Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
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by Derek Smart
Losing streaks all have to end sometime, and the Cubs wrapped up two last night, the five-game job they had against Arizona dating back to last season, and the career-long shnide of Rich Hill, winning the game in extremely convincing, powerful fashion. It's been rare of late that this team has been fun to watch, but last night was one of those times. Here's to more of that, please.
The really striking thing about Rich Hill's outing (besides the extremely friendly calls he got) was how he absolutely lived up in the zone, and often slightly out of the zone, with his fastball. That, and the way the Diamondbacks continually swung through the beasts or popped them up. He spent much of the game looking like a power pitcher, which I wouldn't expect, but then all those AAA strikeouts had to come from somewhere.
He also did a good job of mixing in his wicked curve ball, and in fact, what really seemed to make the breaker effective was the way Hill and Barrett used it as a true compliment to his fastball, as keeping the heat up made the action of the curve - starting higher before it dipped out sight - that much more deceptive. It was flat-out good work, and I imagine, no small relief for Hill to finally have a game in the Bigs where he didn't look completely overmatched.
Cesar! acquitted himself well in his first game, rapping two hits, including a first inning double off a tomahawked fastball up and in, and flashing his strong arm on an easy double-play in the second. Give me that or something like it once or twice a week, and I'll get okay with this a lot quicker.
Seeing Eric Byrnes go after John Mabry's third inning double got me to thinking: if Byrnes were a Cub, how many games would he play in Wrigley before he, quite literally, shattered his skull on the outfield wall. It makes me wonder how much the Cubs now, or historically, have factored in a player's style when considering acquiring them to play the pasture.
If they haven't, they certainly should, because while high effort guys like Byrnes are great fun to watch, I'd think the risk they incur with that style, still pretty high in a ballpark with the standard padded walls, becomes exponentially greater when there's nothing between them and a pile of bricks but an overgrown salad.
Even after all the replays, I couldn't tell you whether Matt Murton's home run really left the yard or not. I think there's a decent chance that it did, that it ricocheted off the hand of the fan who was reaching for the ball with his hat (the footage shown after the break of the guy shaking his hand saying, "That f***ing hurt" sure made me think so), but I wouldn't want to bet anything more valuable than my John Koronka rookie card on it.
By the way, does anyone else think it's ironic that the year they put a yellow stripe on the basket's outermost edge to highlight the point where fly balls become dingers is the year when there's a rash of missed home run calls?
I tell you what, if Michael Barrett was a stock, and I owned a bunch of shares, I'd think real hard about selling, and fast. Not that I want the Cubs to deal him now (at this point he wouldn't clear waivers anyway), or that I would have wanted him dealt yesterday, rather that he's been so ridiculously good at the plate the last two months, there's no way for him to keep up the pace.
In case you haven't looked lately, Barrett hit a robust .392/.458/.549 in June, but upped the ante in July, creaming the ball to the tune of a .386/.446/.639 line. For some perspective, look at Derrek Lee's line from last year - .335/.418/.662 - and ask yourself if Barrett isn't due for a correction. I mention this, not because I'm trying to be a wet blanket on one of the few bright spots of the season, but because I want to issue a word of caution.
I would expect Jim Hendry to look at extending Barrett's contract this offseason, 2007 being the final year of what has turned out to be a very reasonable deal, and my fear is that the last two months could be looked at, not necessarily as an expected norm, but perhaps as less of an aberration than it truly is. I understand that my fears may be unfounded, that they could be an overreaction inspired by a year of ill-considered moves, but dammit, they made me this way, and they'll just have to live with the consequences.
David Cassidy is deeply, deeply creepy. And apparently, immune to musical segues.
I think I get what Jim Hendry sees in Jacque Jones. It's that, when he connects with a ball, really connects, whether it's a shot over the wall, or a drive up the middle, it really is beautiful. Gorgeous, in fact. For a former scout like Hendry, he must look at that and just sigh like a teenage girl with the latest issue of Tiger Beat. I guess my problem is I can't forget all the Reader's Digest moments in between.