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Game 154: If Not For Rain, It Might Have Been Ugly…er.

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Cubs 5 @ Rockies 10 (7 innings)

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

The Cubs made Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa work right from the start. Dave Sappelt’s first career home run to open the contest staked them to a 1-0 lead, which they expanded on by taking advantage of a couple two out mistakes by the Rockies. After drawing a two out walk, Alfonso Soriano moved up to second on a wild pitch and then scampered home when Rockies shortstop Josh Rutledge airmailed first base on a Starlin Castro grounder. Castro would score from first a batter later when Wellington Castro crushed a double to left field.

Unfortunately, the first inning was the peak for the Cubs on a cold rainy night in Denver – aside from their three runs scored, it was also the only inning in which they kept the Rockies off the board. They managed to push two more runs across the plate (a solo home run by Castro in the third and an RBI single from Darwin Barney to score Joe Mather in the fourth), but five runs would prove to be insufficient in the series opener.

Starting pitcher Chris Rusin gave up a solo home run to Colorado catcher Wilin Rosario in the second, but the wheels really started coming off for the Cubs in the third when two former Cubs – D.J. LaMahieu (whose name I still have trouble remembering how to spell) and Tyler Colvin – each tripled as part of a two-run inning. Overall on the night, the former Cubs were 5 for 7 with a combined 5 RBI against their former team.

Play was halted after 6 ½-innings and mercifully never resumed – by that time, a trio of Cubs pitchers (Rusin, Rafael Dolis, and Manny Corpas) had allowed 10 runs on 15 hits. Meanwhile, the Cubs bats had gone quiet. After seven hits in the first four innings, the Cubs were hitless in the fifth, sixth, and seventh.

The magic number to avoid 100 losses remains at 4 with eight games to go.

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Is It Time To Panic About Attendance?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012


Yesterday, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that for the first time since 2003, the Cubs would finish the season with a season attendance total of fewer than 3,000,000. The Cubs expect to finish the season with roughly 2,800,000 tickets sold which would give them their lowest number of fans through the Wrigley Field gates since finishing 2002 at 2,632,194.

Also in the last day or so I’ve started seeing a few “Uh oh, time to panic” posts, along with an accompanying pictures of empty seats creep into my social media feeds. ESPN’s Darren Rovell, the Jack Horner of the “empty stadium fetish” set, even got into the act on Monday, though a 3 ½ hour rain delay didn’t hurt his cause.

So, it’s time to panic right? Attendance is cratering, the Ricketts’ won’t be able to afford to invest in the team and we’re officially destined to endure another century of disappointment. Oh, and we’re just about to become laughingstocks (and regular Rovell-fodder) like the Marlins, Rays, and Pirates have been. Are you panicking? Should I be panicking? Panic?!?

Hold on folks, we’re not quite there yet. But here, do you want something to panic about? How about the fact that you’re going to see about three billion articles with headlines like “Not So Loveable” losers above photos like the one you see above (which I actually took at Miller Park when the Cubs were in town back in May) showing just how far the Cubs have fallen out of favor with fans.

So yes, things look bad from a fan support standpoint, but are they really? One thing to remember is that the Cubs have been benefiting from an unprecedented run of support since 1998, when Sammy Sosa and the Cardiac Kids started bringing people to the Friendly Confines in droves. Since that season, the Cubs have run off a streak of 15 straight seasons with an average nightly attendance of 30,000 fans or more. Sure, there were four playoff appearances during this streak – but there have also been six 90+ loss seasons during that time frame

Prior to 1998, they had three seasons of 30,000 or more…ever. We talk about not reaching 3,000,000 fans, but as recently as 1995, the Cubs weren’t drawing 2,000,000. Even with the Cubs’ struggles this year, they are still going to finish the season in the top 10 in the league in attendance and are currently third in the league in road attendance.  There is a long way to go before the Loveable Losers tag gets removed because the team is no longer loved (hopefully it will take less time for the “Loser” portion to disappear…but I’m not holding my breath)

Rest assured, with top 10 attendance and the third most expensive ticket in the majors, the Ricketts’ still have plenty of revenue coming in to give The Theo a healthy budget to rebuild the team with. If you really want something to worry about, start worrying about whether he is up to the task. For the record, I’m still of the belief that he can…and will. If I’m right, you better go out and enjoy the excess supply of tickets while you can.

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Game 148: Sleepwalking Towards 100, Pridefully

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Reds 3 @ Cubs 1

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

“These guys are trying to stay away from 100 losses, and that’s their goal. The Cincinnati Reds, mathematically, they have it locked up. … These guys are just trying to stay away from 100 losses, and there’s a lot of pride in that.” – Dale Sveum

Well, at least they have a goal. That said, the Cubs looked a lot more like a 100-loss team that sat through a 3 ½-hour rain delay one night earlier and decided to hit the snooze button for a few extra hours on Tuesday than one whose collective heart was set on avoiding the century mark.

The Cubs’ bats disappeared after Monday night’s rain delay and it appears they didn’t turn up in time for Tuesday’s series opener against the Reds. In fact, only Darwin Barney seems to have been able to keep track of his lumber. After notching two singles on Tuesday, the Cubs’ second baseman has out hit his teammates 4-2 in the last two days. Singles by Steve Cleavenger and Bryan LaHair were the only other base knocks by Chicago against Dusty Baker’s soon to be crowned NL Central champions.

