It seems like a countdown to seasons end, right? It’s not just that I can’t stand to watch this team at the moment, even though I haven’t tuned into a game for at least a week, it’s more along the lines of excitement for the future. I just want this season to finish so we can start with a clean slate. One has to be excited to see what management will do next to bolster this roster for the present and down the road a bit.
In watching from afar, which means reading the box scores and the articles across the web coupled with the random highlight here and there, I find it the best way to follow at this point. I managed to waste a few hours watching the Nationals series last week and decided that it was safe to “mail it in” for the actual TV viewing of Cub games this season. I will make my last pilgrimage of the year to Wrigley on Friday to see the team take on the Bucs. It acts as a finale of sorts to the long 2012 season.
Anyhow, we have twenty games left and I am hopeful that this team can avoid the 100 loss mark. If we can win 8 games that gets us to 99 losses. The last time the Cubs saw a 100 loss season was 1966. They recorded 103 losses and to this day I can’t figure out how a team with Banks, Santo, and Williams lost 103 games. I will leave it up to a few of the more “experienced” VFTB readers to give us their first hand glimpse of what went down that season. Was the rest of the team breathing that year? What happened?
*That same lineup was rounded out with the likes of Glenn Beckert, Don Kessinger, and Randy Hundley…not exactly chopped liver.
Alas, if we don’t finish the season strong and we do hit that 100 mark, we can always look back in history to find a positive. The 1967 team saw a turn for the better. They ended the season with a 87-74 record and a third place finish overall in the ten team National League. Now, you might be asking yourself, who were the the big bats that the Cubs signed to right the ship? However, it wasn’t bats at all, it was almost a carbon copy of the same starting lineup from the previous 103 loss year. You guessed it, they got some pitching!
The 1966 season saw the Cubs roll out a cornucopia of below average starting pitching. Ken Holtzman and an aging Ernie Broglio were the only notables on the starting staff until a newly acquired (they got him after the season started in a trade with the Phillies), and relatively unknown, Fergie Jenkins made a few starts.
The 1967 season, coincidentally, was the year Jenkins made a name for himself. In his first full season as a starter he won 20 games. It would be his first 20 win season in a streak that spanned six straight. The Cubs bolstered the starting staff with Joe Niekro and Rich Nye. Serving in the National Guard and pitching on random weekend dates, Ken Holtzman only started 12 games during the ’67 season but his record was 9-0.
*the last sentence of the above paragraph could probably serve as a catalyst to a whole other post on the “how things have changed since then” topic.
The same nucleus of players then went on a tear for about six straight seasons that saw the Cubs finish second or third in the National League each year. Too bad there were no playoffs for most of that run. In the famous words of Ricky Bobby (and the Major Leagues at that time), “If your not first, your last!”
The only thing that makes me shutter a bit in regards to this teams future is the lack of pitching, either at the MLB level or in the minors. The Cubs don’t seem to have a pitcher that registers as a true ace in the making. If you don’t believe me check out Norm’s post on our Minor League pitching prospects…the cupboard is pretty bare. You can’t win a championship with a staff of 4’s and 5’s.
I want to believe that Almora, Baez, Soler, Jackson, Rizzo, and Castro will make for wonderful lineups in the years to come but history, and common baseball sense, makes me say….wake me when we get more pitching.