Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Saturday, May 15, 2004
Of Times Come and Gone
I've never had a problem with the Padres. Lately, I've even liked them a bit. I don't have any hard feelings about their comeback victory in the NLCS 20 years ago, mostly because I was young in my Cubfandom at the time, so my personal investment level wasn't nearly as high as it is now.
However, something about seeing them sport the uniforms they wore in 1984 - the year they dashed Cub fans' hopes of a World Series - seemed purposefully spiteful. It was an attempt to reopen and rub salt in the old wound, to take the opportunity during the one time the object of that year of yore's humiliating defeat came into town to make sure they and their fans didn't forget who owned them way back when. Like I said, I've never had a problem with the Padres.
But now I want their heads.
Thankfully, the Cubs went out and provided for me, serving Padre noggins on a nice, shiny platter in their 6-1 victory last night, which had the added benefit of bringing them to within one game of the first place nemesis, Astros. I only saw the last couple of innings, but here's what I took away:
I know it's not a news flash, but Corey Patterson may be the worst bunter I've ever seen (at least among those who might regularly attempt them), and his bunt single in the ninth was perhaps the most pathetic successful attempt at a bunt hit in recorded history.
Look, it's no secret I'm not a "small-ball" guy, but there's a difference between bunting for an out and bunting for a hit. One is valuable in very rare circumstances, while the other can be of great value on any number of occasions.
Of course, for a player to be a consistently good risk when bunting for a hit he must have two skills - great speed, and the ability to control a bunted ball. Players who don't have the first are SOL - either you're fast or you're not, and no amount of work or wishcasting will make you speedy enough if you weren't so gifted to being with. The second skill, however, can be learned, so anyone who is already blessed with great speed is only giving themselves another offensive weapon if they take the time to master it.
But not only has Corey obviously refused to take the time to avail himself of this possible addition to his arsenal, he seems openly disdainful of it. He fancies himself a power hitter, and that's fine, because he is. The disconnect is in the assumption that being a power hitter and a dangerous bunter are mutually exclusive propositions.
I don't know if anyone will ever be able to make him understand what could be possible if he would only work to acquire the ability to bunt, but if someone does get it through his thick skull, they'll be getting a big thank you from me.
In 272 AB's last season, Jose Macias had two triples. Last night, he had two in consecutive innings, scoring after the first, and driving in three runs with the second. When he came up with the bases loaded in the ninth I thought to myself what a waste it was, and of course, he gets the three-bagger. This sort of performance reminds me of being at the rain-delayed opener of the five game Cardinals series last September, as I spent every Tony Womack at bat lamenting his presence and relating to my friends just how deeply he sucked, while watching him go 3 for 5 with a double, RBI and stolen base. Ah, sweet irony.
Any thoughts that Joe Borowski's early exit from the end of the final game of the Dodgers series was indicative of a usurpation from his Closer's throne are premature. Not only was JoBo warming up during the Cubs' half of the ninth while it was still a save situation, but when he pitched the bottom of the frame, he had his best outing of the year. It only took seven pitches to get through the 1-2-3 inning, and for the first time while I've been watching, he had some sharpness to his stuff. He only threw two sliders, but both were among the best I've seen from him this season. It's way too early to say he's back, but this was the first indication I've seen all year that a return to form is even possible.
One of baseball's great appeals is the romance of recollection. More than any other sport, the National Pastime allows a unique opportunity to form visceral, lasting memories that evoke, not just a particular game, but an entire period in your life, a relationship, an emotion.
I had an experience like that as I followed the final game of the Dodgers series over the internet. Nomo's wild performance gave me a powerful attack of deja vu, as a realized I'd borne witness to a similar outing from the same man at Wrigley Field once. The details had escaped me, but a quick trip to the invaluable Retrosheet.org refreshed my baby-addled mind.
It was April 18, 1998, and Hideo Nomo was starting for the visiting Dodgers. He wasn't in the game for long, though, as his final pitching line looked like this:
That's super ugly, and you can see why it would jog my memory, but that wasn't the significant part of the day. Here's a list of firsts on that day, some baseball and some personal:
Kerry Wood's first start in Wrigley Field
Kerry Wood's first Major League hit
Kerry Wood's first Major League RBI
Kerry Wood's first Major League run scored
Kerry Wood's first Major League win
My wife's first National League ball game
My wife's first trip to Wrigley Field
My wife's first baseball game with me
In case you hadn't guessed, this was a good day, and one can excuse me if I have a bit of a Kerry Wood fetish as a result. It had been a good week anyway, as my wife (or really, for accuracy's sake, my wife to be) had been in Chicago for a mere eight days. That I got her to attend a Cub game in April (although, according to weather history it was a fairly balmy 60 degrees), speaks volumes of her fortitude.
It's days like this that keep me in it, even when things look dark. There's always a chance that, even if something significant doesn't happen on the field, something even more significant will happen off it, something that you can hold dear and treasure for the rest of your life. It happened for me on April 18, 1998, and who knows when it might happen again? That's why I'll stay in the game, because when something like this comes around again - and it will - I don't want to miss it.