Wrigley Field is old and inconvenient and smells a lot like a college dormitory. But when the sun is shining and the breeze is trickling left to right and Lake Michigan is blue in the background, it's a perfect place to watch a baseball game. And that is exactly how we will open the second half of this baseball season.
This four-game series against the Cubs is an interesting one. I use the word "interesting" because this Phillies team has shown time and time again over the past couple of seasons that words like "crucial" or "important" or "pivotal" have little meaning with relation to their eventual success or failure. Flash back to late August of 2008. The Phils travelled to Wrigley for a four-game series. They'd just finished winning seven of eight, including a four-game sweep of the Dodgers, to climb from 2.5 games behind the Mets to take a half game lead. But then they split a two-game series against the Mets to fall a half game behind heading into a four-game series against the NL Central-leading Cubs. At the time, it seemed like a crucial series. And when the Phillies blew two consecutive late leads to drop the first two games of the series, they looked like nothing like a team that was poised to win their division, let alone compete in October.
So we'll stick with the word interesting. Interesting, because the struggling Cubs (39-50, 4th in the NL Central) still have the largest payroll in the National League. Interesting, because the Cubs scored six or more runs in five of their last seven games leading up to the break. Interesting, because the talk here in Chicago is that the only thing that might prevent general manager Jim Hendry from initiating a firesale is a dynamite two-week run to start the second half.
Some odds and ends before we head down to the clubhouse:
1) Chad Durbin was activated from the disabled list and Nelson Figueroa was designated for assignment. Antonio Bastardo was also activated, but he was sent down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Durbin, who missed the last three-plus weeks with a hamstring injury, is a much-needed addition to the bull-pen, which has been inconsistent as of late. It remains to be seen what the future has for Figueroa.
2) Prior to the season, I thought that Quintin Berry might be the type of guy who could be used this time of year to acquire a bullpen piece. As a 24-year-old at Double-A Reading last season, he hit .266 with a .355 OBP and 48 stolen bases and made the Phillies seriously consider calling him up in September to take advantage of his speed. He wasn't a blue-chip prospect, but he had at least one tool. But Berry struggled mightily this season, hitting .210 at Double-A Reading before the Phillies outrighted him off the 40-man roster. Now, the Padres have claimed the former San Diego State University star.
3) We'll hope to have an update on Placido Polanco for you in the near future. Polanco was scheduled to begin his rehab assignment tonight. If all goes well, he could join the team later this weekend in Chicago or early next week in St. Louis.