The Cubs honored Ron Santo last night for the 50th anniversary of his first game, June 26, 1960, at their first home game since the anniversary of that date.
Santo walked out to the mound, stood unaided by his cane, and threw a one-bounce first pitch to Ryan Dempster -- nicely done, and applauded warmly.
As you know, I don't often care for Ron's broadcasting style (although I was a big fan of his as a player, and know he lives and dies with the team like the rest of us do). But last night, he did more than just sum up what it feels like to be a fan of this mystifying 2010 Cubs team. Listening to the "highlights" of the Cubs' 2-1 loss to the Pirates driving home, I heard WGN play the call of a key moment: Ryan Theriot's at-bat with runners on first and third with one out and the score tied in the bottom of the seventh.
When Theriot hit into a first-pitch, inning-ending double play, Santo cried out, "Aw, gee WHIZ!" And you knew he wanted to say something stronger, and you could have forgiven him if he'd have uttered a profane expletive on the air.
First thought: this team is going to be the end of poor Ron. No wonder he's had to take time off this season. Second thought: I'm very, very happy that this is likely to be the last season in a Cubs uniform for Ryan Theriot.
Consider the situation again. Tie game, one out, lead run on third base, rookie third baseman for the opposition who's playing in his 12th major league game and who has already made a throwing error in this one. The situation absolutely, positively screamed out for a squeeze bunt, or at the very least, taking a couple of pitches. But no, Theriot had to be "aggressive".
Thus ended the Pirates' 17-game road losing streak. They came into Wrigley 5-24 in their last 29 games. "Embarrassing" doesn't even begin to describe this one.
Randy Wells threw pretty well, although he ran up a high pitch count early with four walks and had to depart after six innings. Meanwhile, Paul Maholm of the Pirates looked like he could have thrown 18 innings last night, mowing down Cubs hitters quickly after the Cubs had taken a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Maholm threw only 101 pitches in eight innings and likely might have stayed in the game if the Bucs hadn't scored the lead run in the top of the ninth.
One more thing I heard during the postgame wrap showed how out of touch Lou is. I tweeted this about halfway through last night's game:
Wind shift @ Wrigley. Wind now blowing off lake, temp dropped about 10 degrees. #brrrr #Cubs
It had started as a very pleasant, though mostly cloudy, evening with the game time temperature at 76 degrees. The wind was blowing lightly from the west-northwest. When the wind shifted, it was so strong that the team flags on the scoreboard were all blowing straight out, to the point where you could read all the team names on the flags, something fairly unusual.
No one was going to hit the ball out of the park after that. Yet, when Lou was asked during the postgame news conference why he pinch-hit Xavier Nady for Starlin Castro, Lou said, "I wanted to get a veteran up there who might be able to hit the ball out of the park."
Lou, c'mon. You didn't feel that wind? You didn't feel cooler? This is your fourth year managing here. I think I would have batted for Castro, too, but not with Nady -- instead, with Mike Fontenot, who might have been able to hit a line drive into the gap. Lou appears to have almost forgotten that Fontenot is on the team; LBR has started only six games this month. Granted, he's not hitting (3-for-25 in June), but how can anyone hit well with almost no playing time?
John Grabow hurt his knee again while pitching in the seventh; at least this time, the Cubs are going to send him straight to the DL and, according to Lou, replace him with another LHP. There are three LHP on the Iowa roster: J.R. Mathes, Scott Maine and John Gaub. Of those three, only Gaub is on the 40-man roster, which is currently full -- thus, I'd guess it'll be him.
Finally, let's talk a bit about the move of Carlos Zambrano to the restricted list, effective today, in the wake of Friday's dugout tirade.
Kevin Millar, who was with the Cubs in spring training and knows the players, now works as an analyst for MLB Network. Last night, during the network's "MLB Tonight" show, he made these comments on the situation:
I spoke with him the other day, after the games on Saturday and the main thing he wanted to get across was that at times guys like Carlos, they don’t know how to handle or how to fire up a team. …There wasn’t one play that made him mad, it was just the whole team and the way they’ve been playing made him mad and then he was frustrated, he said, after his inning and came in and was basically trying to pump all the guys up.
...He told me a week before that he wanted to get Carlos Silva to do something to the team because he’s doing well and Carlos Zambrano said that he knew [Silva] wasn’t the right guy to do this at this time because of his struggles. … I told him straight up, I said... 'You can’t say the team’s playing like girls … You can’t say that this whole team that’s not clicking for some reason' or 'We’re not playing hard' because he’s a big part of that problem. He understood that ... and that’s what he was trying to get across. It wasn’t a personal thing with Derrek Lee - obviously Derrek Lee took it personal, and [Zambrano] felt terrible and we obviously see what happened in the dugout. We see the way he’s reacted and this is the second time. [In 2007], he went out and fought Michael Barrett and beat up Michael Barrett, well then they end up trading Michael Barrett thinking that, ‘Ok, we’ll get rid of him but something has to be done.’ Now him [Zambrano] going to anger management counseling…I think this is the new fad that we’re trying to show that at least there’s an effort there.
That was basically his view, that he shouldn’t have done it, he wasn’t the right guy to do it, he wanted Carlos Silva to do it last week. It wasn’t one play, it wasn’t the Derrek Lee play that caused this whole scene. He ran in the dugout and was yelling at the whole group.
I hope Zambrano does get the help he is now mandated to receive before he returns to the team. If all this is true, this is even more bizarre. He wanted Silva to do that? I do understand the idea of firing up a team -- but not the way Z did it, not in the dugout in front of everyone and TV cameras. I suspect "firing-up" talks happen all the time with teams, and there's nothing wrong with doing that, even emotionally, but these are done while they are in the clubhouse and out of public view. Especially in the case of Zambrano, who has had public meltdowns like this on a number of occasions, it's neither the right individual nor the right place for it.
I also wonder why he's talking to someone from the MLB Network and not his teammates nor his manager nor his GM.
It's July 1 on Thursday, beginning the time the "players for sale" signs begin hanging on a lot of franchise doors. The Cubs may do this -- but really, with a couple of exceptions, who do they have to sell off this team that couldn't beat a club that has been outscored by almost 200 runs already?
Don't worry, that's in many ways a rhetorical question. July 1 also begins the NBA free-agent signing period. I heard someone in the bleachers say, on walking out last night, "Maybe the Bulls will sign LeBron this week, that'd take my mind off this."