That Slipping Feeling

By JCB on Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I really hope the next couple weeks don't remind me of how it felt to leave the bleachers last night.

It was my first time back to Wrigley Field since 2007; and my first time back to the bleachers since 2006. Before that, I'd gone every season since at least 1998, if not before. (Younger memories get fuzzier each year.) Last season, not going even once left a true void. I had been looking forward to last night's game for a long time, then, and to see it lining up with Rich Harden pitching for the Cubs only added to my enthusiasm because he's been the one pitcher recently who seems capable of leading the team to a position to win by sheer force of will.

And Harden didn't disappoint. Through the fifth inning, in which he struck out the side, Harden was perfect. People started asking if they could look at my scorecard to see if they were correct in remembering that no one had reached base yet for the Phillies. As it played out, Harden only gave up the two runs he allowed in the sixth: a walk to the No. 8 hitter, Ruiz, and a blast by the leadoff hitter, Rollins. It was the first time his control lapsed, and the Phillies capitalized like elite teams do.

If only the bullpen could have held the Phillies there. Winning teams do not have closers with a tendency to allow home runs. They do not have set-up guys with a tendency to walk the bases loaded - or walk in a run, or hit a batter - on any given outing. So now, having seen this more than one too many times as we reach the middle of August, doubts about the Cubs bullpen will haunt us through the rest of the season, even if the bullpen turns it around. (Credit to Guzman, who looked calm and capable.)

At least there was a nice moment when Milton Bradley hit a clutch single off Brad Lidge to tie the game in the ninth. The celebration in the bleachers looked something like this:

Two other thoughts on returning to the bleachers: (1) there were a lot fewer people than ever keeping score, as I saw only one other person in all of left-center field; and (2) the crowd management staff has become awful aggressive in lecturing or removing fans for pretty modest rowdiness. I'll be back tonight, and Thursday, to see whether either of these observations were made on a fluke night.

In closing, I have to say that after a tough road trip, to feel like you had a chance to win upon returning home, a chance to change the season's momentum, and to even tie the game in the bottom of the ninth against one of the best closers in the league, and then let it slip . . . really stung. Obviously one game doesn't make a season. Tonight's a new opportunity. But I have to think that the difference to the mindset the team is left with and the mindset that could have been is pretty significant, at this point in the season, and against one of the best teams in baseball. At least, upon exiting the bleachers, it felt to the fans like we let an opportunity get away that was more important than just a single game.

Posted Wednesday, August 12, 2009 by JCB


There is nothing worse than being excited for a game, puttin on your lucky socks, and then the Cubs lose. You missed out last season when "Go Cubs Go" was played like every home game. This season was a bust with certain players earning way more than they deserved and plaguing the team with their bad attitudes. I'm writing off this season and waiting til March. Hendry better work some G.D. magic.

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Sincerely, JCB

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