Hello, Sports Fans, we’re at the All Star Break and I am here with the National League standings at the half. The Chicago Cubs are a half a game out of first! No, I’m not dreaming or demented. They are in first place for next year’s draft pick selection, which means that they have one of the worst records in all of baseball. All they need to do to walk away with the title is to keep up the pace, lose one hundred games this year. They could pull it off. Their only competition would come from the San Diego Padres who are playing as dismally as the Cubs. The only difference is that for the Cubs losing is historic; it is not cyclical.
I’ve always been a Cubs fan. I’ve tried to quit but I can’t. After spending my youth watching the games on WGN, I think the whole matter deserves some thought because losing is part of our culture, and because of this, we are blessed. The Cubs’ losses are a sign of our abundance; a sign of our excess (of loss) and plenitude. How else we give meaning to a century of failure, our failure, the Cubs’ failure, an American failure?
I used to think differently. Like my father before me, I was a Die-Hard Cub fan. I’d attribute the annual collapse to the ineptitude of the Cubs’ GM who, in his infinite wisdom, thought he had a system to beat the odds. Like my old man, I could go on for hours about Theo Epstein, Tom Rickettes, Jim Hendry, or Scott Boras; his rants would cover play-by-play, balls-and-strikes, and screw ups on the field as well as the squabbles over free-agency and the amateur draft. To us, the Cubs were experts in making the bad decisions and bad trades.
To some extent, this was true. After all, this was the team that traded away Hall of Famer Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals, a guy who went on to set a record for stolen bases and collect more than 3000 hits. The Cubs picked up Ernie Broglio in return, a guy who promptly went 7 and 19 for the home team. In my time as a fan, the Cub management traded away third-baseman Bill Madlock after he won two consecutive batting titles; they dealt relief pitcher Bruce Sutter, one of the select few to ever throw a nine-pitch inning, and they also traded away sluggers like Rafael Palmiero and Joe Carter and another top-notch relief pitcher like Lee Smith. In the latter trade the home team came away with Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi, both went back to selling used cars after a few seasons. And, how many of you out there recall starting pitcher Anthony Young? He went 1 and 16 for the Mets before the Cubs picked him up. To this day, he holds the record for consecutive losses for a pitcher. The poor slob went 0 and 22 before he finally got the big W. (In all fairness, Young had did have 12 straight saves in the same stretch.)
Then, there were the non-deals: the guys the Cubs should have signed but didn’t: Greg Maddox, Bill Buckner, Mark Grace, Andre Dawson and Kenny Lofton. We should all forget about the Mookie Wilson ground ball in the World Series; first-basemen Bill Buckner had over 2700 career hits, which is more that some Hall of Famers have. He was great with the Cubs. And, Greg Maddox was the winningest pitcher in baseball for a decade, a future Hall of Famer, and they let him go. After a shot at the pennant, the Cubs let Kenny Lofton go in 2003 and replaced him with Cory Patterson, a guy who never lived up to his potential.
The management also did their best to acquired ball players who were well past their primes: Dennis Eckersly, the Hall of Fame relief pitcher, was drunk most of the time when he played for Chicago; Nomar Garciaparra; Ken Holtzman, and Goose Gossage, and a few former Cubs just came back to the team as if it were old-timers day, a nice way to close out their careers.
To be continued…
Crossposted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy: http://jimmygabacho.com/?p=827