Winning Isn't Everything

Jun 30, 2000... Bill Krieger

Geez.... this is a long one. So, let's start with a quiz: can you name the two right-handed sluggers in the pictures below?

Name that Slugger Quiz

Of course, that's a no-brainer. On the left, it's Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs... and on the right, Mark Krieger of the mighty North Suburban Redhawks.

My second question: who had a better 1999? Let's go to the videotape:

  AB Hits HR Runs RBI OBP SLG Avg
Sammy Sosa 625 180 63 114 141 .367 .635 .288
Mark Krieger 87 32 4 27 4 .540 .789 .451

Statistically, I'm going to have to go with the Krieger youngster. He also brings a couple important intangibles. In 1999, Mark cost $11 million less than Sammy. Also, Mark's girlfriend is hotter than Sammy's wife (though maybe not as hot as Sammy's girlfriend(s)).

I've talked with a lot of people about the Sammy Sosa trade (it's June 30 and Sammy hasn't been unloaded by the Cub... yet). My response, "shit, who cares." The Cub won't win with Sammy, and they won't win without him. The Cub are clearly mismanaged by Andy McFail and Ed Lynch and are in a shambles. Don Baylor is an incompetent manager, and if you don't believe that watch how many problems Joe Torre has with Sammy if/when he gets traded to the Yankee.

So, fuck it. I hope Sammy gets his $16-20 million a year and ends up in the hall of fame. The days of guys being stuck with a fucking loser ballclub (e.g. Ernie Banks) for their entire career are over. We'll miss you Sammy.

The Last 5 Decades

Speaking of the "f" word... Ladies and gentlemen, I present... five decades of futility:

Here's the last 50 years of Cub history. I grabbed this from which is actually a nice site. You'd think they'd make records like this a little harder to find. By the way, GA/GB means "games ahead or games behind". Enjoy.

Year Wins Loss PCT POS GA/GB
1990's 742 810 0.478 - -16.8
1980's 735 821 0.472 - -17.7
1970's 785 827 0.487 - -15.0
1960's 735 868 0.459 - -23.7
1950's 672 866 0.437 - -27.9
50 years 3669 4192 0.467 - -16.5

Yup, five consecutive decades of losing baseball. A couple futility factoids:

If you want the raw data, it's here: Cub Record for the Last 50 Years

I have summarized each decade below with stats and my insightful commentary. Enjoy.

Here's a key to some of the table data:

These are the codes appended to the "Manager" column of the tables:
(C) Central Divsion play begins
(E) Eastern Division play begins
(o) college of coaches
(s) strike-shortened season
(t) tied
(*wild*) made playoffs - wildcard
(*1st*) made playoffs - division winner

The best stats (most wins, best percentage, fewest games behind) for each decade are in bold.

The best stats for all 50 years have an aqua background.

The worst stats (most losses, worst percentage, most games behind) for each decade are underlined.

The worst stats for all 50 years have a red background.

The 1990's

Year W-L Wins Loss PCT POS GA/GB Manager
1999 67-95 67 95 0.414 6 -30 Riggleman
1998 93-70 93 70 0.552 2 -12.5 Riggleman (*wild*)
1997 68-94 68 94 0.420 5 -16 Riggleman
1996 76-86 76 86 0.469 4 -12 Riggleman
1995 73-71 73 71 0.507 3 -12 Riggleman (s)
1994 49-64 49 64 0.434 5 -16.5 Trebelhorn (s) (C)
1993 84-78 84 78 0.519 4 -13 Lefebvre
1992 78-84 78 84 0.481 4 -18 Lefebvre
1991 77-83 77 83 0.481 4 -20 Zimmer/Altobelli/Essian
1990 77-85 77 85 0.475 4 -18 Zimmer (t)
1990's 742-810 742 810 0.478   -16.8  

The Cub were actually a bit lucky in the 90's. The Cub were a one-game playoff away from writing off the whole decade. In 1998, the Cub defeated the San Francisco Giant in a one-game playoff to make their only playoff appearance of the decade. The Cub fell flat in the playoffs and were swept by the Atlanta Braves 3-0.

Some highlights of the decade:

The lowlight of the decade? If you have to ask, then you're not a real Cub fan. Of course, it's the Cub losing Greg Maddux to the Atlanta Brave over a piddling amount of money and a healthy helping of mishandling by Cub management. Maddux, a certain first ballot hall-of-famer, won a zillion Cy Young awards and a World Series title.

The 1980's

Year W-L Wins Loss PCT POS GA/GB Manager
1989 93-69 93 69 0.574 1 6 Zimmer (*1st*)
1988 77-85 77 85 0.475 4 -24 Zimmer
1987 76-85 76 85 0.472 6 -18.5 Michael/Lucchesi
1986 70-90 70 90 0.438 5 -37 Frey/Vukovich/Michael
1985 77-84 77 84 0.478 4 -23.5 Frey
1984 96-65 96 65 0.596 1 6.5 Frey (*1st*)
1983 71-91 71 91 0.438 5 -19 Elia/Fox
1982 73-89 73 89 0.451 5 -19 Elia
1981 38-65 38 65 0.369 6 -21.5 Amalfitano (s)
1980 64-98 64 98 0.395 6 -27 Gomez/Amalfitano
1980's 735-821 735 821 0.472   -17.7  

The 1980's began the Harry Caray era. Harry transformed Cub fans from a cult to a religion. Harry also turned Wrigley Field from a quaint ballpark into baseball's shrine. With the help of
WGN superstation exposure every spring and summer day for 15 years, Harry did all this, and took the time to have a blast and make himself the most popular Cub of all time.

