The Upper Crust

The term “The Upper Crust” is often used to describe the elite, the rich, maybe even noble of society. It’s also a terrible name for a dessert/pie place. The National League has an upper crust and they all reside in the Central. It’s quite clear to me that the senior circuit’s finest three teams are the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers. I won’t spend much time debating this; The West is a joke, with the underachieving Diamondbacks and Dodgers leading the way, both two games under .500. The East has Philly, the Metropolitans and the Marlins, none of which stack up to the three-headed powerhouse that has become the NL Central. As final evidence, I give you this week, post All-Star. Neither the Cardinals nor the Brewers lost a game. Seven and oh. Not only that, the Brewers arguably snatched the Giants best player when they traded for solid veteran two-bagger, Ray Durham yesterday.

Cub fans who think that the Cardinals and Brewers are going to just disappear are not watching enough baseball. The Brewers already made notice that they’re throwing everything into this season by trading away some of their best prospects for Sabathia. The Cardinals just win. It’s not a mystery folks, LaRussa finds players to fit into his system and Duncan into his staff. They are the best at what they do. Just how good? We’ll have to see. How about a head-to-head beermakers at Busch this week. 4 games, might tell a lot about what the next two months are going to look like.

In the meantime, the Cubs offense may have come to life just in time. After looking tired immediately before and after the break, the Northsider sticks pounded out nine runs against the ‘Stros yesterday afternoon. Even Kosuke has two hits. Across the map, (Cubs next opponent) Diamondbacks closer Brandon Lyon surrendered five runs in the ninth inning, blew the save and took the loss to the Dodgers. Good timing Mr. Lyon, ah and the Cubs will miss both Webb and Haren in the three game set. Time for the Cubs to improve their road record. If they don’t, they may be surrendering first place soon…

All-Star Game

It’s been almost a week since the All-Star game and I still can’t decide if it was one of the best ever or one of the worst ever. It was certainly exciting, the AL fighting back again and taking into extras, both sides squandering quality scoring opportunities, really good bullpen work and plays made at home plate where it was a matter of inches. Longest game in the 79 years of the mid-summer classic. And it was looong. So long that even I fell asleep while Brad Lidge was giving it away. Can’t blame him though. Any pitcher who turned around and saw Dan Uggla at second-base would lose concentration. I feel bad for Uggla, but that was simply the worst performance on a big stage that I have ever seen. Three strikeouts, hitting into a double-play with the winning run on third base and three errors in the field, two of which were completely routine, all of this at Yankee Stadium’s last hurrah. Wow. I guess it was a good game. In the end, the AL won again. The NL hasn’t won since 1996, twelve years ago. That’s bad. To wrap up, Selig better figure out what to do about the pitching situation. Running out of arms is unacceptable if the winner is going to get home-field advantage in the World Series. Either figure out a way to assist the managers with this issue or simply (and preferably) give home field advantage to the team with the best regular season record. Make a decision Bud. Do it.

Short and Sweet Second Half Keys for the Cubbies

Stay Healthy. This means you, Alfonso. And Wood, please no more blisters. Harden and Big Z must also persevere.

Good Marmol. Carlos Marmol must be the dominant pitcher he was in April and May. This is especially important this week as he’ll have an opportunity to close for a few games.

Get On-Base. The northsiders must continue to draw walks, move runners over and find ways to get on-base. Stay in first in NL OBP and we’re in good shape. Fukudome must get back to staying on the ball and walking when he’s given pitches out of the strike zone, maybe last night’s two double performance is a sign of a resurgence.

Play better on the road. I’ve been saying this all year and now the Cubs find themselves seven under away from Wrigley. Must find a way to get the big hit on the road.

Beat the Central. Huge games head-to-head against the redbirds and brew crew. The Cubs control their fate in the Central. Winning 60 percent against these two teams would go a long way. Winning 70 percent against the bottom of the division will go even further.

Any other keys I’m missing friends? Have a good week folks.