Are you familiar with the tale of Wally Pipp? I'm sure you are, but to recap: Pipp was the starting first baseman for the 1925 Yankees when in early June manager Miller Huggins replaced him in the lineup with a young kid from Columbia named Lou Gehrig. Pipp took a day off and then two and then 2,130 from the Yankees lineup as Gehrig went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career, providing a perfect, squeaky-clean foil to drinking-and-whoring teammate, Babe Ruth.
In case you didn't hear, Cubs catcher Michael Barrett apparently was in some sort of an altercation with his White Sox counterpart, A.J. Pierzynski, last weekend and received a today for his actions. It's just too bad they never showed a replay of this on TV.
Sure, we all know Barrett is no Pipp, who led the American League with 12 home runs in 1916. But the comparisons between backup catcher Henry Blanco and Gehrig are eerily similar. For starters they have the same tattoos.
What I'm getting at is we're on the cusp of The Henry Blanco era. This seemingly insignificant move will make all the difference to the slumping North Side Nine. As the song says, the Cubs are on their way.
and GM Jim Hendry, who constantly remind us that the 2004 and '05 Houston Astros turned it around after disastrous starts to make the playoffs and even the World Series and that the Cubs, like the mythical Phoenix, will rise from the ashes of an 18-28 start and reel off 53 straight wins.
Funny thing is I didn't see the press release announcing Hendry's signing of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Huh.
We'll have baseball soon as Michael Barrett, having appealed his suspension, is in the lineup against the Atlanta Braves. Carlos Zambrano v. Tim Hudson today from Wrigley Field.
Zambrano throws quite a few pitches to Marcus Giles before walking him. I think pitch count already is an issue. Former Cardinal Cub killer Edgar Renteria who didn't do so hot in the American League strikes out swinging. Chipper Jones displays some warning-track power with a deep fly out to right. Zambrano walks Andruw Jones. Zambrano wheels and nearly picks Giles off second. Looks like they may have had him. Ump sees it differently. What are you gonna do? Zambrano goes full to Adam LaRoche and loses him to load the bases. Barrett trots out to the mound, possibly to slap some sense into Zambrano. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild joins him. Considering he's only got two walks all season, chances are Jeff Francoeur won't take a free pass. Scratch that. Zambrano walks the fourth batter of the inning and the Braves take a 1-0 lead. Ryan "the Islets of" Langerhans works the count full and then strikes out. Let it be known Zambrano got a gift called strike during that at-bat from home plate ump Brian O'Nora. Solid start from Big Z.
Braves 1, Cubs 0
Tim Hudson has no hair. What happened? Juan Pierre show his usual bunt shenanigans before poppping out to third. Neifi Perez gives it a minor ride to center but you're not going to get much by Jones. Todd Walker bounces out to Renteria and the Cubs down 1-2-3.
Braves 1, Cubs 0
Todd Pratt flies out to right. Hudson dribbles one back to Zambrano for the second out. Giles flies out to right and Jones, in an attempt to toss the ball into the crowd, it slips out of his hand and goes straight up in the air. At any rate, a much better inning for Zambrano.
Barrett steps the plate and I didn't detect much of a reaction from the crowd. Barrett grounds out and then climbs into the crowd and dusts a few fans who didn't cheer for him. Kidding! Jacque Jones grounds out to Chipper Jones. Andruw Jones had nothing to do with that play. Aramis Ramirez smokes a double off the left-field wall that kills some ivy. They'll probably deduct that from his paycheck. Freddie Bynum grounds back to Hudson, stranding Ramirez on second in the process.
Braves 1, Cubs 0
Renteria flies out to Pierre in center. Jones, Chipper grounds out to Ronny Cedeno. Zambrano fans Jones, Andruw and all of a sudden Zambrano is sailing along.
Cedeno bounces out to first. Zambrano strikes out. Pierre grounds a single up the middle. Walker lines out to LaRoche, who steps on the bag to get that all important fourth out.
Braves 1, Cubs 0
LaRoche pops up in foul ground behind third where Ramirez gloves it. Francoeur strikes out. Langerhans bounces out to Walker. And as I said before, yet people on the message board refuse to believe, Zambrano is sailing along.
Walker bloops a single to right. Walker takes off, Barrett nearly gets it through the hole on the right side if not for a hustling Giles. But Giles' throw is off the mark and everyone is safe. Jones hits the first pitch off the right field wall, scoring Walker. An RBI double for Jones ties the game. Ramirez chops one to Chipper that scores Barrett. Jones takes third. Bynum strikes out looking. The Braves walk Cedeno to get to Zambrano, who gounds out to Giles. But lookee here, the Cubs have a lead.
Cubs 2, Braves 1
Zambrano strikes out Pratt. It sure looks nice out at the park today. Hudson strikes out looking and so does Giles. Zambrano has gone 1-2-3 the last four innings.
Pierre grounds out to second. Neifi pops out to Renteria in shallow left. Walker singles to left-center. Barrett bounces out to short and nothing doing in the fifth for the Cubs.
