April 2006 Archives for Agony & Ivy
Well, the way I cash it out, the Cubs have a 2 game losing streak in which they were outscored 25 to 2, an entire lineup slumping, a drastically overused bullpen, and 2 rookie starters due to pitch against Pittsburgh. The only good news? They’re hosting Pittsburgh. A.K.A., the NL central division’s bitch. That is, unless the Cubs are the bitch right now. You know what they say about spotting the sucker at the poker table.
The biggest concern taking shape, however, is Zambrano’s utter lack of focus. He’s walked too many hitters every single game – 25 in 6 starts – and has yet to win a start. 0-2, 5.35. Not good folks.
The shadows were finally creeping towards home plate on a cool April afternoon in Chicago as Ryan Dempster peered out from the Wrigley Field dugout and realized the Cubs might need him again today. Down 6 to 3 when the bottom of the eighth inning started, a series of walks and a clutch two-out line drive smacked up the middle by Matt Murton had brought the Cubs within a run. One more hit, and the Cubs would certainly turn the corner. Or maybe it would be more accurate to put it on the Marlins, an inexperienced team who couldn't help but think "Here we go again," as another lead dissipated; maybe one more hit and they would settle into despondency.
Dempster had already pitched in three consecutive games, on three consecutive days. He could certainly use a day off, especially to take full advantage of an off day tomorrow. But, since Williamson had already tanked -- walking 3 batters who eventually came around to score in the top of the eighth -- there was now probably no choice for the top of the 9th if the Cubs could take the lead. Maybe Scott Eyre... but nah -- Dusty would give it to Dempster. "Suck it up, and work quickly," he thought to himself. "Throw strikes."
OK, so maybe it’s not so bad as it seemed at first, this crisis of losing Lee for the first half. Not that the Cubs didn’t listlessly drop a pair, but there was no weekend freefall. Greg Maddux outmaneuvered the Cardinals lineup twice around, and they won the afternoon game today. If we think about it, there’s a good chance the Cubs would have only won 1 out of 3 in St. Louis even if Lee was in the lineup, especially with Glendon Rusch and Jerome Williams starting. Things might have unfolded exactly as they would have otherwise.
An open letter to the baseball gods, powers that be, and other assorted deities.
20 April 2006
OK, seriously: what the hell?
Wait, let me start over. You see, I’ve been drinking. I should admit that outright. I must choose my words carefully. And then run spellcheck. That’s what tequila demands from a guy who sits at a keyboard approaching midnight.
Well, I hope everyone else is enjoying this as much as I am. The Cubs have started out of the gate better than we had a right to hope for and I’m simply thrilled. Not only is Cubs baseball thoroughly fun again for the first time since last July or so, but right now it’s really fun. So far, there’s been little evidence prompting caution; my mental voice has yet to say “Enjoy it while it lasts, sucker.” Despite its flaws, this team is going to be fun to watch all season long.
Fun might not be the same thing as winning a division, but they’re not that far apart either. I say give into it! At least for now, what's not to enjoy? More to the point, you can answer that question if you want, but why bother?
That’s right -- two weeks into the season, the Cubs are a half game out of first, and it’s been a fun time already. Time to recap the best of the Game Notes so far, volume 1 of season 2. Hope you enjoy!
Editor’s Note: I drafted this in the Buffalo airport yesterday morning, but didn’t get a chance to post it until now.
Niagara Falls at night is beautiful because they train bright colorful spotlights on the falls and the mist swirls around uniquely, sort of like steam or smoke, but not quite, since parts of the cloud fall while others rise. In any case, it was also much too cold, for me anyway. It was 34 degrees nearing 10:00 PM, and as I stood on Goat Island overlooking Horseshoe Falls, the wind kicked up and sprayed me with mist that somehow felt colder than ice. I walked away from the edge a bit, and soon drove back to my motel in time to watch the end of the Cubs game on Sunday Night Baseball.
Cubs versus Cardinals at Wrigley Field
Aisle 104 Row 5 Seat 101
Cubs versus Cardinals at Wrigley Field
Section BLEACHERS Row GA Seat 658
Now it feels like baseball season. This morning as I went for a run around Town Lake here in Austin it was 60 degrees and sunny. It got up to about 70 this afternoon, much more appropriate than the 93 it was last week. There was just something odd about driving home in 90 degree weather to watch April baseball. I wonder if I’ll ever live in Texas long enough to acclimate to that phenomenon, or if acclimation is even possible for one who grew up in the Midwest.
The baseball cover issue of the New Yorker arrived yesterday, too. This year it’s “Bigger than the Game” by Barry Blitt, depicting Barry Bonds in left field about 10 times as big as the other players on the field, although his head is still tiny, which is a nice touch. (Last year it was “Over the Top,” also by Blitt, featuring lanky Randy Johnson in a Yankees uniform.) It's a nice reminder that something important has once again begun.