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At the beginning of this season, how many of you thought the Cubs would have sixty losses a week before the end of July?

<looking around for raised hands>

I thought so. Even the naysayers couldn't have imagined this debacle of a season. FWIW, here is the date of the Cubs' sixtieth loss over the last ten seasons prior to this one:

2005: August 10
2004: August 31
2003: August 19
2002: July 30
2001: September 2
2000: August 8
1999: August 8
1998: August 24
1997: July 25
1996: August 14

And for grins, the two worst years in club history:

1966: July 18
1962: July 18

So you see, we're in historic territory here.

Today was one of those summer days in Chicago that you want to cork up in a bottle and let out in January when we really need it -- bright sunshine, low humidity, none of that polluted haze that hangs over the city in many summers, temperature about eighty degrees, and light wind.

In short, it was a day to NOT sit inside and watch another Cubs debacle -- instead, I took my kids to a suburban pool complex, and listened to the 7-1 loss to the Nationals on WGN radio.

There's not much to say about the game itself, other than that yet another Cub pitcher had to leave the game with an injury (Pat Hughes said it was a "contusion" on Carlos Marmol's hand, obtained while batting, not pitching) -- meaning that no Cub starter in the entire series made it out of the fifth inning. For more on the game you can go to another excellent diary by Chris, who took one for the BCB team by attending this entire calamity of a series.

So, instead, since I rarely listen to an entire game via the radio (and did so today), I thought I'd pass along my observations on the WGN radiocast.

  • Pat Hughes is very, very, very good at what he does. Remember, the job of a radio play-by-play man isn't just to call the action. In part, it is to try to get you to listen to the whole game even when your team sucks, as it did today, because the advertisers in the seventh and eighth innings want you to hear their ads as much as the ones buying time in the first and second innings. That said, I did listen to the whole game. Could I name ONE between-inning advertiser? Nope.
  • Someone in WGN's -- or the Cubs', I'm not quite sure -- marketing department needs a lesson in baseball. They sold, apparently for the entire season (I've heard this promo before), to an insurance agency, the concept of that agency doing something if the Cubs score "insurance" runs. Well, of course you can't do this until it's in the late innings and you are actually ahead. I can only imagine how sheepishly Pat Hughes has to read this, as he did today, when the Cubs are trailing 5-1. Marketers: YOU CAN'T SCORE "INSURANCE" RUNS WHEN YOU'RE LOSING!
  • Dave Otto is really bad. I mean, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY bad. He almost makes Mark Grace sound good as a color commentator. (If you've heard Grace, you know how bad that is. If you haven't, consider yourself fortunate. Close your ears if you're ever within earshot of a Diamondbacks TV broadcast.) Why is Otto bad? First of all, he's got kind of a whiny, non-broadcast-quality voice. OK, so does Ron Santo. But Santo makes NO pretensions of being a strategy analyst. He's a -- for lack of a better term -- Bleed Cubbie Blue fan. Santo is who he is. Otto pretends to analyze, and fails miserably. Worse, when he's not analyzing, he's pulling irrelevant stories out of either the media guide or the game notes. Today, he decided to tell us that the last game played in RFK Stadium by the old Senators in 1971 was a forfeit. Dave: a) who cares? and b) most baseball fans know this, or if they didn't, they probably learned it last year, when people were telling all the "old Senators" stories.
  • When you're listening to the entire game, you know what the score is because you've been following it all along. But -- and I have noticed this on MANY occasions when I've turned the game on the radio in the car after being somewhere else -- often, Hughes doesn't give the score for fifteen minutes or longer. This is a disservice to radio fans, many of whom DO listen in short snippets getting in and out of their cars. There's no excuse for not giving the score several times per half-inning... particularly in baseball, where there's lots of time between pitches and batters to fill, and especially since this would prevent Dave Otto from uttering more useless platitudes.
OK, I'm done. I feel sorry for those of you who have to follow the Cubs only on radio. Pat Hughes is a terrific play-by-play announcer, one of the best in the business, and I enjoy him immensely. As many of you know, I'm not a fan of Ron Santo as color commentator -- but I do know he has a place in Cub history, and as I said above, he is who and what he is. Fortunately, guys like Dave Otto only fill in from time to time. When Steve Stone filled in for Santo during the 2003 postseason -- now that was a terrific broadcast team.