Game Recap: Cubs 7, Braves 2 - a victory that feels like a defeat
Cubs fans all went a little crazy last night, as Alfonso Soriano suffered a broken hand in the 2nd inning. Soriano broke the fourth metacarpal bone in his left hand. Sound familiar? It might - something very similar to that happened in the early Spring of 1993 to a Cubs superstar. The only difference is that Ryne Sandberg broke the fifth metacarpal.
Now, if Soriano's injury projects the same as Sandberg's - and Ryno missed about six weeks - then, when he returns, he will have lost some grip on his bat and some power from his stroke. Ryno only hit 9 homeruns in 1993. But, since I'm trying to look on the bright side here, I'll just say that when the Fonz returns, he'll have motivation to change his game a little and play more like a true leadoff - less power, more speed. But, anyway, enough about the depressing injury to a Cubs star. Let's talk about the positives.
The Cubs offense continues to pour it on - and make no mistake, this is not an offense dependant on any one player who is now out for 6 weeks due to a broken hand. Chicago scored 7 runs across the first 3 innings last night, due in part to another Fukudome 3 run homerun, a Theriot 2 run double, and an Edmonds 2 run single. The Soriano-less Cubs drew 4 walks, knocked 10 hits, and chased emergency Atlanta starter (and asshole) Jeff Bennett in the 2nd.
But perhaps the true positive of last night is the performance of Ryan Dempster. On a team with an overtaxed bullpen - despite there being 13 pitchers* - the performance Dempster gave last night was huge. He went the distance on 119 pitches, striking out 11 and walking none. Not bad. Carlos is one meltdown away from temporarily losing his Ace status to Clownsevelt.
(*And unlike the days when Dusty Baker had 12 or 13 pitchers, Lou Piniella actually uses them all. Back in Dusty's day, he'd have the 7th reliever sitting out there in the bullpen for 8 days at a time before he'd remember to call the guy in to pitch games.)
Even Chipper "Hayseed" Jones only knocked one hit against Dempster. (Cue photoshop):
Things to Come
Lastly, let's talk a little more about what's going to happen over the next six weeks. Colin has already done us well with an in-depth look at the Replacement Level Players who'll be stepping in for Soriano in the immediate future. Meanwhile, all those Cub fans who I mentioned as having gone crazy have begun tossing out all sorts of names to replace the Fonz on the short term. Those names include ...
Sammy Sosa (but mostly only in jest) - Old, still able to produce, hasn't been a clubhouse cancer since '04, but entirely wrong for this Cubs team
Barry Bonds - Old, still wants to play, might be willing to come back although his ego may demand a salary larger than the Cubs should be willing to pay. And, what should they be willing to pay, you ask? Zero. Screw Bonds, he's an even bigger cancer than Sosa.
Kenny Lofton - Old, still wants to play, bats leadoff. Actually, Lofton is my favorite choice. If he has anything left in the tank, then he might be ideal as he would easily slide into the leadoff position and steal some bases. I'll be advocating heavily for Lofton, especially if Hoff/Murton/Whomever fails to produce and the Cubs begin to spiral into mediocrity.
And will the Cubs spiral into mediocrity without their big bat? To be honest, I really don't think so. This is a far more complete team than Cubs of the past, and while Alfonso's bat will surely be missed, the Cubs have won plenty of games where he did nothing for them. They may lose a handful of close games without him, but they should still win.
At least, that's the way I'm going to look at it. Feel free to mock me from your foothold in reality, but I assure you I'm much happier over here in fantasyland.