Justin Germano pitched the first five innings like a man that didn’t wait up to see if his teammates had won the night before, allowing just three hits and shutting the Reds out through five. Out of sympathy for his sleep deprived teammates, he decided to fall asleep on the mound to start the sixth inning and walk the first three Reds batters – right as Len Kasper finished praising the Cubs recent starting pitching quality- earning him a quick hook from Sveum. A two-out bases clearing double by Ryan Hanigan was all the Reds would need, and indeed all they would get the remainder of the way.

The Cubs tried to mount a one-out rally in the eighth, as Barney singled and was doubled in by a pinch-hitting LaHair. That was all the pride they could muster though and went away quietly in the ninth.

Cubs 100-loss Magic Number: 5. Just five more wins to accomplishing their goals. Good luck guys, we’re pulling for you.

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Game 142: OMG, Rizzo goes down…

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Cubs 0 @ Astros 1

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

I’m eschewing my traditional “Good, Bad, Ugly” format tonight because, honestly, there wasn’t really enough going on in this game to fill out such a template. The Cubs and Astros played a second straight snorefest, as the second worst team in baseball fell to the worst team, 1-0. Thankfully this game was televised, otherwise we would have no evidence that a game actually occurred as no one bothered to show up to watch it…as a marketing director for a major professional sports team, these types of games are what my nightmares are made of. No one wants Darren Rovell tweeting photos of your team’s home game attendance (or lack thereof).

One of the most amazing things to me about this game was that it took three hours and eleven minutes to play a 1-0 game, a game that featured just 10 combined hits and a grand total of two scoring opportunities (the one on which the Astros scored in the fourth and then two innings later, when the Cubs managed two hits in one inning – the only time that occurred all game). You would think a game like this would be over in two hours, but much like Monday night, the misery just continued to drag on.

Cubs starter Justin Germano certainly pitched well enough to earn the Cubs their fifth straight win, throwing five innings while striking out eight and allowing just three hits. An unearned run in the fourth, however, was more than enough for the Astros to bring the series even.

Despite the lack of action, the game wasn’t completely devoid of intense moments. As the season winds down, the biggest fear I have is that something tragic will happen to one of the young players to whom we are pinning our hopes of the future. The last thing you want to see when suffering through a rebuild is to see one of those cornerstones sidelined in a meaningless game…so when Anthony Rizzo went down in a heap in the third inning, my heart dropped to my stomach.

Rizzo was hustling down the line trying to beat out a grounder to second and took a nasty spill when he collided with a jumping Astros first baseman Brett Wallace. I was certain that he had broken his wrist (a la Derrek Lee) or had gotten a career ending concussion as his head bounced off his helmet. He left the game after the play, but luckily reports were positive and it sounds like he checked out fine, aside from some bumps and bruises.

The magic number for 100 losses remains at eight.

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Game 125: You Know the Outcome

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Rockies 4 @ Cubs 3

Box Score / Highlights Condensed Game

The Good

Brett Jackson – There were certainly some negatives to BJax’s day today, but there were a couple big positives as well. Jackson gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the fourth with a wind-aided, two-run basket shot. Jackson pushed the ball to the opposite field and let the wind do the rest – either a sign that he is starting to get more comfortable on the plate or that he was slow on a fastball and got lucky with the conditions at Wrigley. The homer, his second in as many games, along with his second inning double are encouraging signs of success to come for Jackson. Of course, then there was the strike out to end the game – his 31st in 61 at-bats. We’ll keep this in the good category though be reminding ourselves that it was the second straight day that he only k’d once.

Brooks Raley – This would probably go in the “average” column if there were one, but on a day like today, we’ll label Raley’s performance as “good”.  Maybe I’m not being fair – Raley really made one big mistake in his five innings on the mound, allowing a home run by pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge in the fifth. Dale Sveum decided five innings and 80 pitches was enough for Raley though and sent him to the showers after that inning with a 3-2 lead.

The Bad

Sorry to be pessimistic today, but there was nothing “bad” today. How is that pessimism, you ask? Because I’ve dropped all of the notable negatives from this one all the way to “ugly”.

The Ugly

Double Play Balls – The Cubs entered the seventh inning tied with the Rockies 3-3, and the inning very easily could have (should have?) ended the same way. The Cubs had two opportunities to turn double plays, the first went awry when Castro’s throw pulled Anthony Rizzo off the bag on a DJ LaMahieu grounder. The Rockies scored the game winning run on another would-be twin-killing that saw Castro loft the ball towards first, hoping either Darwin Barney or Alex Hinshaw would get to first in time to receive the ball on an attempted 3-6-1or2 double play.

Caught Stealing – Starlin Castro’s pursuit for the Major League lead in times caught stealing took a step forward when he was gunned down trying to swipe second in the third inning with a runner on third and nobody out. The truly ugly CS happened much later in the game when, the seventh inning the Cubs looked to be in a position to get a couple runs back. Jackson led off with a walk, then Joe Mather singled a couple batters later to put two on with one out. One out later, Jackson and Mather decided to attempt a double steal and the potential rally was killed as Mather was out by a mile at second. I say they decided to attempt a double steal because that’s basically what Dale Sveum said after the game – of course, he followed that up by saying he wouldn’t have sent them because he liked the match-up they had with Josh Vitters at the plate (and since when is that a good match for any one but the opposing pitcher), so who knows what actually happened.

The Cubs have now lost 19 of their last 24 games and need to go 11-26 in their final 37 games to avoid eclipsing 103 wins and going down in history as the single worst team in franchise history. I’m revising my prediction downward to a final record of 57-105…I believe we’ll witness history in the final month of the season.

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