Tuesday night's Cub loss left me speechless, i.e., postless. If it wasn't a certain low point in the season thus far, it is at least in the running.
In trying to find some historical context for the Cubs' play through much of the first half—most of it related to the team's stunning record at Wrigley Field—I have continued to stumble across references to 1969 and 1977. In both years, the Cubs headed into the All-Star break with a hold on first place.
I won't go into 1969, but as for '77, it was unique because both the Cubs and the White Sox sat atop their respective divisons at the break and naturally, that gave rise to all sorts of 'what if?' talk about an all-Chicago World Series.
That season, the Cubs finished the first half with a 54-35 record, 2.5 games better than the second-place Phillies in the NL East. (This year's Cubs were 57-38 at the break, 4.5 games better than the second-place Cardinals in the Central.)
The '77 team split its first 12 games in the second half, holding onto sole possession of first place through August 3rd. The Cubs then split a 4-game series at home against an awful San Diego Padres team while Philadelphia, with Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, and Steve Carlton all in fine form, ran up a winning streak that would eventually reach 13 games, including a 4-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley.
By the time the Phillies finally lost, the Cubs had fallen 5.5 games in arrears and the season was over. At the finish line, the Phillies were division champions with a 101-61 mark, while the Cubs finished 20 games back at 81-81, damn respectable by Cub standards but deeply disappointing considering how things had looked in July.
(Saving grace—though the White Sox held up much better than the Cubs and finished the campaign 90-72, they still finished third, 12 games behind the AL West champion Royals.)
I don't mention any of this because I have given up hope or expect the Cubs to finish 20 games out, but given how poorly they have started the second half, how dreadfully they performed in Phoenix Tuesday night, and how well the Brewers are playing (with the overachieving Cardinals right behind them), it certainly does cross a Cub fan's mind that we could be seeing the beginning of the end of all those World Series fantasies we have shared so far in 2008.
Labels: Cubs History