Link to a ThroughTheFenceBaseball piece

I wrote this piece last night, and coined the term “#KickAstros” to describe the Cubs potentially sweeping the Houston Astros in the final three games of the season.

It’s ironic that all year I’ve talked about the Double Triple concept that I created a year ago, and now, just when people are starting to make their peace with it, I pull back and want them to win instead. I’m a fan, first, last, and always. Like Pete Rose told me once, “the burgers taste better when you win.”

So I’m looking forward to some tasty burgers for the next couple of days. After all, there’s a long, burgerless offseason up ahead.

Countdown to #Cubs #DoubleTriple at 37 losses

The Cubs lost again today, and dealt away Kosuke Fukudome to the Indians. Let the dismantling begin. And let the tour through the 1970s continue. How time flies when the Cubs are losing.

1974 San Diego Padres

Expansion team: No

Overall record: 60-102

# of win streaks of 3 games or more: Six

Manager(s): John McNamara

Hall of Famers on roster: Willie McCovey, Dave Winfield

100 loss seasons since: 1993

Pennant wins since: 1984; 1998

The Padres are the closest thing to a regular in these pages, since they are already being highlighted for the fourth time here, in only six years of existence as a franchise. Doing this countdown has made me realize how hard it was for the Padres to get established in the Majors.

I now realize that this team–which suffered so much back in the 1970s– has since made it to the World Series, twice. They haven’t yet won it, but that’s still two more times than I’ve ever seen, and my hat is off to them for the accomplishment. The Cubs’ ongoing failures are magnified when they are put next to the Padres and some other franchises that are still decades away at this point in time.

I spoke of Dave Winfield in the last post here, and the team also featured Willie McCovey, who was 36 and on the downside of his career. The team had a fighting chance to avoid 100 losses, if not for two teams in their own division. The Padres went 2-16 against the Dodgers, and 1-17 against the Atlanta Braves, for a combined winning percentage of  .083. A team would have to tear up the rest of the league to overcome that, and the Padres couldn’t do it.

On the bright side,  the San Diego Chicken did make its debut this season, and the team would also win the National League pennant only ten years later. I’ve written about that here if you’re interested.

The 1970s are half over now, and the next Cubs loss will bring us to the epochal year of 1975. The year it all changed for me, personally. Should be fun to write about when the time comes.

Countdown to #Cubs #DoubleTriple now at 40 losses

The Cubs lost again today, and had to survive blast furnace conditions at Wrigley Field to do it. And if today’s announced attendance of 38,000+ souls are really foolish enough to go to the ballpark in these conditions, humanity is in bigger trouble than I thought. But at least the journey through baseball in the 1970s can resume. Today’s focus is on 1971, when two teams hit the century mark in losses.

1971 Cleveland Indians

Expansion team: No

Overall record: 60-102

# of win streaks of 3 games or more: Eight

Manager(s): Alvin Dark, Johnny Lipon

Hall of Famers on roster: None

100 loss seasons since: 1985; 1987; 1991

Pennant wins since: 1995; 1997

Cubs fans do indeed have it bad when it comes to losing. But at least we aren’t as starved for a championship as those poor souls in Cleveland. Their baseball drought of 62 years is the second-longest active streak, but add to that the Browns (who have never won a Super Bowl) and the Cavs (who have never won an NBA title), and you’ve really got some serious misery going on.

The Indians fired manager Alvin Dark in late July, hoping that a team that was nearly 20 games under .500 could be resurrected with some new blood in the dugout. It didn’t work, though, as Dark’s replacement, Johnny Lipon, suffered through an 18-41 finish. Alvin Dark later won two World Series managing the Oakland A’s, but Lipon never managed in the majors again. The Indians will now take some time off from the 100 loss club, but they’ll be back a few more times before we’re finished with this exercise.

1971 San Diego Padres

Expansion team: No

Overall record: 61-100

# of win streaks of 3 games or more: Four

Manager(s): Preston Gomez

Hall of Famers on roster: None

100 loss seasons since: 1973; 1974; 1993

Pennant wins since: 1984; 1998

I’ve been through the whole 1984 thing with the Padres elsewhere, so there’s no need to rehash it here. The Padres were no longer an expansion team per se in 1971, but they weren’t yet established as a winning franchise, either. Preston Gomez finished out this season as the Padres’ manager, but was fired just 11 games into the 1972 season. Three full seasons of 99 or more losses will do that for a manager, even with a new franchise. We have now seen the last of him in these posts, but he turned up in a few other big league jobs, including a stint managing the Cubs during the 1980 season.

Note: The image above is of Satchel Paige, who did not play on either of these teams, but did play for the Cleveland Indians in the late 1940s, and was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.

Countdown to the #DoubleTriple

The second part of the baseball season begins tonight. Many teams, perhaps even most teams, still have something to play for, whether it’s a division title or a chance at a wild card berth. My team, the Chicago Cubs, isn’t so lucky. They ended the first part of the season at 18 games below the breakeven point (and since it’s a bit more than the 81 games that makes up a “half” of the schedule, I’m just calling them “parts” instead). With 70 games left, the Cubs find themselves 45 losses away from 100 on the season.

I explained a couple of posts ago why that’s significant. For as much as people have identified the Cubs with losing in recent years (ever since 1945, really), they haven’t lost 100 games in a season since 1966. I was born a couple of years after that, meaning that I have not seen the Cubs lose 100 games in a season before. And, even though it means rooting for losses over the second part of the season, I’m willing to do that because the other alternative–a playoff berth–is not going to happen. A team that cannot win four straight games has no business believing that playoffs are in their future. Time to face facts about that.

