I'm not sure where to start today, so how about this: The Cubs will never play the Florida Marlins again. As I noted when this series began, the Marlins are changing their name to "Miami Marlins" next year as part of the deal that moves them into their new stadium. "Florida Marlins" doesn't have very good connotations in Cubs history, so I say "Good riddance", as the Cubs finish their season series with the... team from south Florida.
They split the season series 3-3 after today's 7-5 Cubs loss, which included:
- Randy Wells again imploding in the first inning (including a monstrous home run by Hanley Ramirez that nearly hit the TV camera hut), then settling down and pitching credibly. Wells has an ERA of 10.80 in the first inning this year, 5.53 in all other innings. Both are bad, but that first inning is horrific. What can you do when your starting pitcher puts you behind before you bat?
- The Cubs did tie the game in the last of the first with three straight doubles and a single, although Blake DeWitt, who hit the single, got caught in a rundown.
- Some really egregiously bad calls by umpires that went against the Cubs, including a pickoff play at second base in the decisive Marlins eighth that would have ended the inning with no runs scoring. Replays showed that pinch-runner Brett Hayes was clearly out, picked off by Kerry Wood.
- Some bad pitching by Wood after that, including a bases-loaded walk.
- The failure of the Cubs to have a single baserunner from the second inning until there was one out in the eighth; 20 straight Cubs went down at one point in the game.
It was really hot today, 94 degrees at game time. Perhaps that's part of the explanation for thousands of empty seats in the bleachers; I don't know how many bleacher tickets were actually sold, but the bleachers weren't sold out and maybe 60% of the seats were filled. Hot weather hasn't kept people away when the team is doing well, so that may be part of it, but the ticket prices and the no-name opponent and the team losing are other factors. I haven't seen the bleachers that empty on a summer Sunday ... well, really, since the 1970s. It is a cautionary tale that is likely to be repeated next weekend when the worse-than-the-Cubs Astros come to town, and more so after mid-August when colleges go back in session and the summer tourist season fades.
You can't sell Wrigley Field at these prices when the team isn't winning. It really is that simple. Ticket prices on the secondary market, with a handful of exceptions like the Yankees and White Sox series, are running about half face value. The Cubs have choices to make in this area or risk a huge drop in ticket sales in 2012. Today's crowd, announced as 37,634, had at least 7,000 no-shows, maybe more. Yes, the heat may have been a factor -- but it surely isn't the only one.
What more can be said? The Cubs got out of many jams in this game, only to wind up losing after a bad umpiring call. You can't completely blame that, because Wood did not pitch well after that, but...
There's one other thing I want to mention today, and it's a small thing but speaks to team discipline and respect. I see this almost every day, and did today: the entire visiting team standing outside their dugout at National Anthem time, with the exception of their starting pitcher and a couple others, who are doing pregame bullpen work.
Who did I see standing outside the Cubs dugout? The coaching staff, Reed Johnson and Tony Campana. I may have missed a player or two, but the entire Cubs team never is seen standing for the anthem as their opponents are.
This is tremendously disrespectful to Cubs fans and to the game itself. What's the big deal? Too hot? Fans are standing in the heat. If the visitors can do this, the Cubs should do it too.
Maybe it's just frustration with the team now being 20 games under .500 -- for the first time since they were 20 under after Mike Quade's first three games as manager last August -- but the entire organization seems to be in disarray. And tomorrow the major league-best Phillies come to town.