Daily Herald
This party could take an odd turn
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 9/18/2008 12:09 AM

Being a Cubs fan means rarely getting a chance to celebrate.

And in the uncommon years when a postseason berth has materialized, the Cubs usually have been away from Wrigley Field.

They were gone for clinchers in 1984, 1989, 2003 (NLDS) and 2007, while home in 1998 and 2003.

And now there's a slim chance they could clinch at home - and still be away.

See, if the Cubs win today and the magic number is 2, the Cubs could win Friday afternoon when they host St. Louis, but not know the Milwaukee result until much later.

The Brewers are in Cincinnati for a night game, and the Cubs aren't going to hang around the park and wait to clinch when that game may not end for another six hours.

And the same possibility exists for Saturday, when the Cubs play early and the Brewers late.

"I seriously haven't even thought about it, and I won't think about it until it happens, if we're fortunate enough for it to happen,'' said Cubs GM Jim Hendry, careful not to tempt fate and anger the baseball gods. "I would think the players will get themselves together that night if there's something they need to do.''

As for the fans, they'd have to wait until the players arrive Saturday or Sunday to celebrate with their team, many hours after the official result.

A few players we talked to Wednesday came up with some other ideas.

First of all, they're certain the team leaders, Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, will organize a group outing to a restaurant or bar where the club can watch in private, and, if necessary, douse each other with cheap, sticky, smelly beverages that never fully leave your clothes.

Some wondered if players couldn't then come back to Wrigley Field late that night and toast with the fans outside and inside the park, opening up Wrigley to all those waiting on the perimeter.

We're told that's unlikely because it would become a safety issue for fans and players, and the stadium might not survive such revelry.

Besides, based on past clinching festivities, the area surrounding the park is about the last place you'd want $120 million worth of players right before the playoffs begin.

It is unquestionably dangerous.

Perhaps, the answer - if this scenario plays out - is that the Cubs winning this division has been a foregone conclusion since they left Arizona in March, and maybe this time they'll act like they expected it to happen.

And that they have much bigger goals in mind for 2008.

It's a long season, this 162-game marathon, and they deserve a chance to whoop it up and spill some cocktails on each other, but if it's not a big party, maybe that's a good thing.

Maybe the message will be that they're saving some champagne and plan on having a really, really big bash at the end of October.

Brew it up

If Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin really wanted to send a jolt of energy through his team and put some excitement back in the clubhouse, why didn't he call World Series winning manager Bob Brenly after he fired Ned Yost?

Seriously, no one this side of Lou Piniella knows the Cubs better than Brenly, and what a way for Melvin to fire up his club right before this series and for the final two weeks of the season.

It's such a good idea that Melvin may have to think about it for 2009.

Piniella's deal

While there's been some debate about a new contract for Lou Piniella, don't expect anything soon for the 65-year-old manager.

Piniella still has next year on his contract and then a club option for a fourth year, which the Cubs would definitely want to exercise if Piniella decides to stay that long.

But few around the team imagined Piniella managing here more than three years, and certainly not more than four.

On top of that, if the Cubs should happen to win it all this year or next, you can pretty much say so long to Lou.

Costly injury

Milwaukee starter Ben Sheets, the Brewers' answer to Mark Prior, left yet another game early, this time complaining of elbow problems.

The Brewers won the game Wednesday 6-2 with seven relievers allowing 1 run in 7 innings, but they're hanging on for dear life in the wild-card race, trailing the Mets by a half-game, and now it appears as though Sheets may be done for the season.

He's also due to become a free agent at season's end, and you have to wonder how many teams will be willing to spend a lot on a guy who's loaded with ability but has never been able to stay healthy.

Golden moment

Lake Forest's Matt Grevers, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, threw out the first pitch. Grevers helped Michael Phelps win one of his 8 golds in the 4x100 freestyle relay in Beijing and also brought home a silver in the backstroke.

Best call

Sportspickle.com: "NFL referee Ed Hochuli was able to go back in time today and fix his horrifically blown call in Sunday's Broncos-Chargers game by using his superhuman strength to reverse the Earth's rotation.''

Trial and error

Comedian Alex Kaseberg, on O.J. Simpson's armed robbery case: "They had to find a jury of O.J.'s peers, but the only two who qualified were Phil Spector and Robert Blake.''

And finally -

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: "Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, whose last title was in 2005, announced he has changed his mind and is coming out of retirement to either try for an eighth race win or quarterback the New York Jets."

brozner@dailyherald.com