OK, so there was that unfortunate moment when James Loney struck out to end the fifth with the bases loaded, sending 42,099 into a primal-scream catharsis. Except he actually foul-tipped the ball, and we know how the story careens from there. But the evening had its compensations. Like the organist playing the "Bonanza" theme when Mark DeRosa batted (you know, ’cause the Cartwrights lived on the Pon-DeRosa). Also, nice to see Alfonso Soriano picking up where he left off last October—and Ryan Dempster channeling Dempster version 2.007. Not to worry. Lou Piniella has the ring (see Reds, Cincinnati; 1990) to prove that winning the World Series isn’t that tough. He’ll prove it again.
THE CUBS HATER
I must be the only person in Chicago who doesn’t have TBS. Was forced to listen on WGN, which meant enduring Ron Santo, who was obsessed with the wind for some reason, which must have been blowing harder in the press box, because it was only 6 MPH on the field. Hey, Ron: The wind didn’t walk the opposing pitcher twice. That would be Ryan Dempster. The wind didn’t cause the first five hitters in the Cubs lineup to go 2-for-19 with no runs and no RBI. But it must have had something to do with Loney’s big dinger in the fifth, after which the silence at Wrigley was absolute and wonderful. All the Cubbies are is dust in the wind.
OK, everybody relax. So we lost Game 1. The Dodgers barely hit the ball out of the infield in the first five innings. Dempster tempted fate with seven walks, including the last three batters before Loney’s grand slam. Far worse: those lame TV guys. What’s the deal with Tony Gwynn’s voice? It’s like having Truman Capote as your color man. And they kept ragging on the crowd, calling them "apprehensive." They don’t know squat about Chicago. The fans weren’t nervous; they were drunk. They’d been drinking since noon. Don’t worry. Like the fans, the Cubs are just getting warmed up.
There’s a reason Lou Piniella didn’t make it as a manager in New York. He was Billy Martin without the psychosis, and therefore without the genius. Was it reasonable for him to leave Dempster in the game after seven walks and 100 pitches? Sure. But that’s not what Billy would’ve done. Billy would have marched out to the mound on those swizzle stick legs and got in Dempster’s face back in the third inning when he walked the opposing pitcher. Who cares if Dempster was still throwing a no-hitter to that point. No better time than that to put the fear of the devil in him. You want to know what ol’ Billy would’ve done in the fifth when Dempster walked the bases full? No, don’t want to know.
Sure, you can cite your macro-influences, the endless walks, the lifeless bats. But it’s the small, scientific moment that confirms the forces of Historical Determinism. Cubs down 4-2, bottom of the sixth. Ramirez leads off with a thundering double. Soto up. The Dodger’s pitcher, Lowe, is laboring. Two balls. The crowd screams. Hope! Then, inexplicably, Soto watches two fat pitches go by, including an 89 mph fastball down the middle of the plate. Of course, he whiffs, pathetically, on the next pitch, a puffball. Of course.
I must’ve had whatever The Fatalist had for lunch because I’ve felt like puking all day long. I could not deal my nerves today, and apparently, neither could the Cubs. Two innings in, I was ready to sell our 17-6 playoffs ace down the river for pitching like he did in his RP days (I don’t think I’ll ever quite trust the guy). Also deserving of a punch in the face was Soriano, swatting at everything in sight. I spent much of the seventh inning sitting on the cold floor of my bathroom, peeking at the TV from behind the door frame. No motherly compassion for anyone tonight. The Cubs played like girls in Game 1.
One likely question in tonight’s stunning loss is how badly Lou Piniella erred by leaving in the struggling Ryan Dempster. The Ump says: not very. Yes, Dempster was wild, wilder than we’ve seen him in many moons. But he has been so dominant at Wrigley and had been able to wriggle out of jams effectively enough earlier in the game that I think Lou’s decision to leave him in was sound. Dempster and Lou get some blame. But Derek Lowe and the Dodgers bullpen were the deciding factor. By the way, anyone else think Jeff Samardzija is waaay overrated?
THE TIME TRAVELER
Memo to Cubbies: if you plan on going to the World Series, you’ve got to learn how to wynn early, wynn often. Hardly a Danksian performance tonight by Ryan Dempster and his cohorts. Looks like if there’s going to be any revenge for 1959 (when the South Siders fell to the Dodgers in six), the White Sox may have to take matters into their own hands.