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SportsMonday

By Jim Coffman

As I was walking down the Wrigley ramps after the Cubs' delightful 7-3 victory over the Cardinals Sunday afternoon belting out "Go Cubs Go," I experienced a revelation (it was of virtually no consequence but I believe it still qualified as a revelation). I hate most of the cutie Cubbie crap - throwing home run balls back, the Harry statue and glasses above the press box, the love of Ron Santo no matter how monstrously incompetent he is on the radio - but you have to love a good sing-along after a win. Anyway, it dawned on me that if we made a small change, just this once the song would actually make sense. It is, of course, goofy that we sing "The Cubs are gonna win today" after the Cubs wins. But here was our chance, all we had to do was sing "The Cubs are gonna win tonight!" Get it? Because it was a day-night doubleheader! So I belted that out at the end of the first few choruses and hoped a few of my fellow fans would join in. I know, I know - I am the most clever ever.

Beachwood Baseball:
  • The Cub Factor
  • The White Sox Report will appear on Tuesday.
  • Shockingly enough, I was still alone when I tried it a third time, at which point my 10-year-old son, who I think had found it at least slightly funny the first time I changed the lyric, turned on me with a "Daaaaaaaaaad!" I weathered his disapproval and belted out " . . . tonight!" one more time but that was it. Maybe it was just general indifference or embarrassment on display but probably it was something more. Probably it was the fact that no one thought the Cubs were gonna win tonight. And sure enough they didn't. And that was despite an unbelievable top of the ninth in which Lou Piniella out-LaRussa'd Tony LaRussa and the Cubs caught a giant break when Reed Johnson's stumbling, sliding trap of Cody Rasmus' shallow fly ball near the left field line somehow stuck in the middle of his glove (violating several laws of baseball physics) and was ruled the third out.

    Previously, after bringing in left-handed Sean Marshall with two on and no outs in the ninth and watching him walk the first hitter he faced, Piniella actually moved Marshall to left field, replacing Alfonso Soriano in the lineup with the right-handed Aaron Heilman. Heilman struck out the only batter he faced, righty Brendan Ryan, and then headed for the bench. Marshall returned to the mound to face the lefties who awaited in the Cardinal lineup (with Johnson taking over in left field). Except LaRussa then pinch-hit a righty (Jarrett Hoffpauir - no relation to Micah despite the fact that they are the first two Hoffpauirs, names spelled the same - to ever appear in major league games). And then Marshall struck him out anyway. And then Rasmus hit that fly ball down the line that Johnson somehow corralled despite tripping over his own feet moments before. Baseball is so boring isn't it?

    The Cubs lost mostly due to yet another pathetic offensive display (their fourth in their previous six games). Cardinal pitcher Adam Wainwright is very good, but the Cubs were very bad. Alfonso Soriano showed signs of finally busting out a bit with a big walk in the first inning of the opener and a couple hits later. But he was overmatched in the nightcap, as was Aramis Ramirez. Milton Bradley actually drove in a run with a double in the middle of the game and I suppose that was slightly promising, but of course the All-Star break comes at exactly the wrong time for him. It is impossible to be excited about the Cubs right now, but you also can't count them out.

    In terms of what needs to be done, well, a few things are painfully clear: Piniella finally, finally, finally acknowledged reality recently and took Soriano out of the leadoff spot. Kosuke Fukudome gets deep into some counts and draws a walk or two at the top of the lineup but his spinning swings are still fundamentally unsound and his batting average will soon dip below .250 again. In the second half, shouldn't we have a long look at Sam Fuld, the lefty who went 2-for-3 Sunday evening and who can go get it in center? Also, Micah Hoffpauir needs to play against righties (heck, put him in left instead of Soriano - he cannot be much worse at it) and Jake Fox needs to play against lefties - re-arrange the defense in whatever way necessary to make this happen.

    It actually looked good for both local baseball teams on Tuesday of last week. They had just wrapped up successful weekends and started mid-week series' with additional victories. One local columnist even went ahead and said the Cubs were on the verge of a surge (what a dope - oh wait, that was me). Then the Cubs blundered through two brutal losses to a weak Braves team with no one of real consequence in the lineup and dropped the opener to the Cards on Friday.

    And the White Sox had hope busting out all over after taking the first two from terrible Cleveland. But then Clayton Richard gift-wrapped a half-dozen opposing runs in all of an inning's worth of work on Thursday, D.J. Carrasco wasn't much better in long relief, and the South Siders managed to lose to the Tribe despite eventually scoring eight runs. A typical series in Minnesota (losing two of three) and they take no 'mo' into the All-Star break.

    * * *

    Maybe we'll look to the soccer scene for some sporting excitement as the summer hits its stride. Or not. The Fire, playing before its biggest crowd so far this season (more than 18,000), stumbled to a scoreless tie against the Columbus Crew on Saturday evening. I've noted before that I have some soccer chops (played in high school and a little lower-level stuff at my tiny college), but it seems as though every time I'm ready to hop on board and really promote the local team, they remind me again why what they play can be a terrible spectator sport.

    When you have fans in the stands and potential excitement building, you simply can't put up a double donut. Push tons of guys forward, take chances and make something happen. The opposing team should be doing this as well by the way . . . right? Except if they feel as though they needn't promote the sport. A 2-1 soccer game is often tremendously exciting. Scoreless ties always suck.

    * * *

    I loved the Bulls' signing of Jannero Pargo, a local kid made good who can really, really shoot it when he gets on a roll. He is a guy who can replace at least a little of the scoring lost with the departure of Ben Gordon (he'll play some minutes but there are three guys - Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons - who are deservedly well ahead of him in the guard rotation). As for his overall story, Pargo is tricky because he is the kind of guy who feeds thousands of undersized city kids' unreasonable dreams of eventual arrival in the NBA.

    Pargo, who stands barely six feet tall, attended Robeson High School, where he was a good player for a team that never did take up residence in the Public League elite. He went on to junior college and a decent two-year stint at Arkansas. He was an undrafted free agent who eventually hooked up with the Bulls, where he was a solid reserve (oftentimes held deep in reserve - i.e. not receiving much playing time at all) who showed just enough flashes of scoring ability.

    That was enough to entice the New Orleans Hornets to sign him to a contract and he had a decent run there. Last year he did not sign an NBA contract and instead headed to Europe. After an uneven experience abroad, he returned to sign with the Bulls for about two million bucks over one year.

    In other words, he has made it. Unfortunately, thousands of others who travel his path do not. One hopes that with perhaps a slightly higher profile in Chicago this time around, Pargo will do his best to remind kids that he is the rare exception as opposed to anything even approximating a rule. Then again, if he can provide needed scoring off the bench I don't suppose it will matter much what he says when he's out in the neighborhoods.

    -

    Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

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    Posted on Nov 26, 2021