As of June 11th, the Cubs were tied for first place. That turned out to have been the high point of 2021. The nadir arrived over the weekend when the organization perpetrated the "biggest 24-hour roster dump in franchise history," according to the Chicago Tribune:
The Cubs entered the Brewers series hitting .186 in June, the fourth-lowest average of any team in any calendar month.
After beating the Cubs 13-2 in the opening game of the homestand, again with Sogard pitching in relief, the Philadelphia Phillies knocked out Arrieta in the second inning of Game 2, taking a 7-0 lead in a 15-10 win.
The Cubs lost 11 straight, their longest skid since a 12-game streak in 2012, the first year of the rebuild. They finally ended the streak on July 7, and one day later Hoyer announced his plans had changed in the previous 11 days.
Joc Pederson was dealt to the Atlanta Braves before the opening game of the second half, igniting the sell-off. Tepera was traded to the Chicago White Sox on July 29, and Rizzo was sent to the New York Yankees after that day’s game with the Reds.
Bryant, Báez and Kimbrel were all gone in the final hours before the July 30 trade deadline — and the last hurrah was over. TV cameras caught Bryant in the dugout of Nationals Park in an emotional embrace with hitting coach Anthony Iapoce.
It took only 11 days for the Cubs to destroy a season that seemed to have so much promise and less than 24 hours for Hoyer to dismantle the core.
I remember the San Diego Padres having a similar purge in the 1990s. It took them a very long time to recover.
Oh well. It's just business, right?
In Pittsburgh yesterday, Cubs player Javier Báez drew the first baseman into a rundown between home and first, allowing another player to score, and then capitalized on the catcher's error to advance to second:
With Willson Contreras on second, Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Erik González fielded Báez’s grounder and threw to first, but Will Craig caught the ball off the bag. Craig, instead of just trotting back and touching the base, advanced to try to tag Báez — and then Báez’s baserunning savvy kicked in.
As Contreras raced around third, Báez darted back toward the plate in spurts as if playing tag. Craig still hadn’t tagged Báez as Contreras dived toward home, and Craig’s toss to catcher Michael Perez was too late. After signaling Contreras should be safe, Báez then raced back to first. When Perez’s throw to first was off the mark and bounced into short right field, Báez made it to second.
The scoring determination: fielder’s choice, RBI, E2.
Báez said he simply was trying to help Contreras score by keeping Craig close to him so he would chase him. After Báez signaled Contreras safe — a moment that made Ross chuckle when watching the replay — he realized he should get back to first.
Note that all Will Craig had to do was step on first base to end the inning. Apparently he got confused, but only catcher Perez got charged with an error for his wild throw back to first.
The Cubs have won 9 of their last 11 games.
Even though Parker has consumed my thoughts since the election, there are a few other things going on in the world:
And as I sit in my home office trying to write software, it's 17°C and sunny outside. I may have to go for a walk.
Just a few of the things that crossed my desktop this morning:
And last night, Cubs pitcher Alec Mills threw the club's 16th no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. In the history of Major League Baseball, there have only been 315 no-hitters. The last time the Cubs won a no-hitter was 51 years ago.
The Cubs tied with the Brewers this season for the best record in the National League, with 94 wins each. Unfortunately they're in the same division, so they had to play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday to determine who actually won the division.
You will be shocked to learn it was Milwaukee.
Now, normally, the 4th-place team in the league gets the Wild Card, but this year the West Division also had a tie, between the Colorado Rockies and L.A. Dodgers. Which meant that last night, the loser of that game (the Rockies) and the loser of Monday's game (ahem) played to break the Wild Card tie.
You will be shocked to learn that it was Colorado.
Note, if you will, that had the Cubs won exactly one more game at any point in the season, they would have won the Central Division and would play the Dodgers in the NLDS tomorrow night.
Nope. They choked. They couldn't do it, not even in 13 innings, losing 2-1 well after midnight.
This is why I stopped caring years ago.
