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July 2014

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COMMENTS

Buried By the 4th of July

Written by , Posted in General

Summer vacation when I was a kid meant playing baseball every day…literally every day.  I am sure you younglings (…you know, in your thirties) have heard this before…from grumpy old curmudgeons like myself.  Atari didn’t arrive until the late 70’s, and even when it did…the sports games (how can I say this?…sucked!), so we still preferred going outside and playing the real thing.  We played 1 on 1, 2 on 2, and 3 on 3…whatever we had.  We creatively game up with ways to adapt; the prototypical one field out (not really the best for developing hitters), estimation ball (this was for one on one match-ups, pitcher and hitter would estimate what the ball in play would be…a hit or an out…yes, it did cause a few arguments), and my favorite option of limited numbers baseball…a Series.

We needed at least two on two for a “Series”, but the general parameters were this; we would play a best of 7 World Series of 3 inning games…with one team picking an American League team and the other selecting a team from the Senior Circuit.  Playing these “series” may be one of my fondest childhood memories; there was no finer way to spend a summer afternoon. Play a series, go for a swim and then hopefully repeat the process the next day.

There was one slight problem with this…my brothers and my neighborhood buddies were all serious baseball fans…and we were sticklers for realism.  Therefore when we would select a team to pretend to be in these little pseudo-series…it had to be a team that was currently a contender.

Guess which team this usually eliminated, and was not considered a realistic choice?

When doing the research for this piece, it really took me back to the process I went through while writing my book. (Details on a July “special” at the end of this column!) While coming up with 105(logical and rational) reasons why the Cubs have not won a World Series in 105 years, I would come up with a theory…do the research on the awesome baseballreference.com, and then get a huge sense of reward at how well the research backed up my theory.   I felt the same satisfaction while completing this piece.

That pounding of the Red Sox was enjoying…and the young guys are knocking at the door…and things may be trending up for the Cubs.  Yet, as far as the 2014 season…the fact is here on July 4th, at best the Cubs will be 8 games under .500 and 11.5 games out of 1st place.  If my buddies and I went out and had a Series today…we wouldn’t be able to choose the Cubs.

These thoughts lead me to examine the Cubs historical positioning on the 4th of July.  I decided to use 1969 as year 1 of my study for a couple reasons; the first, while not the Cubs’ entire history, it provides 45 seasons of evidence. The second; Cubs’ history prior to that are pretty easy to sum up…the Cubs were competitive in the 20’s, really, really good in the 30’s, and just dreadfully rotten from 1945-1967.  Consequently, I began with 1969 and researched where the Cubs stood every year up until 2014 on the 4th of July.  Caution…an alcoholic beverage or an anti-depressant may be required after reading this.

1.     How many times since 1969, have the Cubs been in 1st place on July 4th?

The answer to question 1 is…6 times. Wow, that’s 13 percent! A .130 average…only a little worse than Mike Olt!  The years:

1969       53-28       7.5 game lead                     1984        45-35       1 game lead           

1973      49-34         6 game lead                        2001        48-34       4 game lead

1977      48-28         4 game lead                                   2008         52-35       2.5 game lead

So the first year of our study…46 years ago…is the best.

That’s not a good start.

2.     Okay, so we now know they are rarely in 1st place on July 4th…how about contending? How about seasons where they were within 5 games of 1st place on July 4th?

Including the 6 seasons in which they were actually in 1st place, there have been 16 seasons of the 46 where the Cubs are within 5 games of 1st. (debatably contending) That’s almost 35 percent…an average of .347! Of course that puts the average of not-contending at .652.

3.     Forget standings…how many times have the Cubs been at, our above .500 on July 4th?

As expected, there is a direct correlation here with the last question, but the answer is 17.  Captain Obvious here…but a winning record helps a team contend.  Unfortunately, the Cubs have only had a winning record on July 4th in 37 percent of the seasons since 1969.

4.     Okay…now for some ugliness. How many times have the Cubs been at least 10 games below .500 on July 4th?

17 times of the last 46 seasons the Cubs have been 10 games under the .500 mark on July 4th.  So if we combine that with the 17 seasons where the Cubs were over .500, it displays to us that in 34 of the 46 seasons the Cubs were either in it…or pretty bad.

5.     In how many of those seasons were the Cubs already at least 10 games out of 1st place by July 4th?

Another direct correlation, as the number is 17…but how about this ugliness?

1976   31-46   22.5 games out, 1981(strike year) 15-37 17.5 games out, 1986  31-46 24 games out, 2000 33-49 16 games out…ugh!

One more way to look at this atrociousness:

Years in which the Cubs were in 1st place on July 4th:  6

Years in which the Cubs were at least 15 games out of 1st place on July 4th:  8

So what does all of this “Cubs on July 4th research” tell us? They are rarely in first, they infrequently contend, and more often they are completely out of it.

