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Let's obliterate, once and for all, the myth that the Cubs are at a competitive disadvantage because they play more home games during the day than the competition.

This was one of Dusty's favorite excuses and it might have had some validity way back in 1969 when all the home games were under the sun and bad ol' Leo Durocher refused to give his regulars a day off every once in a while during the dog days. Sure enough that squad collapsed so badly in late August after building a nine-game, NL-East lead midway through the month that the Mets were comfortably in front by the time the last few weeks of the season dawned with the promise of cooler autumn afternoons.

Beachwood Baseball:
  • The Cub Factor
  • The White Sox Report will appear on Tuesday this week.
  • Now that the Cubs play plenty of home games at night, there is no question start times have nothing to do with how they play. It is the visiting team that comes in with a disadvantage when it comes time to play Friday and Saturday games under the sun (and it says here that could have been the case in 1969 as well if other factors hadn't worked against the home team).

    The excuse was aired again after Friday's game with the Pirates in tandem with the news that the Cubs will soon ask the City of Chicago for the right to schedule even more games at night. The Cubs had played the previous day and then laid an egg against the Pirates Friday (a 3-0 loss) and so it must have been the darn daytime start that did it. The problem was, the Cubs' previous game was in Milwaukee. They had a much easier trip into Chicago for the game than did the Pirates and they had a much better chance to get maximum rest.

    And here is the main flaw with what we will forevermore dub "Dusty's Daytime Diversion." It was a diversion, of course, because if the Cubs were losing because of too many day games, well, the manager's questionable moves certainly didn't have anything to do with anything. Anyway, the members of the visiting team clearly have it tougher because they're the ones who have played virtually all of their previous games in the evening. The visitors are much more likely to come to the game tired after travel travails or uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. I've even heard that, on occasion, members of visiting teams have been known to take advantage of local nightspot closing times that are a little later than the national average.

    Sure enough, the Cubs fought through their daytime difficulties on Saturday and Sunday, taking a pair from the Pirates. Of course, in those games the Cubs piled up great at-bats (disciplined and patient hitting seemed to suddenly re-appear against the Brewers early last week and it was wonderful to see them again). They hit behind base-runners and bashed doubles to the opposite field and got guys in from third with less than two out. And when the bullpen faltered on Sunday, they threw in a few clutch home runs as well. This Cubs team is constructed to win whether the games start at 7 p.m., noon or midnight.

    Rocky Horror Picture Show
    I was ready for some football Sunday evening (especially after the Cardinals took an early lead against the Phillies on ESPN and former Cub mediocrity Todd Wellemeyer was mowing 'em down again for the hated rival). So I tuned to the NFL pre-season opener featuring the Colts versus the Redskins in Canton, Ohio. Or should we say it was the Scrubs against the Redskins (who eventually won by a couple touchdowns). The Colts benched more than a half-dozen of their frontline players and even less-than-stellar backup quarterback Jim Sorgi stayed on the sideline after one, count 'em, one, possession.

    Anyone who saw Sorgi's deer-in-the-headlights performance in last year's regular season finale - when the Colts lost to an undermanned Tennessee squad 16-10 despite numerous Titan turnovers - probably would have argued for more playing time . . . but that's about enough about the Colts, even if I am still pissed they gave less than their all during that contest with Tennessee (benching a healthy Manning) and thereby denied a deserving Cleveland Browns squad a playoff spot.

    Anyway, it was late in the first quarter and the Redskins had the ball and the lead (7-3). And then, just like that, there he was. The thrillingly named Rock Cartwright took a hand-off, cut off left guard, broke a tackle and picked up six tough yards. He carried the ball a few more times as the Redskins put together a decent drive before a timeout was called. And at that point I moved on. I'll really start to settle into the football season on Thursday evening when the Bears kick off their first exhibition.

    Oh by the way, the Phillies came back and knocked off St. Louis 5-4. Cardinal management failed to upgrade the bullpen before the trading deadline and they blew it again on Sunday, giving up four runs in the eighth inning.

    Cotts Shot
    I don't know about you guys but I've seen enough of Neal Cotts as the lead lefty specialist in the Cubs' 'pen. I know Scott Eyre tied Lou's shoes together or something at some point but it is time for the manager to get over it and give Eyre another shot at the job. He's more healthy than he's been all season, he is certainly well-rested (one appearance in the two weeks since he returned from the disabled list - when Piniella is pissed at a player there is no dog house, there is dog prison) and he has loads of experience.

    Illini Sigh
    Following up on an angry column I wrote early this year:

    A thank-you note won't suffice. Head coach Bruce Weber ought to send a thank-you blimp to circle Jamar Smith's house for a day or two after Smith went out drinking last weekend and got caught. Weber kicked the Peoria native off his Illini basketball team sooner than Smith's hangover had dissipated and what would have been an incredibly embarrassing chapter in University of Illinois basketball history was avoided.

    The backstory: Weber not only allowed Smith to stay in the program after Smith got drunk on an icy night the season before last, crashed his car and almost killed passenger and teammate Brian Carlwell (who was knocked unconscious and suffered a severe concussion); Smith then abandoned Carlwell in the car (did we mention it was freezing?) before a bystander happened upon him and called emergency services. The coach also managed to arrange a red-shirt year for Smith, who was sentenced to a few weeks in jail after he was convicted of felony driving under the influence of alcohol.

    Red-shirt years are supposed to be for college athletes who suffer injuries either before or early in seasons and don't deserve to lose a year of eligibility (and so they officially sit out the season and theoretically wear a red shirt during practices for clarity's sake). Or red-shirts are awarded to freshmen who need a year of conditioning before they're ready to dive into varsity competition. Smith should have been suspended from the team, not red-shirted. But that would have cost him a year of eligibility.

    Carlwell left (was pushed off?) the team last year so Weber was looking at going into this season with the perception that the perpetrator had received special treatment in order to stay on the team while the victim had been discarded. But that won't happen now.


    Jim Coffman appears in this space every Monday with the best sports wrap-up in the city. You can write to him personally! Please include a real name if you would like your comments to be considered for publication.

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