- Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
- John Baker after fanning in the first game Saturday
When the Cubs won five straight early in June, we began to lose confidence in them. We’ve been tracking the team’s campaign to honor Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday with a 100-loss season, and the winning streak put that noble effort in jeopardy.
But Saturday was a beautiful day to lose two, and the Cubs restored our trust.
In the afternoon opener against the Washington Nationals, a crowd of 35,770 paid to see a Cubs lineup that featured Chris Coghlan (.211), Darwin Barney (.201), John Baker (.180), and Mike Olt (.142). Dallas Beeler made his major-league debut on the mound for the north-siders, and not only pitched well but lined a single to center in his first big-league at bat. Eight Cubs had gone down in order before Beeler’s smash, but the team soon joined him in the hit parade, clobbering two singles the rest of the way. Final: Nats 3, Cubs zip. Beeler was sent back to Iowa, lest he continue embarrassing the big club’s offense.
The park was cleared after the first loss so the club could extract a second fare from its faithful flock. That evening, another 32,267 paid to watch another intimidating home lineup, with Ryan Sweeney (.202) and Nate Schierholtz (.200) joining Coghlan and Barney. The skies opened in the fifth, threatening to prevent the sweep, but the weather rallied and the Cubs fell again, 7-2. This time the north-siders belted out six hits. On the day, they fanned 16 times.
- David Banks/Getty Images
- Starlin Castro after whiffing in the second game
Dropping 100 is a daunting challenge even for a franchise like the Cubs. In their illustrious history, the north-siders have lost at least 100 in only three seasons: 1962 and 1966 (103) and 2012 (101).
The Cubs are now a game shy of halfway through their season. With a record of 34-46, they need to step it up in the second half to make it to 100. But bear in mind that soon they’ll likely trade their two top pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, for suspects—so 100 is still well within reach.
We’d like to note that doubleheader losses helped propel the Cubs on this minor tailspin they’ve been on for 67 seasons.
The Cubs haven’t always been dreadful during their Friendly Confines tenancy, as we pointed out in March. Their first 30 years, 1916 through 1946, they were 354 games over .500 (2,538-2,184).
Then came 1947. On the morning of July 6 that year, the Cubs were still above .500, at 36-34. And it looked like they were about to improve that record, what with a twin bill scheduled in Pittsburgh against the last-place Pirates.
Instead Pittsburgh stomped the weary Cubs twice that day, 6-2 and 10-0. The all-star break followed, and when regular play resumed on July 10, the rested Cubs dropped another pair, this time to the Dodgers in Brooklyn. After improving to only a single loss on July 11, the north-siders dropped two more to the Dodgers on July 12, then traveled to Boston to lose two the next day to the Braves.
We doubt there’s ever been a more efficient slump. On five consecutive playing dates, not counting the all-star break, the Cubs lost nine times. In a blink, their record dipped from 36-34 to 36-43. And it’s been mostly dipping ever since. From that July 6 doubleheader loss in Pittsburgh through the doubleheader loss Saturday, the Cubs are 703 under .500 (4,941-5,644).
Doubleheaders were common in baseball as late as the 1960s. Today, they mostly happen only when a makeup game or scheduling oddity requires them. (The Cubs scheduled Saturday’s doubleheader and a rare Sunday idle date so as not to compete with yesterday’s Pride Parade.)
And the two ends of twin bills are usually at least three hours apart now, so as not to deprive the owners of one game’s gate receipts. The second contest used to start about a half hour after the first one ended—time for fans to get their hot dogs and beers, and for the starting pitchers in the nightcap to warm up. The doubleheaders were a bargain for fans: “Two games for the price of one,” the teams advertised. This year, when doubleheaders do occur at Wrigley, if you want to see Olt, Baker, Barney, et al, whiff, roll out, and pop up for 18 innings, you have the privilege of paying twice.