Cardinals 4, Cubs 0: The End, And A New Beginning

Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports

In which we consign the Cubs' 2013 season to the dustbin of history, and, with hope, look forward to a fresh start, both for the team, and for all of us here as Cubs fans.

The Cubs lost 4-0 to the Cardinals in St. Louis Sunday afternoon, thus completing the 2013 season with a three-game sweep at the hands of the N.L. Central champions. St. Louis clinched the best record in the league with the win, and will have home field throughout the N.L. portion of the playoffs.

For the Cubs, it was another meek performance; just five hits, all but one of them doubles, were registered by Cubs hitters off Jake Westbrook and four Cardinals relievers. (Naturally, that led to another 0-for-5 with RISP.) Westbrook started and pitched just one inning, as a sort of farewell gesture. This time, since the game had meaning only to the Cardinals, that one-inning-start thing was certainly all right with everyone involved.

One of the doubles was Anthony Rizzo's 40th of the season. Rizzo is the first Cub to hit 40 or more doubles in a season since Alfonso Soriano did it in 2010 and the first Cubs lefthanded hitter with that many doubles since Mark Grace had 41 in 2000. Rizzo's 65 extra-base hits are the most for a Cubs lefthanded hitter since Grace had the same number in 1999. If you think Rizzo had a bad year because his batting average was .233, I respectfully submit that you're wrong. Rizzo, apart from the low BA, had a very good year.

Jeff Samardzija threw six innings and managed to post a quality start; again, we all know how flawed that stat is and Shark just made the minimum to qualify (6 IP, 3 ER). That made 91 quality starts for the Cubs this year, tied with the Phillies for fifth-most in the National League. The four runs allowed by the team, unfortunately, pushed the club ERA to exactly 4.00 (rounded up from 3.9965), so they won't have the "distinction" of having a sub-4.00 ERA while losing 95+ games.

The most interesting baseball thing that happened Sunday (beyond the wrapping up of playoff races, which is not quite complete as I write this) was in Miami, where Henderson Alvarez threw a no-hitter that was completed while he was in the on-deck circle as a wild pitch scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. The catcher for Alvarez's no-no was... Koyie Hill. Seriously, if I'm Hill, I retire right this minute. How is he ever going to top that?

Meanwhile, the Cubs continued their streak of not being no-hit; the streak now stands at 7,663 consecutive games entering the 2014 season. A tip o' the cap to CubsNoHitStreak for keeping us entertained with his tweets regarding the streak all year.

Usually, I end the last recap of each season with a quote from the late Bart Giamatti's The Green Fields of the Mind. I'm going to do that, but first, I've got something else to say.

This has been a very difficult season for me, as it likely has been for all of you, following a team that has now produced the two consecutive seasons with the most losses in Cubs history. Each year that goes by without a pennant, without a playoff appearance, without a winning season -- now, five years since any of us has witnessed a meaningful Cubs game in September -- makes me more and more frustrated. You will say to me that better times are coming, and you very well could be right, and I certainly hope you are right. The frustrations of this season have gotten to me, much more so than they should have at times, and I have both lashed out and not acted appropriately in the comments on this site.

For that, I offer an apology, with no excuses. I shouldn't be doing that, and won't in the future. That's a promise to every one of you.

What has caused this is, unfortunately, a split between various posters at this site. We all want the same thing -- a Cubs World Series. There are some who are "all-in" on the rebuild now under way. If you think I'm against that, I suggest you read this post from just one month ago again; in it, I wrote:

I want the Cubs to build a strong organization. I certainly don't have a problem with drafting well and getting as much talent in the minor leagues as possible, even knowing that some (or even many) of those guys will never make it. If anyone here claims my position denies this, you are simply wrong.

All I am saying is that the "parallel tracks" Theo Epstein once spoke of, can and should be done; it shouldn't be just lip service. I believe you can do both -- put together a good organization, and try to win at the big-league level every year. This doesn't mean wasting money on someone like Josh Hamilton -- the Angels will be paying for that and the Albert Pujols deal for many, many years. Of course I don't want to do that, and if you think that's what I believe, you're still wrong.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I added to that with this post, explaining how I got to be the Cubs fan that I am, and I hope that helps you understand better where I'm coming from when I sometimes let the frustration spill over. Again, I'm going to do everything I can to not let that happen again.

What I am also going to do is not tolerate any sniping at each other by fans of this team. It's one thing to say, "I don't like Theo Epstein's plan" -- that's perfectly all right even if you don't have specifics on what you'd do otherwise. It is not all right to call those who do like the plan "Theobots", or otherwise condescend, be rude, or claim that your position is somehow "better" than someone else's. That's not allowed by site rules and I won't allow it.

I would like to ask everyone here a favor. The season is over. The Cubs' record is now 0-0 again! Let's use this as a demarcation line between the arguments of the past and the civil discussions of the future. Come to the comment sections without any preconceived notions. Yes, I know. There are longtime posters here who have long-held positions that aren't likely to change. Still, I implore you to come with an open mind, to at least give people a chance to be nice to each other.

Can you do that? I pledge to do it. I'm asking you to do it. I'm also asking those of you who know people who have stayed away from BCB due to some of the sniping, to ask them to return, to continue the conversation in a more pleasant fashion, as we look forward to what we hope will be a better year in 2014.

In the meantime, there will be plenty here as we begin baseball's second season, the playoffs. I'll have game threads every playoff day, and discussion of any important or interesting events that happen during the postseason. Of course, we await a decision on Dale Sveum's future as Cubs manager; that's supposed to be made tomorrow, so things could be pretty busy around here Monday. I'll have Cubs postseason grades, a look at how I think tickets should be priced next year, and another offseason series that will begin sometime in November. Josh will have looks at prospects as well as MLB Bullets; Tim will begin looking ahead to the 2014 draft; Erik will continue Cub Tracks.

In the meantime, to all my fellow Cubs fans: hang in there. Someday, our team will be the one piling on each other in the cold of a late-October evening, celebrating a World Series championship. I hope we're all doing that together, here, soon.

And now, it's time to close the books on 2013 with the words of Bart Giamatti:

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.
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