Monday, May 29, 2006

the road to 100 losses

as the cubs get ready to wrap up this appalling may which so completely ended their 2006 season, having just played their 50th game, this page thought perhaps some context for their putridity might provide whatever perspective might be needed to assess what has just happened.

the cubs are 6-21 (.222) this may through memorial day, the 29th, and rest at 19-31 (.380), chasing pittsburgh for the central cellar.

there have only been a handful of months comparable to this may since the founding of the chicago national league baseball club. others in which the total of wins amounted to less than seven: june 1954, april 1962, april 1966, april 1981, april 1997, august 1999 and september 2000. note the preponderance of aprils -- this is because of the smaller number of games historically played during this first month of the season. excluding april, then, there have been only three in 130 seasons of baseball. should the team lose their next two and end may at 6-23, their .207 winning percentage for the month will fit neatly among these.

notably, every one of the above mentioned teams lost 90 or more games -- and two of them more than 100. this team appears more with every passing day to be headed to at least the lesser of those two dubious levels of distinction. the average winning percentage for these clubs was .392 -- an approximate record of 63-99.

as to the overall record of 19-31 on may 29, the cubs have been within percentage points in 2000 and 1997, but one has to go back to 1981 to find a cub team in a worse position on may 29. prior to that, 1966, 1962, 1961, 1960, 1957, 1956 and 1953 have been at least as bad. the average winning percentage of these last eight is .390 -- 63-99 in a 162-game season.

this page has long understood this year to be sold as "back-loaded" -- the hopeful strategy held in mind by many fans and perhaps even management was to hold out until better, healthier days arrive later in the year. and that may yet happen (though a winning season is now all but out of the question).

but we would be remiss if we did not note that similar utterances were probably on the lips of the rationalizing faithful in many of those ghostly years past -- only to have these last futile hopes dashed as the season progressed, as new injuries and new disasters made themselves apparent.

the harder probability to accept is that these 2006 cubs are very much like those cubs of 1981, 1966 and 1962 -- and that this club stands a reasonable chance of making a charge to join them among the worst cub teams of all time and becoming just the third cub club to lose 100 games.

this writer, while conceding 90 losses as all but unavoidable -- the team would now have to finish the string at least 54-58 to do better -- still would like to think that, somehow, this stinking mire is not yet so deep as that. however, the possibility is no longer so remote as to be inconceivable. to the contrary, in fact, this team has shown itself to be altogether capable of such ineptitude.

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