This season has started quite poorly for the Cubs. Be it errors, a lack of offense, or the clowns paid to sit in the bullpen and blow games, the Cubs find a way to lose nearly every day. There was a time, though, when the Cubs lost EVERY day…or at least every day they played.
Return From The Strike
The Cubs started the post-strike era with many new faces, including manager Jim Riggleman. He was brought in to replace Tom Treblehorn after the 1994 season. The 1995 Cubs were nothing to write home about, but they did have 30-30 man Sammy Sosa. Finishing 73-71 they were mathematically in the race right to the season’s final series eventually losing the Wild Card to the Rockies and finishing just behind the Astros for 3rd place in the Central. That performance helped coax Ryne Sandberg out of retirement for the 1996 season. On paper the Cubs were set to be better in ’96, but some bad breaks along the way saddled them with a 76-86 record (that Bill James says should’ve been 81-81). So the Cubs got a bit younger during 1997, mixing in youth at several positions – most notably 3B Kevin Orie.
But Terry Mulholland got the ball on Opening Day, and that should’ve been a massive warning sign. He was charged with beating the Florida Marlins, a franchise that had loaded up on free agents and turned the team over to new manager Jim Leyland. The Cubs lost that first game to Kevin Brown and the Marlins, but they couldn’t have imagined their losing would continue uninterrupted for so long. The went on to lose 4-2, 4-3, and 8-2 in a sweep at the hands of the eventual World Series Champion Marlins – they never led in the series. In fact, the Cubs would not hold a lead until the 6th inning of the season’s 4th game. They promptly gave it right back in the bottom of the inning. They’d go on to lose that game to the Braves with the help of an untimely error from the SS and a crappy appearance by the washed up bullpen. This is still 1997 we’re talking about, even though it might seem like 2013.
The Braves would finish off the sweep with wins of 11-5 and a 4-0 shutout. With the lovely MLB schedule, the Cubs found themselves then playing their home opener against the very same Florida Marlins. This time it was a 5-3 loss, followed two days later (another scheduling stroke of genius) by a 1-0 shutout. When the Braves followed the Marlins into Wrigley Field, Cubs fans wanted no part of déjà vu. But that’s what they got; a 2-1 loss followed by a 6-4 defeat leaving the Cubs with a horrific 0-10 to start the season. Yes, all the losses came to the eventual World Series Champion and the team that won the Marlins division in the regular season.
So when the Rockies came to town on April 15th, the Cubs were happy to see a new opponent; and possibly register their first victory. Instead they got a 10-7 defeat followed by a 4-0 shutout. Another new opponent would be needed if the Cubs were to win a game. But the Mets came to town and brought rain with them; the rainout provided the Cubs an extra day to mull over their 0-12 start. It also was the opportunity they needed to finally record a victory. But the Cubs lost the first game of the series 6-3 and the first game of the re-scheduled doubleheader 8-2. At 0-14, the Cubs went into the nightcap with very little hope and even fewer fans. Only a paid attendance of 18,484 saw the Cubs score 2 in the sixth and 2 in the seventh on their way to beating the Mets and Dave Mlicki 4-3. There would be some anxious moments when Turk Wendell couldn’t find the strike zone, surrendered two runs, and ended only closed out the game when the tying run stood at second base – but it was a victory nonetheless.
It took 20 days to lose 14 games and get that first win. Over the following 20 days, the Cubs would go 9-10. After the initial losing streak ended, that team went 67-80 the rest of the way, so just remember there’s a lot of baseball still to be played.