This year, Major League Baseball had more weather-related postponements than ever before recorded:
In the 2018 season, 53 games have been postponed because of weather, tied for the second most since Major League Baseball began keeping track in 1986. It wasn't just rain-outs that disrupted the schedule but a lingering April cold snap in the Midwest and Northeast that resulted in 28 games postponed that month — an all-time high.
Although the baseball season got off to its earliest start ever to give players more off days during the 162-game regular season, rest has been elusive for clubs that have had to make up multiple games, including the Cubs, who have had a league-leading nine games scratched for bad weather (tied with the Yankees), the most in more than a decade.
While MLB’s collective bargaining agreement states teams cannot play more than 20 dates without a scheduled day off, the Cubs endured a punishing 30-day stretch of scheduled games in August and September. The make-up games also forced a rigorous travel schedule that, at one point, flung them to three cities, in three time zones, in six days, including scrambling to the East Coast as Hurricane Florence approached.
Scientists have pointed to climate change as a contributing factor to the warming of the atmosphere, carrying the chance for more rain in some areas since warmer air can hold more moisture. According to state climatologist Jim Angel, northern and central Illinois are experiencing warmer, wetter springs. But some scientists believe the rapid warming of the Arctic is causing fluctuations in the polar jet stream that can bring unusual bouts of cold like the region saw in April, Angel said.
Just one more unintended consequence of anthropogenic climate change, and possibly the reason the Cubs are playing a second tie-breaker game today for the right to take their league-topping 94 wins to the playoffs.
Yesterday, the Cubs and Mets played to a 1-1 draw at Wrigley when the game got suspended in the 10th due to torrential rain. (They resume in about 20 minutes.) My department bought us rooftop tickets, so we got to see most of the game between the waves of thunderstorms that preceded and interrupted it:
I got supremely lucky: the first wave of thunderstorms hit just as I was getting on the bus to go to the park, finished its deluge just as I got off the bus, and the second wave hit while I was on the bus going back home. So I caught the tail end of the second wave, but only a few drops between the bus and my house.
I'll update this post with the final score whenever they have one.
Update: The Cubs won, 2-1 in the 11th.
On 8 August 1988, the Chicago Cubs played their first night game at Wrigley Field. The Tribune rounds up memories from people who supported and opposed the installation of lights at the park:
Ryne Sandberg, Cubs second baseman, 1982-1997: Leading up to ’88, the talk within the organization was that lights were necessary to create a schedule more conducive to resting the home team, getting us out of the sun. Before that, with some of those 10-day homestands with all day games (it was) in 90-plus temperatures.
Rick Sutcliffe, Cubs pitcher, 1984-1991: There's nothing better than playing a day game and going home to have dinner with your family. But when you come back from a West Coast trip, and let’s say you had a long game … sometimes we went straight from the airport to the ballpark. It’s really difficult that whole homestand. You just feel wiped out. … I would throw nine innings at Dodger Stadium and might lose anywhere from 2 to 4 pounds. There were times at Wrigley Field during that heat that I lost 10 to 15 pounds. I would love to go start a game to lose 15 right now!
Did lights help the Cubs? Probably; but there's no definitive way to say.
It's the 99th day of 2018, and I'm looking out my office window at 25 mm of snow on the ground. It was -7°C on Saturday and -6°C last night. This isn't April; it's February. Come on, Chicago.
The Cubs' home opener originally scheduled for today will be played tomorrow. This is the second time in my memory that the home opener got snowed out. I didn't have tickets to today's game, but I did have tickets to the game on 15 April 1994, which also got snowed out.
(Cubs official photo.)
Because it's Chicago. (Actually, there's a blocking mass of warm air to the east of us causing a bulge in the polar jet stream and pushing cool Canadian air down into the U.S. That sort of thing feels really nice in July; not so much in April.)
I made sure to take a photo of this while walking home from dinner last night:
But, really, the sign should now say AC000101. Because the Cubs lost the playoffs. Again.