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The Stink From The Cellar
by Derek Smart
I've noticed that when I take a long time between posts, particularly when things are going less than swimmingly, that I suffer from what I can only describe as a critical buildup of pretension, the relief of which can only be achieved through the opening of a spigot, allowing the stuff to spill out. Often I pour the resulting fluids down the drain, but every once in a while, in a fit of I don't know what, I'll subject others to the stuff.
Well, that's no fun for anyone, but I think that's over with for now, so no matter how bleak the outlook for this and seasons beyond, it's time to talk some baseball. I can't promise to be nice, but I'll damn well be more direct. So let's crank up the Gatling Gun and see if she's still loaded.
Bob says it's a thump, I say it's a shmoosh - the result of months of laying in the mud, slowly wiggling back and forth trying to get comfortable until one day you notice that you're all the way under. Maybe you're a little surprised, but you should have known this would happen. Keep squirming around in the muck like that and you shouldn't expect anything less.
If there's something positive to be gleaned from this, it's that if last night's attendance can be used as a barometer, the masses are becoming at least a little less interested in viewing the slow descent. Granted, selling over 31,000 tickets to a game in September between two clubs battling it out for the annual "My Season Was Ever So Slightly Less Futile Than Yours" award isn't exactly disenchantment on an Expoesque scale, but considering where we began, it's a start.
Besides, there were clearly far fewer tickets used than bought, which not only means fewer beers sold, but might - just might - project to a future fall in purchased seats. At least, that's what I have to hope, even if the impetus is only one mid-week game on a school night between a couple of abject on-field failures, because the only way there's even the smallest chance to turn this thing around while the Trib owns the joint is a mass exodus from the park. Let's hope we saw the start of that last night.
Ryan Dempster has begun to look, with every outing, like a man who is doing nothing more than waiting for the other shoe to drop. The cement shoe. Weighing five tons. Hovering over his head.
There almost seems to be relief when that one thing does happen - ah, there's Ronnie's error, phew, there's my wild pitch - like the suspense is over and now he can just get to the business of dealing with the aftermath. It's like when you know your trip to the dentist is going to be unpleasant, that there's going to be a lot of work done and it'll hurt like hell, but what's really killing you is the anticipation. Once the drilling and the smoke come, the throb in your mouth seems anti-climactic, almost welcome. Every time Dempster goes out there, he looks like he's wishing for the throb.
On the broadcast the other day, something was being said about how Juan Pierre always makes the right decision on the bases. He just never fails to do the right thing. Well, nothing bad happened that day, but last night the chickens came home and roosted on third base, as what turned out to be the Cubs' best chance to score toward the end of the game was thwarted by Pierre trying to steal the corner bag and getting nailed in the process.
Now, I'm not saying trying to steal third with one out late in a game is a horrible idea - I may not be a huge fan of the stolen base, but I get why you'd want to be on the three-bag with one out in the eighth inning of a tie game - but it was a play that Pierre should have known better than to attempt under the circumstances.
Even with his speed, he needs to get a good jump to get that base, and to call what happened a stutter step is to be generous in the extreme. Juan Pierre does make mistakes, and that's okay - everyone makes mistakes. The problem is, in order to be in the least bit useful, Pierre has to be nearly perfect, and clearly he's not.
I'm an NPR devotee. I give to the local station, listen to Morning Edition nearly every day, and check out several other of the fine offerings. For the most part, I'm very happy with what they have to offer, but if there's one thing I'd change if I could, it's the Wednesday morning essay by Frank DeFord, particularly when he turns his attention to baseball.
Today was just such a day, and an absolute gem of the genre. Not only did he begin by demonizing the idea of pitch counts - something which has become so hackneyed among the "old guard" press that it hardly bears paying attention to any longer - but from there he devolved into a ramble decrying the way hitters "work the count" these days and, even stranger, foul off so many pitches.
In the end, his gist seemed to be that baseball was boring, took too much time with all these pitches - which the pitchers should be able to throw in copious quantities as the manly men they are, but the hitters shouldn't make them throw, because that's such a snore - and if they just made the ballparks bigger and didn't put little girls in uniform, everything would be jim-dandy, hunky-dory, peachy-keen, when from my perspective, what would really be swell is if cranky old men would stay off my radio.