Earlier in the season, Corey earned a one week reprieve from my acrimony for a nice bunt. In late July, he earned a full month’s reprieve for good play. With tonight’s big homer and his recent performance he has earned a reprieve for the entire season.

Furthermore, I take back all the bad stuff I said about the guy all year. He has officially converted me. I am a grumpy, bitter man whose personal scars do not heal cleanly; I have, since his overhyped entry into the major leagues, vented my pain on this undeserving player. I’m sorry, Mr. Patterson. I hope you can forgive me.

There. That was hard to do, but I feel good having done it. Mr. Patterson has forced me to re-evaluate where I stand on all the Cubs’ key players. Here are the results, using the Out of the Park Baseball five-star rating system. The dislike/like line is just to the left of 3 stars.

Michael Barrett, C:

I’m still not sold on this guy. I have too many images of his hamfisted defense in my head and there’s too much statistical evidence to think this year’s offensive output is not a fluke. I hope I’m wrong.

Derrek Lee, 1B:

Lee is my favorite current Cub, if only because his nickname is Rodan. Also because his head looks too small for his body.

Mark Grudzielanek, 2B:

Ol’ Double Dinger’s been knockin’ the ball around recently, but as far as I’m concerned, his only role on the Cubs team is keeping Todd Walker out of the lineup. And that’s bad.

Todd Walker, rotting on the bench:

A long time ago some jerk in Louisiana heard I was a big baseball fan and he said, “oh yeah, who’s the best second baseman right now?” I, of course, said the great Ryne Sandberg, but he, an LSU fan, picked his nose and said, “Nope! It’s Todd Walker!” Walker was still in college at the time; the idea of some aluminum-bat-wielding jerk being better than Ryno torqued my wrench, so I didn’t give Walker a chance — not until Boston did I consider him a major league hitter. But since he’s been a Cub I’ve been in his corner; a lefty who gets on base is EXACTLY what the Cubs’ lineup lacks. Put him in, Dusty!

Nomar Garciaparra, SS:

The anti-Grudz. All this guy has to do is play; his value in not letting the Cubs put feeble weiners like Ordonez and Neifi and A-Gone and their ilk in the lineup is enough. Statistically, he’s pretty brutal defensively, but with a strikeout-heavy pitching staff he’s in the right place. He only gets 3 stars because he’s not healthy, and I’m not convinced he will be through the rest of the season. Should he start eatin’ spinach and shake off the injuries, he’ll go to a 5 star Cubbie.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B:

I’ve got nothing but praise for the Musketeer. If he keeps it up he might pass up Rodan as my favorite Cub.

Moises Alou, LF:

I’ll give the guy props for hittin’ 32 bombs this year. But he looks older than Paul Newman when he’s playing LF and the guy’s OBP is below the league average. I expect more from Moisty.

Mr. Corey Patterson, CF:

3 stars and rising. Two months ago he’d be one star. Now he’s my little buddy.

Sammy Sosa, RF:

He’s trying very hard to forge an Ernie Banks legacy for himself. There’s no doubt that he has had a fabulous career as a home run hitter and in through maybe ’97 to ’01 he was magnificent. Now he’s starting to put up Kingmanesque numbers. He still smiles and makes like Chico Escuela, but I’m just not buying it anymore. Especially at that price.

Mark Prior, SP:

So what if he’s been inconsistent this season. I have no doubt that he’ll be a star for the Cubs for a long time. I can’t have faith in guys like Barrett because I’m using it all up on Prior.

Carlos Zambrano, SP:

Zambrano is the go-to guy on the staff this year. When he takes the mound, I’m relaxed, the same way I was during Maddux’s turn on the hill when he won his first Cy Young with the Cubs or Prior last year. “Zambrano” is Spanish for ACE! And Carlos is Spanish for “I am the…!”

Kerry Wood, SP:

I like watching him take the mound, but he’s the biggest question mark on our staff. As Yogi Berra might say, “he’s not as good as he oughta be, but he’s good enough to be really good.”

Matt Clement, SP:

Clement’s been just fabulous this year. If the Cubs do take the Wild Card (as they should), I’ll put good money that we’ll be seeing Clement coming out of the pen. Which is a NASTY thought. But at any point in the season Clement’s been one of the top 3 on the Cubs’ starting staff. It’s a shame that the offense usually takes a siesta on his turn to pitch.

Greg Maddux, SP:

No complaints here. Go get ‘em, Greg. He gets “only” three stars because he’s buried so deep in this talented pitching staff that I’m not as excited as I thought I’d be to see him pitching for us.

LaTroy Hawkins, RP:

At the beginning of the year I was really excited about getting him. Now that he’s shown that he’s as shaky as a maraca in closing situations, I just don’t care about him. He’s no Bruce Sutter (he’s barely Dick Tidrow), but neither is he El Pulpo.

The rest of the bullpen guys are just too dicey to comment on. I have high hopes for John Liecester and Wellemeyer. These two dudes should help us save some money on the bullpen next year.

All in all, I feel darn good about the Cubs’ chances of hanging on to the ugly stepsister spot for the playoffs. It’s amazing what a tonic a three-game home series sweep of a second division team is for an ailing soul.

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