Kind of Blue

As soon as I had purchased my plane ticket to Chicago, I made plans to jump online the first day Cubs tickets went on sale in March.
That first day of ticket sales, the Cubs set a MLB record for single day ticket sales. I made it out of the Internet waiting room just 3 times all day and managed to buy tickets to the Giants game last Wednesday and the Cardinals games Friday and Sunday.
Wednesday in the bleachers was a blast, even sans Sosa and Bonds. Mike and I went Friday afternoon and also enjoyed the game despite the Cubs loss 7-6. Maybe it was the four beers that just managed to kill off the brain cells containing memories of Sergio Mitre's horrible performance. Not only does he have lousy stuff, but he made several mental errors this game, including a wild pitch on a pitchout. The Cubs made it close on two Barrett homers and an Alou 3-run blast, but because of the 2:20 p.m. start time, when the ninth inning rolled around, Cardinals closer Isringhausen was pitching out of the sun to batters standing in the shade of the upper deck. With such poor visibility, the Cubs were helpless to rally.
Sunday's contest, the rubber game of the Cubs-Cards series, was the ESPN Sunday night game of the week. A few random observations from that game:

  • ESPN suspended a remote-controlled camera on a cable that ran from the left field foul pole to the press box. It provided some unique angles for replays because it could not only pan along the cable but tilt to follow the baseball and action at the same time. NBC once used a similar remote controlled cable-camera for the NBA, though I haven't seen it in recent years. Here's hoping they use more such innovative cameras in the future, in all sports. These days, you can get better camera angles in a sports video game than on live television.

  • I wore the Mark Prior jersey I received for Christmas to all the games, but I wasn't alone. Prior's jersey is the best-selling one in Wrigley, by a large margin.

  • From my terrace reserved seats, I had a new perspective on the electronic ticker under the center field scoreboard, and I stand corrected on one thing. The Cubs do show races on that electronic scoreboard between some innings. The new electronic scoreboards along the first row of the upper deck in left and right fields are useful for something else besides pitch velocity: pitch counts.

  • The Cubs have pretty much sold out their entire season already, and the attendance for the 3 Cardinals games was 39,298, 40,131, and 40,090. The standing-room only section behind our seats Sunday was packed.

Celebrity Cubs fan John Cusack sang the 7th inning stretch. Joannie and I cheered along with the rest of the fans in the terrace reserved seats down the left field line when John walked by on the catwalk behind the luxury boxes. Everyone also cheered for the young woman with him--who was that?
Clement pitched against Matt Morris. For some reason, Matt Morris's strikeout rate is way down this year, and his fastball velocity is also down. When you can't strike people out, and you don't walk them, they tend to put the ball in play. Aramis Ramirez did just that to one of those unimpressive fastballs in the first inning, hitting a line drive missile that might have killed some fan in the left field bleachers, or on Waveland Ave. That 3-run homer and a Barrett RBI double in the 1st were all the offense the Cubs got, and it proved just enough.
Pujols's second at-bat, after the first pitch, some fans started a chant of "Pujols sucks! Pujols sucks!" The very next pitch, Pujols clubbed a home run. As he crossed home plate, he put a finger to his lips to shush the crowd.
The Big Borowski came on in the 9th to shut down Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen, whose wind-blown flyball stopped hearts all over the stadium until it fell into Patterson's glove just in front of the warning track.
While it's always satisfying to take two of three from the hated Cardinals, the Cubs have serious problems. Injuries have exposed the team's lack of depth. Sosa, Grudzielanek, Gonzalez, Remlinger (now Mercker), Prior, and Wood are all on the DL. The Cubs bench players have dubbed themselves the Lemons, an unfortunate name in its honesty. Ramon Martinez (OBP of .274, SLG of .260!), Jose Macias (OBP of .291), Tom Goodwin (OBP .227, SLG of .280), and Paul Bako (OBP of .313, SLG of .225), and Damian Jackson (OBP .222, SLG .267) couldn't crack a dish in a china shop with bats in each hand. With the exception of Todd Hollandsworth and Todd Walker, it's one of the weakest hitting benches in baseball, and both the Todd's have to start now anyway. Light-hitting shortstop Rey Ordonez waits in the wings. The horror.
The Cubs are a free-swinging team, with only Derek Lee and Sammy Sosa (among the season-opening starters) possessing on-base percentages over .350. That will lead to lots of feast or famine games, and indeed, the Cubs have hit a lot of home runs and been shut out six times this season already.
The Cubs pitching staff has been reduced to starting the aforementioned Mitre (often described as gritty, which is baseball speak for pitcher with lousy stuff), Glendon Rusch (cast off by the Brewers!), and soon, Jimmy Anderson (cast off by the Pirates!). The best pitching prospect with a chance to crack the majors, Angel Guzman, has just started pitching again after coming back from an arm injury that ended his season last year.
Meanwhile, Corey Patterson still swings at everything within ten feet of home plate. I'd like to see the Cubs trade Patterson and someone (Mitre and Francis Beltran?) for Carlos Beltran if they're in the pennant hunt in August. Depth isn't essential in the post season, but you can't make it to the post season over a 162-game schedule without it. I thought the Astros started the season with a slightly stronger 25 man roster, and the gap has widened. We need Prior, Wood, and Sosa back.