I wanted to find a way to commemorate the Cubs’ march toward infamy. True, other teams have lost 100 games in a season before, and more franchises have suffered this ignomity over the past 44 years than have avoided it. I won’t say that this team will set any historic loss records for the rest of this season. The 120 losses that the Mets suffered in their expansion year is probably safe for this year. At least from the Cubs, it is. I’m not sure about Houston, though.

What I am saying is that none of the 100 loss seasons ever happened to a team that had also gone 100 years or more without a World Series title. Let’s face it, if any other team gets to that point, I–and anyone who can read this blog–will not be around to see it.

So, since the Cubs are already halfway home to what I am calling the #DoubleTriple, I’m going to call attention to losses that pull the team closer to the second half of this unprecedented feat. And here’s how I’ll do it:

I am going to start in 1967, which is the first season after the Cubs’ last 100 loss season (but keep in mind their championship drought was a mere 61 years at that time). The next Cubs loss will trigger an examination of the team that lost 100 or more games that season. Some years had zero teams with that many losses, while one season had four teams hit that level of futility. Each of the teams from that year will be looked at in some way or another. And if there weren’t any teams, I reserve the right to blather on about any baseball and losing-related topic that comes to mind. And trust me, I can be really creative on that front.

So as the losses mount up, the present day will get closer and closer. With loss #40, for example, 100-loss teams (there were two of them) from 2006 will be profiled. One has since gotten better, and one really has not. That’s what will make this interesting, for myself and anyone who wants to read this.

With loss #45, the year 2011 will kick in, and the Cubs will likely find themselves sharing a column with the Houston Astros, who are (and probably will remain) the only team worse than the Cubs this year. They have never lost 100 games before, and certainly not in the timeframe I’ll be discussing. Some franchises make multiple appearances, and some won’t appear at all. But I’ll keep going until the 100 threshhold is reached. What happens if the losses keep coming after that? I’m sure I can think of something.

Understand that I’m not a Cubs hater, wishing bad things on the team I’ve followed since I was seven years old. On the contrary, I love this team. The front office suits want to promote the Cubs as a “brand,” but I have danced when this team has won, and I have sat dumbstruck when they have lost. And I’ll keep coming back as long as I’m on this earth, because I love Chicago and I love baseball and I love the National League style of play. Where else am I gonna go?

But, having said all of that, I’m not going to shy away from what may end up as a historic season within an already historic championship drought. I truly want to see that, rather than playing .500 ball and having Jim Hendry back to cause even greater damage next year.  I don’t want Mike Quade back either, but until the Cubs remove Jim Hendry as General Manager, this team will continue on a downward spiral. I’m quite confident that his lack of results speak for themselves in this regard. How many World Series wins have come during Hendry’s tenure? Zero. And that’s all that really matters to this fan.

So first up, with the next Cubs’ loss, will be 1967. I reserve the right to write about topics other than the Cubs as inspiration strikes, but I’m certain this will dominate the postings from here until the season ends on September 28. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Here’s how the Cubs can make baseball history in 2012

Who knows losing better than the Cubs? Ask anybody to play word association between a baseball franchise and the word “losers” and at least 90% will say Cubs. And the 10% who wouldn’t just don’t know anything about baseball.

And yet, for all that mediocrity, the gold standard of ineptitude–the 100-loss season–has eluded the Cubs throughout my entire lifetime. So, even though I know losing as well as anybody else, I kind of want to know what that feels like.

The Cubs have only lost 100 games or more in 2 seasons: 1962 and 1966. Both of these happened before the Cubs passed the century mark in years without a World Series win back in 2008. So, with the century mark for a single season now within reach, this could be the first time that a professional sports team with a 100 year championship drought could also lose that many games. It could only happen in baseball, and only to the Cubs. So why not revel in it?

I’m calling this the “double triple” because it turns the basketball term of a “triple double” on its head. Rather than one player having a really good game, this achievement would mark the low water point for a team in the history of professional sports. And who could be afraid of that?

All of the “good” Cubs fans would probably shake their heads in disgust at the idea of wanting their team to lose. Words to the effect of “Let’s let the young kids develop and not get their egos bruised by losing so much.” But you know what? These are professional athletes. They cash those paychecks whether they win or lose. Shed no tears for them.

“But where’s your team pride?” others might say. Let it be said that being a Cubs fan is not about being proud. The first Cubs game that I ever watched on TV, back in 1975, was a 22-0 loss at home. And the very week that I was born, in June of 1968, the Cubs didn’t score a single run for 48 straight innings, which no other team has even come close to since then. So please don’t talk to me about pride.

I can think of three things that I have not seen from the Cubs in my lifetime: being no-hit by another team (which happened to them twice back in 1965), playing in the World Series, and losing 100 games in a single season.

The World Series won’t happen this year. The no-hitter could happen at any time, and A.J. Burnett recently came very, very close. When it does happen, it will just confirm the level of ineptitude of this year’s team, or whichever year’s team it finally happens to. That’s only 27 outs over the course of a few hours, though. But losing a hundred games? That’s about to happen. It would take something remarkable to prevent it, at this point.

If the Cubs win at least one game in Arizona this weekend, and then sweep an otherwise meaningless series with the Astros next week in Wrigley Field, they’ll narrowly avoid 100 losses on the season. Anything less than that, and the Double Triple is a reality. If the losing is going to come, then let’s have those losses at least count toward something.

As Aerosmith says, you’ve got to lose to know how to win. And if that’s true, the Cubs should have some serious winning in their future. But for now, this year’s team could set a futility mark that we’ll all laugh about someday. So Cubs fans like myself will just have to Dream On beginning–as always–with next year.