk and again had good AB every time up. Please, Lou: more playing time for Ronny. And, also to Derrek Lee, who had two hits and two RBI and looked better at the plate than he has all week.
In addition to Jessica, BCB reader Tex (who doesn't post much but is in town visiting from Texas) stopped by to say hi, as did BCB reader calicubfan (Rob, visiting from California; hey -- thanks for the beer!) and we were also joined by former Cubs publications director Jim McArdle, who is spending this summer working on a book about the 2008 season. Hey, Jim: nice talking to you about the Cubs and this site and enjoying a big win.
Big win indeed: six-and-one on this homestand, 17-7 overall at home, and now two games in first place after the Pirates destroyed the Cardinals' bullpen today and won 11-5. Things are good. Onward to beat the Pirates (geez, we're playing them again?) this weekend.
Final note: I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to call your attention, in case you missed it, to this article in today's Tribune about the "Way Out In Left Field Society", which has lobbied and finally won the right to put an historical marker on the site of West Side Grounds at 912 S. Polk in Chicago, the site where the Cubs won their only two World Series. To which I say, "About time!"