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Almost Famous: Cubs 2, Rays 3

CLEVELAND -- I missed about half of last night's 3-2 Cubs loss to the Rays, still on the road back to Chicago from Toronto and Cooperstown, but arrived at my hotel room in Cleveland (a convenient halfway stop, where I'm going to check out the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame later this morning) just in time to follow the last few innings -- where there were just about enough woulda/shoulda/coulda moments to make it a Cub win.

Didn't happen, and you both can and can't blame Reed Johnson. The bunt he laid down with two out in the 9th and the tying run on third base was, in fact, an excellent idea, and it took one of the better defensive plays by Rays 3B Evan Longoria to throw Reed out and end the game. If the play isn't made, Kosuke Fukudome -- who had to hold up at third on Troy Percival's second pitch that got away from catcher Dioner Navarro -- probably scores the tying run, or at the very least, the bases are loaded with two out.

Many of us were reminded of a play like this made by Cub whipping boy Neifi Perez on May 18, 2006 against the Nationals at Wrigley Field. There are several differences, however: first, the Cubs were trailing that game by TWO runs, not one; the tying run, therefore, was on first, not third; and Perez' bunt was a poor one, picked up right away by Chad Cordero, who made a routine play out of it and an easy out, resulting in a deserved cascade of boos for Neifi. (Look at the boxscore, too -- what a horrid lineup, and for the life of me I can't remember why Aramis Ramirez wasn't starting that day.)

You CAN blame Johnson for trying to steal third, and getting thrown out, with two out in the top of the seventh. Johnson is a standup guy, though, and takes the blame:

"That's a bad play on my part," Johnson said. "I got the green light in that situation, but with two outs and the top of the order coming [up], you have to make sure you can make it. It was a bad job on my part.

"Who knows? If I make it there, or I don't run in that situation, [Ryan] Theriot might get a hit and we have our three and four hitters up," Johnson said. "It's not a good time to get thrown out -- everybody knows the cardinal rule of getting thrown out at third base with two outs. Nobody felt worse than I did when it happened."

Incidentally, that game recap link above says that Johnson collided with Rays 1B Willy Aybar on the bunt play and was a bit shaken up.

The rest of the story of this game is: Ryan Dempster threw well enough, but threw far too many pitches (107) in five innings, and so the bullpen had to go back to its not-so-good routine of throwing half the game. Neal Cotts, who has been good so far, wasn't, allowing a solo HR to Longoria and then making a throwing error that helped lead to what proved to be the decisive third Tampa Bay run.

The good news is that the Cubs beat the guy who is Tampa Bay's best pitcher (sorry, James Shields, but Scott Kazmir is exactly that), and there are two games left in this series, and the Cubs lost the first game at Toronto before winning the next two.

I spent the morning yesterday at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and could easily have spent the entire day, or two days. There is so much to see there that I can't possibly give it justice in a simple post here. What I will say is that the Hall has been significantly improved since I last was there in 1988 -- the inside seems almost new, totally renovated; the actual "Hall of Fame", where the player plaques are, has been enlarged and is dignified and classy, and the exhibits are comprehensive and have things that you walk by and say, "Wow! That's cool that they have that," or, "Man, I remember THAT game!" If you have not gone to Cooperstown -- and you have to GO there, it's not somewhere you casually stop into, because there's no easy way to get there -- you absolutely have to go sometime in your life, it is a must-see for every baseball fan.

There is one statement that the Hall has made, perhaps without intentionally doing so (or maybe it IS intentional). They have a small gallery where career leaderboards are kept (and, according to a sign, updated weekly). There are both all-time boards and boards showing leaders among active players. The sign mentioning the weekly updates says that players on the "active" board will remain there until they have either announced their retirement or not played for a full season.

Barry Bonds is not listed on the active leaderboards, even though by the above criteria he should be. Do they know something we don't?

Onward. We'll get 'em tonight. Heading home this afternoon after seeing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.