MESA, Arizona -- There's an old saying attributed to legendary manager Casey Stengel. It's variously quoted as: "Can't anyone here play this game?" or "Can't anyone play this here game?"
The Cubs provided evidence of both Monday night in a dull 7-1 loss to the San Diego Padres, who are not a very good team. The Cubs, though, made them look like the best team in baseball, as the visitors at Cubs Park pounded out 10 hits, drew five walks, and generally made the Cubs look helpless at the plate all evening.
Here's the sum total of the Cub scoring Monday night: Emilio Bonifacio led off the bottom of the first inning with a triple into the right-field corner, well placed, and I'll give the guy credit because I went on record earlier as not being in favor of his signing: He runs well, has played multiple positions creditably, and is obviously going to make this team and be an asset.
Bonifacio then executed another baserunning play well, as he held up on Donnie Murphy's ground ball to third long enough to make third baseman Chase Headley throw to first, upon which he took off for the plate and scored, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Really, if you were a Cubs fan, you could have left after that half-inning and not missed much of anything. The Cubs posted just five more hits and, though they got three runners into scoring position, never seriously threatened to score. Meanwhile, the Padres were pounding hits off Carlos Villanueva, who gave up three runs before being lifted after four innings -- does that make sense to you? If Villanueva is going to be the fifth starter, shouldn't he have more than a four-inning outing one week before Opening Day?
Jose Veras wasn't any better, allowing a pair of runs in an ugly fifth inning in which he faced eight batters and allowed three hits, a walk, a hit batsman and was charged with two runs.
Brian Schlitter had a nice inning, striking out the side, two of those being Padres regulars (Headley and Will Venable). But Schlitter's not going to make this team, as we already know.
Which brings up another point that I've made several times over the last few days. The Padres' regulars played most of the game, several of them getting four at-bats. Meanwhile, among the Cubs who started this game, only Bonifacio got four at-bats; most of the rest were gone after six innings, replaced by four guys from the minor-league camp, players far from playing at the major-league level. What's the point of that, one week before Opening Day? Shouldn't the team be looking at combinations of bench players who actually are going to be playing in the major leagues this year?
The perfect example was the bottom of the ninth. The Padres trotted out closer Huston Street. Facing him were John Andreoli (who played at Double-A Tennessee last year), Jacob Hannemann (last June's third-round draft pick) and Jeimer Candelario (2013 at Low-A Kane County). The results were predictable: a groundout and two strikeouts. I can see doing this during the first week of spring training. The last week? Not so much.
Attendance watch: another sellout produced a crowd of 15,126, making the season total 183,369 for 13 dates, an average of 14,105. That puts the Cubs on pace for 211,580, which, again, would shatter the all-time spring-training record set by the Cubs in 2009.
The Cubs invited spring season-ticket holders to a reception before the gates opened Monday and offered free drinks, a nice gesture; I thanked them for this yesterday but thought I'd do so publicly here again. Upon leaving the area where the drinks were being served, I passed by the Cubs Park marquee, which has an electronic sign upon which you can have your name placed for photographs. Monday night, though, it looked like this:
I can tell you, that applies very well to Monday night's game... one we'd all like to forget. The Cubs also had a fireworks show after the game, a first, and also a nice gesture. Too bad they couldn't have provided any from hitters during the game.
Tuesday is the final split-squad game of spring 2014. Tsuyoshi Wada, just released and re-signed to a minor-league deal, will start against the Angels in Mesa in the afternoon affair (I'll be there), and C.J. Edwards will start against the Padres in Peoria in the evening contest, which I won't be attending.