Archive for August, 2013

7248The long history of the Chicago Cubs… arising from the ashes of the Excelsior Base Ball Club of Chicago and winning the pennant of the National Association of Base Ball Players in the team’s first season of play.  Older than Major League Baseball itself, the team actually led the way towards to foundation of the National League in 1876, winning the first NL pennant as well.  A dynasty in the 1880s, winning pennants in 1880, 1881, 1882, 1885, and 1886, before falling into an awful twenty year pennant drought, unthinkable for such a storied franchise.

The Cubs would win the pennant in 1906, but ultimately fall to their crosstown rivals, the 1906 Chicago White Sox team forever known as the “Hitless Wonders”, but would then vanquish the Tigers in two straight World Series in 1907 and 1908.  The 1906-1910 Cubs are still the winningest team over a five-year period in major league history, winning four pennants over the stretch and having the best single season record in history in 1906, going 116-36 and winning the pennant by twenty games over the New York Giants.

Unfortunately, the first dynasty in major league history (depending on whether or not the National Association of 1871-1875 is considered major, MLB currently does not consider it so) became the biggest laughingstock in professional sports, now in the one hundred-and-fifth calendar year since that fateful day of October 14, 1908.

The team has languished through years of poor ownership (Wrigley), lack of innovation (being among the last teams in the league to establish minor league affiliates or to allow black or Hispanic players onto the team), and pure misfortune (such as in the 2003 NLCS Game 6, not to throw any names out there) and supposed curses (Fred Merkle in 1908, the black cat at Shea Stadium in 1969, and of course the Billy Goat Curse in 1945).  The team has tried everything from spending wildly under the Tribune ownership to counting on saviors from the farm system that never worked out (Corey Patterson and Felix Pie to name a few) to international studs (Kosuke Fukudome) to no avail.

In 2013, the Cubs sit at 49-60 and sixteen games out of first, and have already traded Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, and Alfonso Soriano.  The team’s relief pitching is shaky at best, and the team has a pretty comfortable lead in the blown saves department, having four more than any other team in baseball, and the team couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position if their lives depended on it.

Yet perhaps things are not quite as bad as they seem.  Baseball-Reference’s Simple Rating System calculates that the Cubs should be better than Nationals, Mets, Giants, Padres, Rockies and Mariners right now, yet the Nationals are hovering around .500.  At the very least, the renowned “Lovable Losers” are still an exciting team to watch, currently third in the National League with 120 home runs and first with 216 doubles and a team slugging percentage good for fourth.  The pitching staff as a whole remains above average with a 102 ERA+, but are tied with San Diego atop the NL lead with 357 walks conceded.  Despite all the blown opportunities, the Cubs are still just one save below the NL average.

mlb_u_castro_b1_600By Pythagorean Win-Loss Theorem, the Cubs, having scored 434 runs and allowed 459, the Cubs should be at around 52-57.  In reality, it is only three games better than they already are, but it looks a whole lot better to be five games under .500 than to be eleven games under.  The Cubs could be just a couple bats, and arm, and an overhauled bullpen away from actually competing, though the postseason would have to shock even the most optimistic of Cubs fans, given the strength of the NL Central, from which three of the NL’s four best records are found (Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Cincinnati).  Not to mention, they currently have an absolutely stacked farm system position player-wise, including what is regarded as the best power hitting quartet of prospects in the league: SS Javier Baez, 3B Kris Bryant, OF Jorge Soler, and 1B/DH Dan Vogelbach, a few solid arms in C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson, star outfielder Albert Almora, second baseman Arismendy Alcantara and third baseman Mike Olt.  Further, the Cubs can expect a resurgence of sorts from incumbent shortstop Starlin Castro, and hopefully improvement from first baseman Anthony Rizzo and an extended showing of the Junior Lake Show.

My Top 13 Prospects List Published On WorldSeriesDreaming.com Plus Other Cubs Prospects News

The team still isn’t good, but perhaps its reputation for being awful has covered up some actual progress in the right direction and hopefully the Cubs renew that sensation of excitement that hasn’t swooped Wrigleyville since 2009, and maybe some day be in the same position that that hockey team that used to be known for being awful and alienating its fan base stands now, as champions.

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