Yes, it’s a bit depressing….but now for the proverbial silver linings which we Cubs’ fans always have to search for; I think the current front office is well aware of this history…and are attempting to build an organization that is not as feast or famine(mostly famine) as the Cubs have been.  I am a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan, and of course I was upset when they lost the heart-breaking series to the L.A. Kings. Nonetheless, it did not devastate me as Cubs’ losses have historically done. I know with the current state of the Hawks’ organization they will be Cup contenders for years to come.  The Cubs’ failures have a different feel…Cubs’ fans sense that a blown play-off opportunity means the next chance will most likely be years away…and historically they have been correct.

I do believe the team is on the path to consistent contending, but I doubt any kids will be choosing the team when playing a “series” with their neighborhood buddies.

But!…the team will be much better to play with on PlayStation 5, 6 and 7 and all future inclinations of X-Box….that’s progress.


Authors’ note:

If you would like to join the hundreds (okay…it’s probably thousands now) of Cubs fans who have enjoyed my book I will be selling them directly from home during the month of July.  You see, we starving artist types make very little from Amazon, and selling directly is more profitable.  I have two different promos I am running.

1.      A copy of the updated 105 version for $15.99…$16.00 with personalized inscription! (shipping included!)

2.     Buy a copy of 105 and get the 104 version for a total of 18.99…$19.00 with 2 inscriptions! (shipping included!)…keep the 105, and gift the first addition to an in-law that’s a Cubs’ fan

My web-site should be up and running (finally) in a couple of weeks; but if interested the easiest way is to email me at BBCG105Reasons@yahoo.com, or if you follow me on twitter @BBCG105Reasons…contact me directl

Finally, here is a link to the book on Amazon

  • Doc Raker

    I am watching the Cubs on MLB Network which has the Nats feed. The Nats broadcasters are great, they really do a good job at breaking down Jason Hammel’s approach and the hitters approach. It really keeps you engaged with the game pitch to pitch. You can contrast the drivel coming out of Len by just flipping over to WGN but why would you do that unless you need to be convinced of just how bad he is. Happy 4th of July.

    Sign my petition, Fire Len Kasper.

    • PLCB3

      He was asking what would happen if someone rounded 2B on a fly ball, didn’t retouch the bag and the throw went out of play

      • Darlin_Starlin

        That sounds like a legitimate question.

      • PLCB3

        Before that he was asking how to score a base runner advancing because of a dropped 3rd strike throw to first. Fielders choice because a throw to first needs to be made, or wild pitch/passed ball?

      • PLCB3

        He was like could they still appeal at 2nd base?

  • Doc Raker

    I am watching the Cubs on MLB Network which has the Nats feed. The Nats broadcasters are great, they really do a good job at breaking down Jason Hammel’s approach and the hitters approach. It really keeps you engaged with the game pitch to pitch. You can contrast the drivel coming out of Len by just flipping over to WGN but why would you do that unless you need to be convinced of just how bad he is. Happy 4th of July.

    Sign my petition, Fire Len Kasper.

    • AC0000000

      He was asking what would happen if someone rounded 2B on a fly ball, didn’t retouch the bag and the throw went out of play

      • Darlin_Starlin

        That sounds like a legitimate question.

  • Monty

    This blog used to be my favorite Cubbies discussion but the last last few months things have gone downhill. Now it seems it’s just a forum to plug one’s book or Podcast. Really, there’s exciting baseball going on, has anyone noticed the Cub’s bullpen lately, what’s going on down on the farm? There’s the trade deadline coming up. Really don’t care about your fantasy baseball video game results. In the spirit of the 4th of July I’ll agree it’s your right to run this forum in the manner of your choosing and I’ll exercise my right to check out.

    • Doc Raker

      Cubs baseball has been pretty darn good of late, they are 25-19 since the middle of May. They really aren’t that far from contending. How Thed has picked up pitchers on the cusp of breaking out is really remarkable and the fine young bullpen is a very pleasant surprise. When you watch the opposing broadcast you get an honest scouting report on your team and opposing broadcasters are very complimentary of our pitching staff. The Nat’s broadcasters today said of our starting pitcher Hammel’s, “Hard to believe this guy wasn’t good enough to stick with the Orioles? He sure looks good today.” They went on to chat about how he is finally healthy which brings me back to what a great pick up Hammel’s was on the cusp of getting heathly. Just like T Wood and J Arrieta. Nice work Cubs front office.

