Observations from the Ballpark

I had a chance to go to Saturday's game at SBC Park, what will most likely be my only chance to see the Cubbies up close this year. Here's a few things I noticed, pardon my bullet pointing: - Did the insane thing of driving up from L.A. to San Francisco for the day(and then back). Don't ask why, but I have my reasons, none of them were all that comforting when I was up at 4:00 am though. I made the trip with a pal of mine who's never been to SBC park and then introduced me to the Carl's Jr. breakfast burger, which we affectionately named "Death on a Bun". Not only does it include hash brown nuggets on the burger, they throw an extra dose of hash browns as a side order, for an extra cost you can purchase a defibrillator. - So through a friend of a friend, I scored some free tickets through some folks who work with the Cubbies. The tickets are available through the standard will call windows but you have to wait for some Cub employee to bring that day's stash of tickets. We arrived rather early and took a tour around the park and were ready to go in, but the tickets hadn't arrived yet. So we were left waiting with an eclectic mix of player's wives, friends of the trainer and such not. After about an hour of waiting around, my buddy piped up with the following, "What are the chances that Corey is f***ing this up too?" It was immediately deemed the line of the day. - SBC is easily my second favorite park in the league, behind the Friendly Confines. Much like Wrigley, it has a feeling of being part of the neighborhood, in this case the neighborhood are the boat docks. Anyway before we hit our seats, we found the world-famous Gilroy Garlic Fries and they're as good as I remember, topped off by a $6 Home Run Dog and then a Ghirardelli Hot Fudge Sundae. Should of bought the defibrillator. - We missed the lineups being announced, so when we settled into our seats it was just in a time to see Corey Patterson leading off the game. Wow, my one game of the year and I'm going to have to endure Corey leading off a game. Thanks Dusty! - Being the in the Cubs employee section, gave us a chance to sit right behind the Scott McClain family. They cheered loudly everytime he flied out in the game. - Mark Prior's first inning struggles continued, I think he neared 40 pitches for the first inning. The Cubs actually had Todd Wellemeyer up in the pen. I immediately told my friend that he'll shut them down the rest of the game. - I had a haunting feeling that Ronny Cedeno was going to leave the game eventually after getting hit in the hand. My buddy and me had a quick discussion on who we thought would come in for Ronny. Of course most teams wouldn't have a discussion when the replacement options are either Nomar vs. Neifi, of course most teams aren't managed by Dusty. - It was a pretty good Cubs contingent at the game, obviously more so in our section. But when Henry Blanco hit his homer, I didn't notice one person get up in anticipation when the ball left his bat. Normally, the fans rise when a ball is well struck, hoping it leaves the park. In Blanco's case, I assume everyone was just assuming it end up foul or something. I don't think I've ever witnessed such a delayed reaction to a home run. - Amusing observation in between innings. In the first, Jose Macias came out to warm up Jeromy Burnitz when he took his spot in right. By the second inning, most of the Cubs bullpen made it's way down and Todd Wellemeyer, fresh off of warming up, started playing catch with Burnitz. Macias had assumed it was still his job and was a good way down the first base line before noticing. He then promptly threw a baseball at Wellemeyer's feet. I couldn't hear what Macias said when he threw the ball, but I think it sounded like this: "DON'T TAKE MY JOB, you punk! I have to look like I'm helping the team at all times, otherwise they may realize how useless I am." - I was hoping to get a good read on just how bad Hairston goes after flyballs in the outfield. He just didn't get too many opportunities. Hairston took one bad route on a ball hit by Dan Ortmeier in the fourth, sort of circling around the ball before coming in on it, rather than a nice direct route to the ball. Patterson, on the other hand, took a brutal route on a double by Winn in the second. He bee-lined straight for the ball and then realized it was going over his head. He tried to recover and let his speed take over, but then ended up over-running the ball. Luckily Winn stopped at second. Hairston did make a great catch on another Ortmeier ball in the bottom of the seventh, going straight out to the left-field corner, reaching up a few feet in front of the foul pole and then adding a little flair by running up the padded wall. Apparently that play, coupled with a few nice catches on Thursday were enough for Brenly to tell us that Hairston takes better routes on balls than Patterson. Lack of long-term memory must be a wonderful way to go through life. - On the gun at SBC, Prior was hitting between 93-95 in the seventh when he struck out Todd Linden. I'm amazed that he made it that far, since he was near 80 pitches by the third. After the strikeout, Dusty came out and headed straight for the umpire and I knew I was about to witness some double-switching bufoonry. In comes Jose Macias to replace Todd Walker at second. I'm guessing moving Hairston to second and putting Murton out in left didn't even cross Dusty's mind. Naturally Macias ended up getting a single in his only at-bat. - Fun game, great ballpark, crappy ride down the 5 through California that was topped off with dinner at Denny's. I've been jogging since Sunday morning to burn off the calories.