Cubs 2, Braves 1
Renteria bounces back to Zambrano. Chipper walks and that's the Braves' first baserunner since the first. Zambrano's no-hitter still is intact. Andruw Jones rips it to left but it's right at Bynum. Off the bat I thought that was a double. Zambrano goes 3-1 to LaRoche and has now thrown 100 pitches. LaRoche walks. Francoeur sends it to left but Bynum is there again. Zambrano's Nuke LaLoosh impersonation continues.
Stunningly Jacque Jones takes a pitch. He fouls one straight back and then lines out to Langerhans in left. Ramirez pokes a single up the middle. There's a woman in the crowd wearing a "I heart Michael Barrett" shirt. Class. Bynum takes Hudson deep to right for a two-run homer. Len says "Freddy's not known for his power." That raises the question, what exactly is he known for? Cedeno bounces out to Renteria. Bynum takes a seat on the bench next to a clearly envious Jerry Hairston. Zambrano, who will see the top half of the seventh inning, pops out to third.
Cubs 4, Braves 1
Zambrano, looking to be the first pitcher in major league history to throw a 200-pitch no-no, holds true to form and goes full to Langerhans before striking him out. Langerhans thought he held up on his swing, took a few steps down the line before he was called out by third base umpire Chuck Meriwether. Ramirez robs Pratt of a hit with a diving stop behind third, gets up and makes a one-hop throw to just get the runner. Nice pick by Walker on the other end. Wilson Betemit hits for Hudson. Bobby Howry is up in the Cubs' pen. Boo. Betemit sends it deep to right. Jones has no idea where it is and with his back to the wall, the ball nearly hits him in the head. It's ruled a double. I'm not sure Jones even got his glove on it. Giles pokes a legitimate double down the right-field line, scoring Betemit. That's it for Zambrano. Enter Howry. Renteria bounces out and here's Ron Santo to sing TMOTTBG. Zzzzzz....
Cubs 4, Braves 2
Macay McBride is the Braves' new pitcher. Langerhans robs Pierre of a hit with a nice diving catch in left. Neifi singles. Walker works the count full before flying out to Jones in center. Barrett punches a double over Jones' head, scoring Neifi. Jacque Jones strikes out, once again endearing himself to Cubs fans.
Cubs 5, Braves 2
Howry walks Chipper Jones to lead off the eighth. Andruw Jones singles to right and Chipper takes the extra base. Dusty walks out to get Howry in favor of lefty Scott Eyre. Brian Jordan apparently still is in baseball because he's going to hit for LaRoche. Cedeno makes a diving grab of a Jordan liner to save a run. Francoeur bounces back to Eyre, who turns and throws high to second, but Neifi makes a nice effort to get the out. Safe at first and the run scores. Matt Diaz pinch hits for Langerhans and strikes out. Eyre is pumped as he walks off the field.
Cubs 5, Braves 3
Chad Paronto, a Bobby Jenks lookalike, enters the game to pitch for the Braves. Ramirez reaches on an infield single and Bynum bunts him over to second. Cedeno gets a single by a diving Chipper Jones; Ramirez stops at third. Bobby Cox yanks Paronto for lefty Mike Remlinger. Looks like his Just For Men must be in his lost luggage. John Mabry hits in the pitcher's spot. Mabry strikes out. Pierre flies out to Diaz in left and here comes Ryan Dempster to try to end this one.
Cubs 5, Braves 3
Pete Orr hits for Pratt and rips a single to right on the first pitch Dempster throws. Brayan Pena hits in the nine hole and I think Bobby Cox has pinch hit for every guy in his lineup so far. Pena singles to left. Not the best start for Dempster. Dempster's next pitch goes to the backstop and both runners move up. If Giles was going to bunt, so much for that. Larry Rothschild goes out to have a chat. Dempster goes full to Giles and then walks him to load the bases. Scott Williamson stirs to life in the pen. Will Ohman, as well. Dempster walks Renteria, forcing in Orr. So Dempster came in to face the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters and gives up two hits and walks two and this is what he gets for it: Chipper Jones with the bases loaded in a one-run game. Did I mention there are no outs? Jones strikes out. Wow. Big strike out. Andruw Jones sends it deep to right, deep enough to score the runner--but who figured this?--it scores two runs. Jacque Jones' relay to Neifi goes off his glove and into the air. Neifi recovers and then over-throws home plate. Two errors on Neifi on one play. Jordan pops one down the right-field line and Jones makes a running catch. But the Cubs manage to Cub-up the ninth, allowing three runs to score on a variety of gaffes and brain cramps.
Braves 6, Cubs 5
Fittingly Neifi leads off the inning and shows bunt but misses. Kenny Ray is the new pitcher. He strikes out and hears about it on his way back to the dugout. Walker flies out to center. Barrrett pops out to short and in a long line of brutal Cubs loses this is up there.
Final: Braves 6, Cubs 5
Yeah, well, try not to let this ruin your holiday weekend, everyone. We're all used to it by now. Have a good one.