Thanks to WGN, I got to spend some serious quality time with the Cubs this week. I got to watch four of the five games the Cubbies played between Sunday and Friday. Unfortunately for me and for them, only one of those five games was a win: Sunday's series finale against the Astros, the only team in baseball with a worse winning percentage than their own.
Marlon Byrd photo via Chicago Cubs Insider
No secret, it's been a terrible year for the Cubs. The biggest news for the team this week was trading right fielder and leadoff man Kosuke Fukudome to the Cleveland Indians for two minor leaguers. Cries of "just wait 'til next year" are starting early this summer.
I watched this week's games with consideration of my question earlier in the week: what makes for a good baseball game? As I said, I watched four games in all: Sunday's 5-4 victory over Houston, Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Brewers, Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Brewers and Friday's 9-2 loss to the Cardinals. The first three games were all close throughout but I'd say the Sunday game was the only one that qualified as exciting. Late-inning drama is good. The Astros came from behind to take the lead in the eighth but the Cubs tied it in the bottom of that inning, then won it with a walk-off single in the tenth. The two Brewers games I watched were not as suspenseful. Even though the games were close, Chicago's impotent offense combined with Milwaukee's lockdown bullpen made for easy Brew Crew victories.
I've come to the conclusion, though, that baseball lore isn't really about great games. It's about memorable moments: the good, the bad, the ugly but most of all, the unusual. An outfielder throwing out the runner at home is pretty exciting. In the National League, a pitcher defying the odds to get a base hit is always fun, especially for Matt Garza who got his first Major League RBI on Sunday. The highlight of Friday night's blowout was Albert Pujols getting his 2,000th career hit on an RBI double.
To me, the most aesthetically pleasing play in baseball is the double play. 4-6-3, 6-4-3, 3-6-3, whatever: they're all pretty. The Major League guys make them look so easy. All it takes is a little bit of time at a minor league park to see that they should not be taken for granted. You don't make it onto a big league infield without being able to turn them in your sleep. 5-4-3 triple plays are pretty special, though I don't think I've ever seen one except in a highlight reel.