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I'm Just Asking
by Derek Smart
Sometimes, I do requests.
Longtime reader Tom sent me an email this morning, recalling times past when, after particularly long stretches of nail-biting contests, I have offered up my considerable kingdom (watch those drips of sarcasm, they're pure acid) in exchange for a Cub blowout victory, and oddly enough, actually got what I asked for.
Tom thinks that it's time to offer up the treasure once again, and after last night's attempted boondoggle gone wonderfully awry, I can't say I have any reason not to. So here goes my best Dicky Three:
A Blowout! A Blowout! My Kingdom for a Blowout!
Alright, let me take a moment to engage in a little specificity for any of those deities willing to take me up on the offer. When I say "Blowout," I'm asking, in particular, for an easy victory for the Cubs.
I realize that merely yelling the word "Blowout" can be taken all sorts of ways (example: the Cubs get their hair cut by Jonathan), and that if you had a bit o' the mischief in ye, you might rain fiery brimstone-like offensive destruction upon the Cubs themselves, and I want to be very clear in this space that such actions would render my obligations in the exchange null and void. If you have a problem with that, speak to my lawyer.
As for "My Kingdom," to call it paltry would be insulting to all proudly paltry things the world over, so while it is not something to be treasured objectively, this is more of a subjective exercise anyway. So just know that you're getting what earthly things I've got (family and friends excluded of course), and that if some of the specific items in the collection aren't to your liking (mortgages, credit card bills, Duran Duran 12" singles purchased in the mid-eighties), the relinquishing party bears no responsibility. All items are as is, no takebacks.
So let me reiterate, subject to the conditions above, that I am offering My Kingdom for a Blowout. Deliver on point two, and point one is yours, ye gods.
The Matt Lawton experience officially began last night, and I liked what I saw. I was pretty sure I would, but then I hadn't watched him as closely as I should have when the Cubs played the Pirates, so it was great to see someone starting the game by taking the first four pitches he saw.
A man unafraid to hit with two strikes is a crucial thing for a leadoff man, and to be able to put the ball in play once reaching that point is doubly so. Lawton will strike out, but he doesn't do it trying to murdelate the ball, and that is, indeed, refreshing. We'll see how I feel in a couple of weeks when the honeymoon is over, but for now, I'm quite pleased.
Last night's first inning double was the first extra base hit for Derrek Lee since he hit his 32nd homer on July 23rd. More of that, please.
Speaking of Lee, there was a piece of information I mentioned in yesterday's post, almost in passing, that I think has some larger significance concerning his recent mini-slump. Specifically, the mention I made of Lee having four intentional walks in the eight games previous to last night.
Going into yesterday's contest, Lee had 14 IBBs, good for third in the Major Leagues. After being purposefully passed twice last night, he now leads all of baseball with 16 of the nasty things. Not so amazing, if it wasn't for the relatively recent nature of the phenomenon.
As of July 8, Lee had only 8 intentional walks in 82 games. Since then, in the 21 games he's played, Lee has doubled that total. In fact, seven of those eight have come in his last eleven games. That's a tremendous increase in his rate of IBB, and it seems to be the harbinger of a new strategy - a very Bondsian strategy - of limiting the number of actual at bats Lee has, and doing everything possible to entirely eliminate his chances to drive in runs.
Whatever this might mean for Lee and his personal opportunity to win a triple crown - something you never saw from Bonds during his recent period of dominance precisely because of the limits other teams placed on his RBI chances - what it means for the Cubs is that the men behind Lee must step up and get the job done.
Right now, the main burden falls on the shoulders of Jeromy Burnitz, and while I've been pleasantly surprised by his usefulness, and I appreciate that his left-handedness makes for a nice opportunity to mix up the middle of the order, if this targeting of Lee continues, changing the order so that Ramirez is directly behind Lee may be the most prudent move. Jeromy is useful, but Aramis is deadly.
I can't wait for Friday. Not only will the bullpen hopefully get a shot in the arm from Scott Williamson and Kerry Wood, but even an early-Harry-Potter-series Voldemort-like shadow of Nomar's former self will be preferable to the black hole that Neifi! currently represents.
It's not that I don't appreciate all that Neifi! has done, often times playing well over his head, but there comes a point where the bloom is off the rose, and Neifi!'s petals have been strewn on the clubhouse floor for a while now. Nomar might not come back and be Nomar!, but I can deal with life sans exclamation points.
It's Jerome Williams against Robinson Tejeda tonight, about whom I know little more than the fact of his existence. Anyway, I said what I wanted earlier, so let's see if we can't get it done.