Derrek Lee's sporting a hydrogen-powered BMW.
Rejoice, Cubs fans. Derrek Lee has discovered a new power source.
I know what you’re thinking: It’s about time. Prisoners go over the fence more often than the Cubs in general and Lee in particular have this season.
I’d guess you’re wondering: So, what is it? Cork? Spinach? A syringe full of Flubber?
Well, it can be injected. Fuel injected, that is.
But, truth be told, that’s not the platform BMW is hoping people remember if they spy Lee behind the wheel of the sedan the automaker has lent the first baseman for the week. And they absolutely do hope the Cubs star is noticed.
“That’s the idea,” Lee said, “to attract attention.”
So, this week, Lee is tooling about town in a hydrogen-powered version of the ultimate driving machine. In order to make sure the world knows it, his Beamer is sporting huge decals over its sides, touting “Clean Energy: Powered by Hydrogen.”
Perhaps it is not the sort of alternative energy fans were hoping Lee would tap into at this stage of the season. But it ought to do nothing to diminish Lee’s image as one of the nice guy stars of the game.
After all, energy conservation to some ballplayers means sending the clubby to gas up your Hummer. So, is Lee going green beneath his Cubby blue?
“Honestly, no,” Lee said. “But, I think, at some point we need to become independent for our energy sources. Things like this help. But I’m not a green guy.”
Still, Lee managed to drop the phrase “eco-friendly” into a brief chat about the BMW Hydrogen 7 Sedan, which, when running in hydrogen mode, produces essentially zero emissions.
Earlier this month, BMW began its program to raise consciousness about hydrogen-powered cars by turning one of the 100 Hydrogen 7s it has produced over to actor Will Ferrell. BMW’s hydrogen cars had previously been used to ferry megawatt types such as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Richard Gere and Sharon Stone to individual events, but Ferrell was the first to get one for extended use.
Of course, California has 22 hydrogen filling stations. The Chicago area isn’t so equipped as yet, so Lee is only keeping his ride until through the Cubs’ current homestand, which not coincidentally ends as the BMW Championship is beginning Thursday at Cog Hill.
“I won’t ever fill it up,” Lee said. “They just asked me to drive it around, to promote it.”
More important for the Cubs, somebody finally did something to promote the idea that their seasonlong energy crisis might be on the wane when Matt Murton and Alfonso Soriano had back-to-back homers to give them a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning of their last scheduled game of the season with Milwaukee.
Earlier, Lou Piniella was hesitant to hope for such an outburst, though he did allow he had a “funny feeling” the club would start hitting against lefty starters such as Milwaukee’s Manny Parra, whom they faced Thursday. Asked if he had any additional funny feelings about hitting homers, Piniella said, “Um, no, I really don’t.”
“I do know that the capabilities are here to hit them in bunches,” Piniella said. “They really are, if you look at our lineup.”
In his last healthy season, 2005, Lee hit 46 homers. This season, he entered Thursday’s action on a pace for 19.
Aramis Ramirez and Soriano were each on a pace for 22 after hitting 38 and 46, respectively, in ’06. Cliff Floyd and Jacque Jones, players with long histories of above-average power, were on a pace for six homers each.
“A home run is the last thing you think about,” Lee said. “You go up there thinking about having a good at-bat, trying to hit the ball hard. If it goes out of the ballpark, great.
“But it’s been a weird year for home runs. We haven’t hit a lot. I haven’t hit a lot. But I don’t really concern myself with it. Winning is all that matters.”
Through Thursday, the Cubs have been outhomered 70-59 at Wrigley, where they had a 35-32 record. They and their mildly green first baseman are in first place.
The Brewers, who lead the major leagues in homers, are in second, green with envy.
Phil Arvia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (708) 633-5949. Read his blog at http://blogs.dailysouthtown.com/arvia