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“In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.” ~ The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera.

Late last week, Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano was set to come back from the disabled list. This was great news for the team, but could be bad news for someone else on the roster. When one comes, one goes. The odd man out was obvious given that he hadn’t pitched in two weeks: Rule V pick David Patton.

The catch, of course, is that if the Cubs do anything other than leave him on the 25-man roster, they have to offer him back to the Colorado Rockies. So saying goodbye to the young man really did mean saying goodbye. But such are the decisions that have to be made to make the Major League team a winner. Goodbye, David Patton.

And then, somehow, he stayed. Somehow, fellow Cubs pitcher Rich Harden was injured, despite no prior indications of harm, and Patton could remain.

Lou Piniella’s doghouse is better characterized as a black hole. And that’s where David Patton currently hangs his hat.

Things went South for Patton in a late April appearance against the Cardinals. He loaded the bases in front of Albert Pujols, and Pujols did what he does: he sent a 440 foot bomb out of the place. Of the performance, Piniella’s words cut like razor wire:  “You can’t walk people in front of Pujols,” Piniella said. “You might be able to do that in Modesto, but over here, I would suggest not.”

And that was that. Patton hasn’t seen the light of day ever since (well, not literally, of course – until last night, he hadn’t pitched since May 9; though, from the look of him, I can see how you might think he literally had not seen the Sun in some many months).

So what are the Cubs doing with the young man? It is clear that he will never cross back over the event horizon – short of a near emergency or long, high scoring game like last night, Lou Piniella will never again use him for anything other than backpack carrying duty. Clearly, he is forcing Jim Hendry’s hand.

Such heavy-handed tactics usually precipitate a feeling of anger in me, but this time, Piniella is right. Patton is not ready to help the Chicago Cubs this year. It is unfortunate that this is the only year he has as far as the Cubs are concerned, but this is the only year the Cubs have as far as I am concerned. That means that each day, I want the 25 best players out there, ready, and able to contribute to a winner this year.

David Patton is not one of those 25. Though he hasn’t been horrible – an ERA a shade over 8, but in just 12.1 innings – he hasn’t shown anything that would force me to believe he’s better for this year’s bullpen than, say, Jeff Samardzija or Jeff Stevens or Kevin Hart.

This may be his only time around the Sun with the Chicago Cubs, but he is not going to help them win. His impact on the 2009 Chicago Cubs is and will always be insignificant. At most, his impact could be, in a word, light. And the persistent pang of knowing that the spot he is taking could be filled with another bat for the bench, for example, is growing increasingly unbearable (aaaaand the heady conceit is revealed – yup, I’m a pretentious nerd).

It’s not personal, David. But I’m selfish, and I’d like this year to mean something. Best of luck.

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