|Official score on that play: 4-6-6-3-6-6-2-5-2|
In what has to be the crowning achievement in the franchise’s legacy of fail, the Cubs dropped the final game in the four-game sweep at the hands of the Padres by grounding into a game-ending octuple play in the 7th inning. Cubs manager Lou Piniella was flummoxed.
“Look, I’ve been around a long time in baseball, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t know what to say to these guys, I really don’t,” said the weary manager who was ejected and called out two thirds of the way through the play.
With the bases loaded and one out, Cubs second baseman Blake DeWitt hit a soft line drive that skipped in the dirt just before his Padres counterpart Jerry Hairston Jr. caught it. He flipped to short to retire Jeff Baker at second, but Tyler Colvin, who thought the line drive would be caught, was tagged out returning to second as well. The return throw beat DeWitt to first for the seemingly unnecessary fourth out of the inning, the third of what turned out to be eight on the play.
On third when the play started, Aramis Ramirez wandered out behind second base when something in the stands distracted him. His explanation for the embarrassing next out was vague at best.
“I saw something shiny out in left field. I don’t know. It was hot out there. I guess I just miss D-Lee. It’s hard being the only guy on the team who gets referred to by your first initial and the first syllable in your last name. A-Ram is sad. It helped a little to see the Riot, though.”
As Ramirez was tagged out, he was inexplicably joined by his former teammate Ryan Theriot. Theriot was in the starting lineup for his new team just seven hours later (in what turned out to be a masterful 2-hit shutout of the Rockies in LA).
“I just sensed there was going to be something special going on back here. I just heard about the whole TOOTBLAN stat, and I dig it,” said Theriot in reference to the Wrigleyville-created stat Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop. “I can feel them coming, you know? Had to get mine. Great to see the guys again, too. You miss that when you leave.”
Theriot actually slid in right behind Colvin, but was trapped underneath the rookie, who thought Theriot was just “some kind of bug.” After laughing about the extra out at first, Adrian Gonzalez threw back to short when he saw Ramirez and Theriot congregating off second base.
“It was strange, you know? I was pretty sure we already had three outs, but I couldn’t hear the official call because the umpires were doubled over in laughter. I figured, better safe than sorry. It paid off.”
Ramirez and Theriot were both tagged out at second and offered no protest over the matter. The same couldn’t be said for Lou Piniella, who came sprinting out of the dugout to argue with home plate umpire D. J. Reyburn. He became so furious, he abruptly ended the argument and attempted to slide safely into home. The throw to catcher Yorvit Torrealba beat him. The catcher then fired a snap throw to pick coach Mike Quade, who had joined in the mock-baserunning protest, off of third base.
When the dust settled and the umpiring crew stopped laughing long enough to confer on a final decision, second-base ump Ed Hickox observed that the barrel of DeWitt’s bat had splintered in two, revealing a hallowed-out shaft filled with cork. He ruled DeWitt out a second time.
“We talked about it, and we figured a new inning had begun so that second out of his was fair game.”
According to crew chief Gary Cederstrom, the play technically carried into the 8th and 9th innings, citing rule 4.10(g) that states “The game shall end if a team a) shows blatant ignorance of the number of outs, the object of play, and the overall rules of the game, b) attempts to continue to advance along the base paths after three outs have completed an inning of play, c) records a sufficient number of outs so as to complete their allotted 27 outs per nine innings, and d) has scored fewer runs than the opposing team. If the score is tied or the opposing team has scored fewer runs than the offending team, the opposing team will be granted an extended inning consisting of the number of outs remaining from their allotted total.”
Lou Piniella has to be considering moving up his retirement date after this episode, a new low for the Cubs organization and a blemish on the otherwise stellar managerial career of the Cubs’ skipper. When asked if he would call this a Cubbie occurrence, he countered, “A Cubbie occurrence? Nah, this isn’t a Cubbie occurrence. That play, this season? It’s apocalyptic.”