      Please sign my petition: Fire Len Kasper

  • Monty

    This blog used to be my favorite Cubbies discussion but the last last few months things have gone downhill. Now it seems it’s just a forum to plug one’s book or Podcast. Really, there’s exciting baseball going on, has anyone noticed the Cub’s bullpen lately, what’s going on down on the farm? There’s the trade deadline coming up. Really don’t care about your fantasy baseball video game results. In the spirit of the 4th of July I’ll agree it’s your right to run this forum in the manner of your choosing and I’ll exercise my right to check out.

    • Doc Raker

      Cubs baseball has been pretty darn good of late, they are 25-19 since the middle of May. They really aren’t that far from contending. How Thed has picked up pitchers on the cusp of breaking out is really remarkable and the fine young bullpen is a very pleasant surprise. When you watch the opposing broadcast you get an honest scouting report on your team and opposing broadcasters are very complimentary of our pitching staff. The Nat’s broadcasters today said of our starting pitcher Hammel’s, “Hard to believe this guy wasn’t good enough to stick with the Orioles? He sure looks good today.” They went on to chat about how he is finally healthy which brings me back to what a great pick up Hammel’s was on the cusp of getting heathly. Just like T Wood and J Arrieta. Nice work Cubs front office.

      Please sign my petition: Fire Len Kasper

  • Dork

    The last month has been more encouraging. Watching the I cubs and the mlb team is plying better. I think this team is close, excited to see what wada can do on Tuesday

  • Doc Raker

    Pitchers hand out- right field closed- pitch from 3rd base line to lefty hitters- indian outs- all good fun when growing up.

    • BBCG: 105 Reasons

      “sting ray” with whiffle balls….if you hit the runner he’s out….

    • PLCB3

      My brother and I used ghost runners for the bases. But we didn’t have a big fight over ghost fielders like Calvin and Hobbes did.

      • Doc Raker

        Automatic runner we used to call it.

      • PLCB3

        Say there is a ghost runner at first. How do you decide of he is safe or out at 2nd? We would decide by the batter-runner. If the batter-runner got to first before 2nd base was tagged, safe at 2nd. If not, out.

  • Doc Raker

    Pitchers hand out- right field closed- pitch from 3rd base line to lefty hitters- indian outs- all good fun when growing up.

    • BBCG: 105 Reasons

      “sting ray” with whiffle balls….if you hit the runner he’s out….

    • AC0000000

      My brother and I used ghost runners for the bases. But we didn’t have a big fight over ghost fielders like Calvin and Hobbes did.

      • Doc Raker

        Automatic runner we used to call it.

      • AC0000000

        Say there is a ghost runner at first. How do you decide of he is safe or out at 2nd? We would decide by the batter-runner. If the batter-runner got to first before 2nd base was tagged, safe at 2nd. If not, out.

  • lifepainter

    We used to make a strike zone out of paper plates and you had to hit three of the plates to get the batter out. This was purely a pitching game that taught the pitcher how to throw his fastball to location. The longer I played the game the better I became good at locationing a breaking pitch to a spot also. I played baseball year around for several years, sometimes just wiffle ball in the machine shed on the farm between the equipment on a cold South Dakota winter day. I still pitch batting practice a couple of times a week for a local town team and throw during the winter in my basement against an old matress. I quit playing South Dakota Amatuer league baseball in 2010 at age 48. If my current job didn’t demand 60-70 hrs a week and 6-7 days a week I would think about playing again.

    • Doc Raker

      You should go to Randy’s camp and rake off a machine or better yet, knock the machine over and start dealing.

      • lifepainter

        I would like to attend a Cubs camp. Actually I have never been to Wrigley and hope to get to the Sept.19 game vs. the Dodgers.

  • lifepainter

    We used to make a strike zone out of paper plates and you had to hit three of the plates to get the batter out. This was purely a pitching game that taught the pitcher how to throw his fastball to location. The longer I played the game the better I became good at locationing a breaking pitch to a spot also. I played baseball year around for several years, sometimes just wiffle ball in the machine shed on the farm between the equipment on a cold South Dakota winter day. I still pitch batting practice a couple of times a week for a local town team and throw during the winter in my basement against an old matress. I quit playing South Dakota Amatuer league baseball in 2010 at age 48. If my current job didn’t demand 60-70 hrs a week and 6-7 days a week I would think about playing again.

    • Doc Raker

      You should go to Randy’s camp and rake off a machine or better yet, knock the machine over and start dealing.

  • Mark_from_Toronto

    That’s 4 wins in a row. The playoff odds are sure to increase!
    Perhaps not such an achievement considering the odds really don’t have any room to decrease.

  • Mark_from_Toronto

    That’s 4 wins in a row. The playoff odds are sure to increase!
    Perhaps not such an achievement considering the odds really don’t have any room to decrease.