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by Phil Bencomo
You'd think I'd be disappointed about Carlos Zambrano not being voted to the All-Star game (although, because so many players opt out each year, I suppose he still has a shot), but honestly, I'm much happier with a nice long rest for the big man's heavily-used arm. Historically, he's been better (3.44 ERA vs. 3.28 ERA) after the All-Star break, but a little rest for a 26-year-old with over 1000 career innings certainly isn't going to cause any harm.
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I wish I could tell you that all is well in Cubdom, with the squad over .500 and riding a hot streak.
But I'd be lying.
Take Rich Hill, for example. It's been nearly a month since he last won a ballgame, and in three of his last four outings the lanky lefty has surrendered five or more runs. Whatever the reason, be it the longball or small strike zones, he hasn't done much good as of late.
The point being: This team is far from perfect, and it's unreasonable to expect the Cubs to keep winning 11 of 13.
Not that that simple fact takes anything away from what the Cubs have managed to do, pulling themselves into contention and within 4.5 games of Milwaukee. And perhaps, in light of an inevitable slowdown, we should bask in the present good times all the more; eat, drink and be merry while there is still something to be merry about, so to speak.
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Before you call me overly pessimistic, consider this: While the Cubs will eventually slow down, the team's rather soft July schedule means that they probably won't shift down more than a single gear. Consecutive series against Pittsburgh, Houston and San Fransisco should have the Cubs licking their lips. The only July opponents with records over .500 are Arizona and Philadelphia.
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The Sun-Times' Greg Couch, who has never struck me as an especially good columnist, has a pretty bizarre column today, in which he asks the Sox' Jim Thome and the Cubs' Derrek Lee whether they watch the ball hit the bat.
Conventional baseball wisdom says yes, but the players said no which, frankly, I find hard to believe. For baseball players, watching the bat hit the ball is something that has become so quick, natural and automatic that I doubt the players really realize they're doing it. Like tying shoelaces or buttoning shirts or pants, it just gets done mindlessly.
Photographicevidencewould seem to support my claim. Hitting a speeding baseball is a difficult task even if you are watching the ball; add in breaking balls to contend with, and watching the ball becomes mandatory.
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It's still far to early in the summer to be doing any serious scoreboard watching, but it sure is nice to see Milwaukee lose. Unless St. Louis has a miracle run stored up somewhere in its brittle, mediocre bones, Milwaukee stands alone as the Cubs' only obstacle on the road to the Central title, so a Brewer loss is always a welcome sight.