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posted: 9/7/2012 9:19 PM

Some silliness as Cubs' season winds down

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  • The Nationals' Bryce Harper is restrained by home-plate umpire Jerry Lane and Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger, and benches and bullpens emptied Thursday night at Washington.

      The Nationals' Bryce Harper is restrained by home-plate umpire Jerry Lane and Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger, and benches and bullpens emptied Thursday night at Washington.
    Associated Press

 
 

Things tend to get a bit silly when a baseball team careens toward 100 losses.

We'll get to Thursday night's kerfuffle in Washington in just a bit. But the silliest thing I've seen in a long time is this petition drive to get Adam Greenberg an official major-league at-bat.

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Before I go any farther, I enjoyed being around Greenberg the short time I covered him a few years ago, and his beaning in Florida may have been the scariest thing I've witnessed in person at a baseball game.

You know the story. The Cubs called up Greenberg and outfielder Matt Murton in the middle of a dismal 2005 season to spark the team.

Greenberg's lone plate appearance, on July 9, resulted in him being hit on the back of the head by Marlins pitcher Valerio de los Santos. The sickening thud could be heard all the way up in the press box at Dolphins Stadium.

Greenberg suffered a concussion and vertigo, but he never stopped smiling or being friendly with those of us who covered the team.

Now, there is a petition drive by a filmmaker named Matthew Liston (another nice guy whom I've met) to get Greenberg at least 1 official at-bat with the Cubs.

Not only does this have "publicity stunt" and "opportunism" written all over it, it's totally wrong from a baseball perspective. (And Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer is on the record as saying the Cubs are not interested.)

But since the petition drive persists, I'll try to explain why it's wrong.

First, the Cubs don't have room on their 40-man roster. If they add Greenberg, they would have to put a player on waivers and either lose him to another club or have to "outright" him to the minor leagues.

Not very fair to that player, no matter what the Cubs' record, is it? And would Mr. Liston be willing to deliver the news in person to the cut player that he has lost his job?

Second, what happens if the player the Cubs would lose turns out to be good for somebody else? A lot of the same people clamoring for Greenberg would be howling that the Cubs let somebody get away to accommodate somebody's whim.

Let me give you an example to show, however unlikely, that this stuff does happen.

A few years ago, the Cubs had a guy kicking around their minor-league system, first as a catcher and then as an infielder.

They gave him a September cup of coffee in 2008. After the season, the Cubs took him off the 40-man roster, and he was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers off waivers.

At the time, nobody said a word about it. Not one word.

But when that player, Casey McGehee, hit 16 homers for the Brewers in 2009, 23 in 2010 and 13 in 2011, oh, did fans give it to then-GM Jim Hendry for "letting McGehee get away."

Granted, stories like McGehee's are rare, but it only takes one, and the Cubs need all the bodies they have at this stage.

So let's stop with the silliness, all due respect to the parties involved. And kudos to the Cubs' new brass for not wanting anything to do with it.

There's one baseball saying that I've come to like over the years, and I've heard it from many in the game: If you start listening to the fans, pretty soon you'll be sitting with them in the stands.

Misdirected anger:

It took all the way until Sept. 6 for frustrations of a losing season to boil over for the Cubs. They seemed to take exception to the suddenly powerful Washington Nationals stealing bases and swinging at 3-0 pitches leading 7-2 in the fifth inning.

Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk got himself kicked out of the game for yelling out at Nats third-base coach (and short-time Cubs player in 1999) Bo Porter, who wandered over toward the visitors dugout to continue the chat.

In the next inning, Cubs rookie reliever Lendy Castillo threw inside to Nats phenom Bryce Harper, and the festivities moved to the field, where Clevenger and reliever Manny Corpas were kicked out along with Nats lefty Michael Gonzalez.

"You're up 7-2 and Lendy Castillo is pitching," Clevenger told reporters. "It's 3-0. You don't swing 3-0 in that situation. But you know, things happen."

Like TV analyst Bob Brenly said during the telecast, you have to like the Cubs showing some fire and not just accepting defeat.

But you can't blame the Nationals, and their manager, Davey Johnson, was unapologetic.

Since we closed the previous segment of this piece with a baseball aphorism, we'll close this one with another: If the Cubs would have promised to stop scoring and stop trying from the fifth inning on, the Nationals would have stopped running and swinging at 3-0 pitches.

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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