Comments

From today's chat:

Drew (FL): Gary, as a Cubs fan I've gone back and forth with my feelings towards Dusty. I happen to feel that he may be one of the worst in game managers i've ever watched, but at the same time the Cubs havent had a winning manager in so long that I dont want to take for granted the raised expectation levels Cubs fans have been treated with these last few yrs. Recently, his refusal to consistently play Matt Murton (whom I love) and stick with Hairston AND Patterson in the lineup has started to break the camels back.... The team is winning of late but they're probably meaningless games. What are your thoughts on Dusty in Chicago?

Gary Gillette: (3:02 PM ET ) Whew! I think Baker has followed the same path as many other managers in the past. He has become so full of himself and so resistant to criticism, even if well-intentioned and constructive, that he can no longer function as a good manager.

Gary Gillette: (3:04 PM ET ) IF is team is winning, he can write the names on the lineup card just like anyone else. But he has demonstrated his unwillingness to play younger players, his favoritism for non-productive veterans, and his lack of understanding on how to construct a lineup for years now. The Cubs should have fired him a long time ago.

[Gillette is the editor of The 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, an ESPN.com MLB Insider and the Co-Chair of SABR Business of Baseball Committee.]

Damn, that burger sounds good (in a "going to kill you" way).

Happy Birthday Dusty: Here's a whole book of gift certificates to Carl's Jr? Naaah. That'd just be wrong.

"Apparently that play, coupled with a few nice catches on Thursday were enough for Brenly to tell us that Hairston takes better routes on balls than Patterson. Lack of long-term memory must be a wonderful way to go through life."

I guess it's not possible that Hairston's gotten better at getting to the ball as the year has progressed while Korey's gotten worse.

Nah, player's never regress in their skills.

the gap may have become smaller, but hairston is still rather clueless while Patterson can still get 'em with the best. Is this really up for debate?

I live in SF and went to both weekend games. Sucktastic teams, but like you said, good ballpark and good weather. Here's my list, in no particular order:

- Patterson's worse than I thought, and I never really liked him. When he had his last at-bat Sunday, the Giants fan sitting next to me in the bleachers and I agreed that I had as much chance of hitting the ball into play.

- Murton has more pop than I thought. His home run fell a few rows in front of me, and one of his fly ball outs probably went as far, but into the wrong part of the park.

- I like Nomar. Having him learn a little third makes sense too. They say that Cedeno is learning second and we know Walker can play first in a pinch. That means that with Aramis and Lee, the five of them can cover all four positions even if any one of them needs a day off or takes a short DL trip. We wouldn't need Macias, or even Neifi. (I can dream, no?)

- Speaking of Macias. I know it's long past time to stop complaining about every lineup move, but this weekend, I had to watch that idiot play second base - twice - so that Hairston (a second baseman) could play left field, and so that Walker and Murton could both sit on the bench. Never mind that both Walker and Murton are better hitters than both Hairston and Macias, and never mind that all of them are average in the field. If you have to make that double switch (and you don't, either time) do it in a way that leaves two out of three from Walker, Murton and Hairston in the game.

- Speaking of Neifi, after seeing him live I put my finger on another reason I don't like him. It's his showboating 'look at me I'm the onfield leader' style, always waving at other players and conferencing and sticking his chest out. Sure, it's good to have leaders paying attention to the number of outs, and sure the shortstop is supposed to do that stuff, but he's like the kid in the front row of class saying "look at me, look at me." I guess I just don't like him much.

- PS, Neifi has almost 500 at bats, behind only Burnitz and Lee on this year's team. If you knew only that fact, you'd pretty much be able to guess that this is a club that's lucky to break even.

- It's September, and your pinch hitting options are Patterson, Macias, and McClain. Good thing we've got a great farm system. Yuck.

ryan theriot called up.

Is this radio or is there a site, Crunch???

Ryan Theriot story here:

http://www4.oursportscentral.com/services/rel...

Which probably means Cedeno is going on the DL

Rob--"In comes Jose Macias to replace Todd Walker at second...Naturally Macias ended up getting a single in his only at-bat."

Every time Macias gets a hit these days I notice and think "damn, there's another week of playing time for him". On the other hand, I've become so used to Macias brand weak groundball outs that they don't really register any more. They're all the same, so they kind of blend into one. It's weird, but with all the outs hardly registering, with the obvious exception of the Macias pinch-hits for Matt Murton with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and the tying run on third ones I mean, and the hits really sticking out in the mind, I do sometimes mistake Macias for a decent hitter. I can kind of see how Dusty's got himself into this situation right now. It's that he doesn't take the time to remind himself of the .277/.292/.328. Because I swear that Macias, when I watch him at least, does seem to be more of a .350/.352/.354 hitter. Always hitting those stupid singles that get him more playing time, always.

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