Wrigley looking good, neighborhood looking good, but what about the Cubs?
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The Cubs were the last team in the major leagues to have a home game this season, and you have to wonder if the big event couldn’t have been delayed a tad longer until, like, Wednesday?
The original home opener was scheduled for Monday. Oops, snow.
On Tuesday, the snow was gone, but it was 44 degrees at game time, with a wind chill dipping into the 30s. That is to say, it was indoor basketball weather.
Which made some sense, since members of Loyola, the NCAA Tournament darling, were in attendance to sing during the seventh-inning stretch.
Well, not all of them got the chance.
‘‘I thought I was going to sing,’’ said star point guard Clayton Custer, sitting with teammates in the cafeteria across the aisle from the cramped radio broadcast booth as coach Porter Moser, Ben Richardson and Marques Townes bellowed about peanuts and Cracker Jack.
He looked saddened, there in his maroon and gold letter jacket, and not because the Cubs were in the process of losing 8-5 to the Pirates, though one assumes that didn’t thrill him.
‘‘It’s definitely sad,’’ he said about senior pal Richardson being done with college, while Custer has another year of eligibility left. ‘‘We played on the same teams since third grade. We’re the same age, but I had to redshirt for a year after transferring from Iowa State.’’
These young men will recover just fine.
But you have to wonder just a tad, about the Cubs.
They’re not playing very well right now, except for maybe catcher Willson Contreras and steady third baseman Kris Bryant. Contreras has a bazooka for an arm, and his 3-for-4 day raised his average to .333. Then, too, there was infielder Javy Baez moving away from a bad start with a pair of solo home runs.
Having first baseman Anthony Rizzo out this early with a bad back isn’t good news, of course. And if center fielder Ian Happ (.156 batting average, 18 strikeouts in eight games) doesn’t put things together soon, the Cubs can start their leadoff-man hunt all over again.
They’re 5-5 now, and the division-leading Pirates are 8-2. Nothing to get worried about, really, but the Pirates?
OK, panic is not a word you even bring up until at least mid-June. So, steady is the pace.
‘‘They’re good,’’ said Cubs manager Joe Maddon of the Pirates. But with 152 games to go, it’s all just dust in the wind.
‘‘We’re not giving up,’’ said the slimmed-down Kyle Schwarber. Indeed. Folding now would be the earliest surrender since the crew cut surrendered to the mullet.
Schwarbs, who doesn’t cut nearly as epic a figure as he did before losing 20-plus pounds in the offseason, helped himself a bit by going 2-for-4, including a sharp RBI single to left in the first inning. That’s a direction the left-handed batter often doesn’t go.
The Cubs’ pitching was bad, courtesy of starter Tyler Chatwood’s nine hits and five earned runs given up in five innings. Middle-innings man Mike Montgomery wasn’t any better (two innings, three earned runs).
But as everybody knows and says: It’s early.
What you notice is the continuing redevelopment of Wrigley and the surrounding neighborhood. Folks were actually looking out their room windows at the new Hotel Zachary across from the park on Clark Street.
Hi everybody! Enjoy the view of the grass patio, the statues and maybe a narrow view down an aisle to the ballyard.
There’s something very new cooking on Addison Street across from the south side of the park, too. Soon you may not be able to find Wrigley amidst all the new buildings, although we suspect the squat Cubby Bear Bar will anchor the corner of Addison and Clark in perpetuity the way Plymouth Rock anchors that first pilgrim stop near Cape Cod.
Certain Wrigley Field rituals seem unlikely to change anytime soon, as well. For example, when the Pirates’ Starling Marte hit a long homer to left field in the fourth, nobody threw the ball back onto the field. The crowd booed, with the chorus growing louder and louder until—ta-da!—not one, but two purported home-run balls came flying out of the bleachers and onto the grass.
That’s how it goes.
Oh, did I mention the famous Sister Jean was at the game, underhanding the first pitch from her wheelchair? The good Loyola nun was there. And she was cheery and nice.
As Cubs fans should be. For awhile.
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their gritty, no-holds-barred takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, or via RSS feed.