My Vote Goes to Joe, Plus a Bonus Taxi Adventure
Pitching? The rotation is fine. Closer spot? That's where the title of this post comes in. Let's review: the Cubs win 88 games in 2003 and come within a game of winning the pennant. Joe Borowski saves 30-something games. Last year, the Cubs win 89 games and miss the playoffs by three games. The numbers of games that I can count off the top of my head that the Cubs blew a lead in the ninth inning last year? At least seven (both games in that May DH in Pittsburgh, a June home game against the Bucs, an April home game against Cincy, an August game in Houston, the September game at Shea, and the final week blowup against the Reds [again!] at Wrigley, one that I personally witnessed). How many wins would that have been with a healthy Joe? Theoretically 96, as there are no guarantees that he would have done the same thing last year. But anything would have been better than Latroy Hawkins trying to get the last three outs.
I realize that three of the games I listed were blown saves by Joe himself, but it was obvious last year that he was not the Joe of 2003. That's why I think he's the closer until something goes wrong. I really like Ryan Dempster, but he's kind of the right-handed swing guy of the bullpen (with Glendon Rusch as the lefty, but I think he should be in the rotation). Chad Fox? Good setup man, not a closer. You don't need an overpowering closer to win in the playoffs. After all, how much good did Eric Gagne do the Dodgers in the NLDS last year? He never had any leads to protect. Keith Foulke and Jason Isringhausen are both good closers, but nobody will ever mistake them for Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, or Lee Smith at their primes. What the Cubs need most is consistency: one guy that everybody knows is coming into the game in the ninth inning to get the last three outs. I think Joe is that guy if he is healthy. Fortunately, nobody cares what I think, least of all Dusty Baker.
Time for a Chicago cab story: today my wife and I went to the Field Museum to see the Jackie Kennedy exhibit (my wife's namesake). We go outside of our building to get a cab. Our building is right across from Navy Pier, and the Field is about two miles straight down Lake Shore Drive. The exit even says "Museum Campus" on the sign. So we get in the cab, tell the driver where we're going, and he sort of doesn't understand. I repeat it, and he says OK and we go down Lake Shore. We're cruising down until we pass the exit we should have taken. I start to think, okay, we're going past Soldier Field for some reason, and we'll take the next exit. But we pass that one, and soon we're coming up on McCormick Place. So I tell the driver, we're going to the Field Museum. He thought we were going to the Museum of Science and Industry, which is down in Hyde Park. So we get off at 31st and turn around, and we thought he had turned off the meter because of his horrible knowledge of Chicago destinations. We finally get off at the correct exit, and we get to an intersection where a left turn takes us to the Field, and straight takes us to the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Plantarium. Even though the Field is a huge building and there are signs all over it, the driver doesn't seem to know where it is, and as my wife says to turn left, he goes straight instead. Of course, the road loops us back around, where he proceeds to stop next to a parked taxi to ask this driver where the Field is. The other driver, somewhat incredulously, says that it's right next to us. So we finally get to the South Entrance and the meter says $4.10. I didn't even want to tip the guy, but I give him a twenty and tell him to give us $13 back. He starts telling us that it's really $7.90 plus this $4.10; apparently he didn't actually turn the meter off, he just sort of cut it in half. We tell him that we weren't the ones who didn't know where the Field was, and we finally agree to give him $10, and upon exiting the cab my wife tells him that he was the worst cab driver we've ever had, which was true.
What's most inexplicable about this was that if there was a top ten list of destinations that Chicago cab drivers should be required to know how to get to, the Field is definitely on the list. We weren't asking for some small museum (and if we were, I would have given the address as well), we wanted to get to the biggest museum in the third biggest city in the US, and the cab driver didn't seem to know where it was or how to get there. Unbelievable. And don't get me wrong: 99% of the drivers either me or my wife have are no problem and know exactly where they're going. I even had one get me to Webster and Southport when all I gave him was the address of 1401 W. Webster, and I didn't even know where the hell I was going. But to not know the Field? That's like not knowing how to get to the Met or the Guggenheim in Manhattan. It's completely unacceptable for a cab driver. Is it worth calling the city's cab hotline over? No. Does it make me think that the proposed cab fare increase is not a good idea? Yes, especially if a knowledge of city streets and destinations is not going to be a requirement for being a cab driver in this city.
The new dugout and bullpen seats go on sale this weekend, and the registration starts on the Cubs website tomorrow. I'm there, especially if I could get lucky enough to snag them for a weekend series in the summer. Mucho resale value there for the ones I wouldn't use.
And as Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament approaches, I realize that the only way my alma mater, UC Santa Barbara, will be a participant is for them to win the Big West Tournament and defeat top-ranked Pacific along the way. If that's what's required, then I know my Gauchos can do it. If not, I'm still going to win any tournament pools I enter.