The saddest part about this recap, of the Cubs' eighth straight loss, 8-2 to the Reds in Cincinnati Tuesday night, is that I started writing it in the seventh inning with a fairly high level of confidence that I wouldn't have to rip it all up and start over.
Now isn't that awful? That I have come to expect a loss every single day, with no real hope of victory at all? The only thing I had to do was change the score after Miguel Cairo's grand slam, and add the Cubs' consolation run in the ninth.
Think about that. Miguel Cairo, who has hit 34 home runs in a 16-year career, hit a grand slam. What other indignities does this season have in store for us?
This one started out like so many other games in this streak. The Cubs took an early lead, but coughed it up; their starting pitcher didn't get out of the fifth inning and the opposition just crept along, adding a run here and there off a beleaguered Cubs bullpen until the final score reflected absolutely no chance for a Cubs recovery. The Cubs have scored only 21 runs in the eight losses, and seven of those runs were in the first game, a 12-7 loss to the Astros.
Injuries? Sure, the Cubs have had injuries, and it appeared that they might have had another one Tuesday night when Tony Campana stepped awkwardly across first base on attempting to beat out a bunt (he was out). Fortunately, he walked off under his own power, got a bit of treatment in the clubhouse, and came back to center field.
That's about all I got for "keeping positive", as Len and Bob were discussing during the game. I have always tried to view this team with a positive spin, because it's really no fun being a baseball fan if you don't. But this team is playing only two non-regulars, from what I can see -- in center and left field. And the regular players simply are not contributing in any meaningful way. Aramis Ramirez waved at a ground ball that should have been his, and it got by Starlin Castro; Ramirez later hit into a double play.
And that brings me to the basic point of this post, which is that in many past seasons where the Cubs were awful, there was at least something interesting to watch.
The 103-loss 1966 team had three future Hall of Famers (and should, and maybe will, have four, and five if you include the tail end of Robin Roberts' career) and got 29 HR from Billy Williams and 30 from Ron Santo.
The 96-loss 1974 team had Bill Madlock, who hit .313 and finished third in ROY voting.
The 98-loss 1980 team had Bill Buckner, still a productive player and good hitter, who hit .324 and won the NL batting average title.
The teams of 1999, 2000 and 2002, all of whom lost 95 or more games, had Sammy Sosa smashing home runs everywhere. Regardless of what you think of him now, he did put on an entertaining show.
The 2006 team that lost 96 games had a career year from Aramis Ramirez, who finished 17th in MVP voting with 38 HR and 119 RBI, and Carlos Zambrano's best year, 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA and 210 strikeouts; Big Z finished fifth in Cy Young voting.
This team might shatter the club loss record, and what does it have? Starlin Castro got off to a great start, but he's hit only one home run, his offensive numbers are pedestrian, and he's still making errors on what should be routine plays, like he did Tuesday night. Darwin Barney hit early like he might make the All-Star team, but his OPS is now under .700 and he has no power or speed. Tony Campana is fun to watch, but he's now hitting under .240. Tyler Colvin looks like he needs to go back to A ball. Big Z is about the only pitcher who's performing anywhere near his career norms; Carlos Marmol has been proven hittable this year and not only that, he looks overweight. Ramirez is on pace for six home runs; Alfonso Soriano can't run any more, and Geovany Soto looks completely lost at the plate.
There are no real star players and little hope for the future. Really, if the NL didn't have to take a Cub for the All-Star team, they probably wouldn't. Most likely, Sean Marshall will go, or maybe Big Z if he has three or four more good outings before the end of June.
I suppose this could be a plea to "blow it all up", but what, in fact, is being blown up and what can they replace it with? Obviously, big changes will have to be made when the season ends; firing everyone now, what's the point?
This is a very sad time to be a Cubs fan. And they'll have to do it again tomorrow in a game that starts at 11:35 a.m. Chicago time. Perhaps mercifully, they'll get it over with early.