Archive for the ‘Chicago Cubs’ Category

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 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.

Most sports teams have officially defined histories, yet the official records are not always accurate, or don’t reveal enough background.  In some cases, these claims are dubious, while in others, they are undeniable.  In this article, a few of these mishaps will come to light, while a few commonly accepted – but little known – scenarios are discussed as well.  The first article of this series features five scenarios, with more likely to come in future editions.

The Cincinnati Reds – The Oldest Professional baseball Team – Or Not.

The Cincinnati Reds are popularly thought of as the oldest professional baseball team, but these claims – which are even endorsed by the team – prove to be completely false.  The Cincinnati red Stockings were the first team to declare themselves professional for the 1869 season after the National Association of Base Ball Players voted to allow payments to be made to players.  However, the notion that the Reds that play in the National League today can lay claim to this title is completely wrong.  Not only did several teams illegally pay players before it was allowed, but the Red Stockings simply are not the same franchise as the modern Reds.  The Red Stockings would go on to play in the 1870 season after their undefeated 1869 season (in which they did not win the championship, due to the methods used at the time to determine the title), but would not field a team for the 1871 season of the new National Association of Professional Base Ball Players.  In 1876, a new Red Stockings would be admitted to the new National League, and even they would not be able to claim association with the current franchise.  The Red Stockings would disband on June 18th, 1877, before being revived on June 21st of the same year.  On December 4th of the same year, the Red Stockings would be expelled, only to be re-admitted a day later.  The controversy surrounding the franchise would not end there, as the team would leave the NL on October 24th, 1879, only to rejoin on on December 3rd.  On October 6th, 1880, the team would be expelled from the league, and this time it was permanent.  A new team of the same name would be founded as an independent team in 1881, before organizing the rival American Association for the 1882 season.  In 1890, the new team would join the National League, where the Cincinnati Reds have participated in every season since.  So which team is oldest surviving team in the league?  That is up for debate, though the usually accepted claim to the title comes from the Chicago Cubs, despite suspending operations for the 1872 and 1873 seasons.  The Atlanta Braves – who actually have deeper connections to the original red Stockings than the Reds do – are the next oldest after becoming a founding member of the new National Association in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings.

The Cincinnati Braves?  Atlanta’s History Goes Back Further Than Boston and Milwaukee

Despite the claims of the modern Reds that were shown to be false in the above section, there is just one MLB team that has real connections to the original Red Stockings, namely the Atlanta Braves.  After the Red Stockings reverted to amateur status and subsequently folded, the members of the team were dispersed between a new club in Boston and the Washington Olympics.  The new Boston team was organized by former Red Stocking Harry Wright, and also featured Cincinnati stars Charlie Gould, George Wright, and Cal McVey.  Due to the history of its new stars, the Boston club was named the Red Stockings.  Throughout their tenure in Boston, the Red Stockings would have several names attributed to them, including the “Red Caps”, “Beaneaters”, “Doves”, “Rustlers”, and “Bees”, before eventually settling on “Braves”.  The Boston Braves would relocate to Milwaukee in 1953 and Atlanta in 1966.

The “Steagles” Roots Go Back Further Than The 1940’s Temporary Merger

Many readers may know of the war-time merger of the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers in 1943, commonly known as the “Steagles” or officially, the Phil-Pitt Combine.  However, what many don’t know is the fact that this isn’t the first time these teams had merged.  Take a close look at the events that occurred and see if you notice the oddity that resulted from their first merger:

  1. Art Rooney sells Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers, not the baseball team or the hockey team that relocated to Philadelphia before folding) to Alexis Thompson.
  2. Thompson announces plans to relocate Pittsburgh as the Boston Ironmen, pending NFL approval.
  3. Philadelphia Eagles owner Bert Bell sells half of Eagles to Rooney.
  4. Rooney and Bell announce that the former Eagles will be renamed the Pennsylvania Keystoners, splitting games between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
  5. NFL rejects relocation of Pirates to Boston.
  6. Rooney and Bell move their team to Pittsburgh full-time as the Steelers, while Thompson brings his team to Philadelphia instead.

Did you see it?  If you didn’t, the Eagles became the Steelers, and the Pirates became the new Eagles.  However, the league record book includes the history of the original Eagles with that of the current franchise, and the Pirates with the Steelers.

The Celtics-Clippers Connection

Irv Levin wanted to own a NBA team on the West Coast, but the league would never let him move the team he owned for one reason: the team he owned was the Boston Celtics.  Meanwhile, John Y. Brown’s Buffalo Braves were struggling on and off the court, having come off two straight tenth-seed finishes in the eleven team Eastern Conference.  Desperate to sell the team, Brown had an idea.  The Buffalo Braves franchise would be traded for the Boston Celtics franchise, and the Braves – now owned by Levin – would move to San Diego and become the Clippers for the 1978-79 season.  The Clippers would continue to struggle finding a home, lasting only six seasons in San Diego before their 1984 relocation to Los Angeles.

The Washington Senators Replaced By The Washington Senators?

When many sports historians take a quick glance at MLB standings throughout history, they see a Washington Senators franchise that lasted from the 1901 season of the American League – its first since unilaterally declaring major league status – until their 1972 relocation to Texas to become the Rangers.  However, the matter is a bit more complex that that.  While a Washington Senators appears on every standings sheet during that period (though they were officially the Washington Nationals for quite some time, but the name was never adopted by the media), it is actually two separate franchised.  The original Washington Senators relocated to Minnesota for the 1961 season, but Washington politicians threatened to take legal action against the league for stripping the city of its franchise.  However, the league found a solution, as the Los Angeles Angels and a new Washington Senators franchise would be ready in time for the 1961 season, making it seem as it the Senators had never left.