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A Cubs History Lesson: Cubs vs. Reds Preview, Saturday 7/3, 12:05 CT

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Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. -- George Santayana

In recent days, other bad Cubs seasons before this one have come to mind; in discussions in the bleachers we noted that at least in seasons like 2006, for example, the team would at least score a few runs and lose 13-12. Yes, there was a game with that precise score on May 28, 2006. The entertainment value that day was enhanced when a routine infield popup was hit by one of the Braves. Instead of becoming an out, it hit Aramis Ramirez in the head and bounced into the seats; the baserunner eventually scored the winning run.

We don't even have that right now.

Anyway, thinking further about it, this season is starting to resemble the 1973 campaign. Though Ernie Banks had retired two years earlier, the core of the great teams that never quite made it (Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert and Randy Hundley) were all still there. Unlike this season, though, the '73 Cubs started out like they'd finally put it all together. When the first half of that season ended, they were 48-33 and eight games ahead in the NL East.

Then the wheels fell off. And fell off hard. Over the next 39 games, the Cubs went 8-31. No, that is not a typo. Eight wins and thirty-one losses. On August 16 they lost to the Braves and were 56-64, 5.5 games behind. That game, a 10-2 loss at Wrigley Field eerily reminiscent of yesterday's (the Cubs had a 2-0 lead after seven and gave Atlanta a nine-run inning), followed a 15-1 loss the day before in which the Cubs made four errors. Those two were the last of an 11-game losing streak. So yes, it can get worse.

That team made a run briefly after that, winning eight of ten and moving to within 2.5 games of first in a bad division, then flopped. The Mets, who were in last place on August 30, won the 1973 NL East with the worst record ever for a division winner, 82-79.

The point of all that is this: management backed up the truck and broke up that team big-time at the end of the season. The Opening Day 1974 25-man roster contained 11 names that weren't on the team at all during 1973. It's not as easy to do that today with big-dollar contracts, of course, and here's another cautionary tale: the '74 Cubs last saw .500 at 6-6. They then went 9-20 on their way to a 96-loss season, the fourth-worst in club history.

You could rebuild like that when the top ticket price was $4; attendance dropped from 1,351,705 in '73 to 1,015,378 in '74, a drop of 24.8%. It's not 1974 any more and an attendance drop that large would cost the Cubs tens of millions of dollars. This franchise cannot afford, nor will this fanbase tolerate, a total rebuild like that. I don't know what the answer is, but this team is in trouble.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Randy Wells
Randy Wells
Cubs
vs. Johnny Cueto
Johnny Cueto
Reds
3-6 W-L 8-2
4.96 ERA 3.74
71 SO 74
26 BB 29
7 HR 8
vs. Cin -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Randy Wells 3-6 16 16 0 0 0 0 90.2 108 51 50 7 26 71 4.96 1.48


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Johnny Cueto 8-2 16 16 1 1 0 0 98.2 95 41 41 8 29 74 3.74 1.26

Johnny Cueto has made eight career starts vs. the Cubs and is 2-5 with a 4.59 ERA. Thus, he should be perfectly positioned to throw a three-hit shutout today. He has not faced the Cubs this season. Current Cubs are hitting .348 (48-for-138) against him. But current Cubs are hitting .117 (7-for-60) in this series and .133 (12-for-90) over the last three games, all losses. Which do YOU think is more important?

Randy Wells appears to have fixed the problems from earlier this year; two of his last three starts have been good ones. But the Cubs have scored 15 total runs in Randy's last seven starts, and only one in each of the last two. He hasn't won since April 30 (six losses, five no-decisions). Does it really matter how the Reds do against him? (In case you care, no current Red has homered off Randy in 48 total AB; he has not faced them in 2010.)

If you can stand to watch, today's game is on CSN Chicago and FSN Ohio. Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Reds site Red Reporter.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 12 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 1, 2 and 2:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.