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The Revenge of Morris
by Derek Smart
Nothing like a poorly played game heading into a matchup against one of the league's elite pitchers to make the day a little brighter. And when I say brighter, I mean light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-is-a-train, brighter.
I can't dwell on the big picture, it's simply too depressing. So let's spend some time wallowing in the pain of lead-based detail.
If you're looking for an example of the ridiculous degree of sway the metaphysical has over the coverage of this team, look no further than this morning's papers. Allthreefishwraps make prominent mention of the cat that ran on the field during the game, drawing parallels to the infamous incident at Shea in 1969 as if it meant something. Well, judging from this quote in the Daily Herald, Dusty's not buying it.
"It wasn't all black," Baker said of Tuesday's cat. "It was black and white, so that don't mean nothing."
I'm not sure which is more disturbing: the fact that the Wrigley Field press contingent felt it was necessary to ask Dusty Baker about the random wanderings of a poor, lost kitty, or that, judging from Baker's response, a feline's color pattern is the sole determinant of its level of evil mojo. Oh hell, why choose? They're both unspeakably sad.
I'm not a broadcast critic, and as such, I like to keep quite about the quality of what I see on my television during the games. Besides, in general, I think the gentlemen in the booth are doing a solid job, and there's little to talk about in that regard.
That is, until someone made the ill-advised decision to spend nearly an inning and a half carrying on an embarrassingly awkward conversation with a man who we shall only know as "Mike the Souvenir Vendor". It's not that Mike didn't seem like a nice guy, or someone worthy of engaging in conversation, but the men in the booth appeared to, quite literally, have nothing to talk to him about.
For those who didn't see it, I doubt I can do the floundering justice, and for those whose eyes and ears were so cursed, there's no point in putting you through such torture again. So I'll leave the discussion of this matter with the following three statements: "Ow!" "Stop it!" and, "Don't you ever do that again!"
Sometimes, the right thing gets done despite a manager's best instincts. There's no doubt Todd Wellemeyer has been the best pitcher out of the Cubs' bullpen for several weeks, and if there were any justice, he'd be getting used consistently at a game's most critical juncture. As it stands, he's been anointed the "seventh inning man," if not through official proclamation, then through his being used in the seventh inning during his last four appearances, last night's included.
As it so happened, you can make an excellent case that, with Glendon Rusch being lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth, the seventh inning of the then tied game was exactly where you wanted to see your best reliever make an appearance. Bullpen roles don't always sync up with situational reality, but luckily for Cub fans, the two meshed beautifully last night, and Wellemeyer did his job during that inning with the same dominating aplomb he's displayed in nearly all his outings since returning from his mid-April banishment.
So, naturally, it figures that when Dusty consciously made the right call - willfully defying the convention of roles that he had laid out for himself by leaving the bullet-throwing Wellemeyer in to face the Jays in the eighth - that it backfired terribly. Previously unhittable, the Jays figured Todd out, roping balls to left, and eventually knocking him out of the game in what wound up being the contest's decisive frame.
It was a situation where all the right buttons were pushed, but as will sometimes happen even in the best of circumstances, the execution simply didn't come. When these unfortunate things do happen, we can only hope as fans that it doesn't discourage those in the position to make decisions from making those same smart calls in the future.
It would have been easy, and actually quite fair, to prepare to label Corey Patterson the goat of an eventual Cub loss after seeing his errant throw allow the Jays' third run to score in the fifth. But while he blew his chance to even things up on the offensive end in the bottom of the seventh, his great throw to get Vernon Wells attempting to stretch his hit into a triple in the fateful eighth could have been a game-saver, had more effective pitching followed.
The problem is, Patterson's been so bad at the plate of late (.167/.231/.250 thus far in June) that any defensive mistake gets magnified tremendously, since his work in the field is likely to be his only positive contribution. Even when he's been hitting better, it's had more to do - to my eye at least - with his capitalization on incredibly poor pitches, or taking unintentional advantage of his natural speed on slowly hit grounders that he'd meant to crush.
There were times last year when I thought Patterson was growing as a hitter, finding things he could do differently at the plate to help himself. I haven't seen the faintest glimmer of this all year, and I'm beginning to doubt if I ever will.
The truth is, the Cubs' work in this game didn't merit a successful result. Anytime you give away enough runs to wipe out your possible margin of victory and hand the win to the other side (three runs swing this game, and with Patterson's bad throw in the fifth, Will Ohman's failure to cover first in the eighth, and the combination on one play in the ninth of a bad throw by Neifi! and a poor pick by Lee, you need look no further for Toronto's triumphant tallies), the loss is well deserved.
This team has come back from their excellent road trip looking like the hapless bunch that left, and after tasting the sweet, sweet nectar of conquest, I'm gagging ever harder on the foul dreck being dished out now.
In a way, I'm happy to be stuck at work this afternoon while the final game of this series is played. I don't anticipate a happy result, and it will be easier to bury myself in tasks on the cubicle farm than to ignore the magic box of the warm glowing warming glow.
And yet, things haven't gone as I thought they would during the first two games of the series, so who's to say I can't be surprised again? You know, besides that stupid cat.