1984 was special for the Cub and for me. We didn't know it then, but 1984 was the pinnacle of 50 years of Cub baseball. The team (Ryno, Andre Dawson, Ron Cey, Bobby Dernier, Rick Suttcliffe, Lee Smith, etc.) marked the best record of any Cub team since 1950. Ryno was named MVP of the National League, and a key trade for Rick Sutcliffe put the team over the top. I had moved to North Carolina in 1984 for my new high-powered job at GE. Well, the Cub made the playoffs for the first time in, well, my lifetime, and I had the formidable task of explaining the significance of this event to my Dutch-immigrant boss. Shit, I wasn't going to miss afternoon playoff games at Wrigley.

You probably know the story. The Cub crushed the Padre in their 2 games at Wrigley... and proceeded to lose the next three in San Diego. Jesus, it was gut-wrenching because the Cub really had a better team. They have sweet stats and lineups of the carnage at ... just click on "history" and then "postseason".

1989 was pretty flukey. Sure, we won the division, but it wasn't a dominant team like in 1984. Jerome Walton won rookie of the year, but that was a big lie. The Cub picked up Mitch Williams to be their closer, and he's as flaky as they come. Mark Grace and Greg Maddux were pups, but the rest of the team was old old old. We got hammered pretty good by the San Francisco Giant 4 games to 1. I remember fucking Will Clark killing us with every atbat he had.

I was living in the bay area during the 1989 season, and I bet one of my coworkers (Steve Carlson, for the record) on the series: the loser had to recite a speech written by the winner for the entire comany. I lost, and I read. It wasn't as bad as Will Clark.

For the record: Nearly a decade later, I would later bet that same coworker, Mr. Carlson, and another Giant fan (Janet Greene) on the outcome of the 1998 Cub/Giant one-game playoff. I won... and they didn't pay off. Cub fans may be losers, but we're not welchers. Thank you.

The 1970's

Year W-L Wins Loss PCT POS GA/GB Manager
1979 80-82 80 82 0.494 5 -18 Franks/Amalfitano
1978 79-83 79 83 0.488 3 -11 Franks
1977 81-81 81 81 0.500 4 -20 Franks
1976 75-87 75 87 0.463 4 -26 Marshall
1975 75-87 75 87 0.463 5 -17.5 Marshall (t)
1974 66-96 66 96 0.407 6 -22 Lockman/Marshall
1973 77-84 77 84 0.478 5 -5 Lockman
1972 85-70 85 70 0.548 2 -11 Durocher/Lockman (s)
1971 83-79 83 79 0.512 3 -14 Durocher (t)
1970 84-78 84 78 0.519 2 -5 Durocher
1970's 785-827 785 827 0.487   -15.0  

I loved the 70's Cub. My favorite player was (and is) shortstop Don Kessinger. He was the best fielding shortstop I have ever seen, and his favorite move was getting grounders deep in the hole at short, whirling in air and throwing the man out at first. Excellent. He also happened to be a perfect gentleman.

I would rush home from school to catch the end of day games at Wrigley Field on channel 9. Jack Brickhouse did all the games, and he had so much positivity going, it was infectious. Invariably, Jack bled those Cub losses along with me and all the other Cub fans watching. It's like getting punched in the face, and then rushing home the next day to get your next beating.

This was all before the advent of cable or superstations or ESPN or VCR's. It's hard to explain to kids what that means. You saw the game or you missed it. While you were watching the game, it was more special because there wasn't going to be another game on later or 24 hours of highlights on some other channel. It was the Cub or nothing. Well, it was the Cub or play outside... don't forget, this was before video games too.

A couple notes:

The 1960's

Year W-L Wins Loss PCT POS GA/GB Manager
1969 92-70 92 70 0.568 2 -8 Durocher (E)
1968 84-78 84 78 0.519 3 -13 Durocher
1967 87-74 87 74 0.540 3 -14 Durocher
1966 59-103 59 103 0.364 10 -36 Durocher
1965 72-90 72 90 0.444 8 -25 Kennedy/Klein (o)
1964 76-86 76 86 0.469 8 -17 Kennedy (o)
1963 82-80 82 80 0.506 7 -17 Kennedy (o)
1962 59-103 59 103 0.364 9 -42.5 Tappe/Metro/Klein (o)
1961 64-90 64 90 0.416 7 -29 Himsl/Craft/Klein/Tappe (o)
1960 60-94 60 94 0.390 7 -35 Grimm/Boudreau
1960's 735-868 735 868 0.459   -23.7  

The 60's are one thing... the 1969 Cubs. The collapse of the 1969 Cubs is the defining moment of the Cub half-century of losing.

Man, the Cub developed a nice core of sweet players in the 60's: Ernie at first, Beckert at second, Kessinger at short, Santo at third, Billy Williams at left, Rand Hundley catching... all these guys, except Ernie, were brought up through the Cub farm system in the sixties. We had many all-star appearances. Santo led the league in RBI's a number of years. Billy Williams led the league in RBI's and average. Kessinger and Beckert routinely led the league in double plays.

The pitching was great, too. Fergie Jenkins set a major-league record by reeling off 6 straight 20 win seasons. We had other top starters backing him up: Ken Holtzman, Bill Hands, Milt Pappas, and Phil Regan and Ted Abernathy out of the bullpen.

This core led the Cub to 6 straight winning seasons for 1967-1972. By 1972, it was over. Our all-star core had gotten old and hadn't managed a single playoff appearance. Ernie, Billy and Fergie have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Santo has the numbers to make the Hall, but hasn't been voted in. How could the Cub have 4 Hall of Famers and not win a damn thing. Got me.

Finally, how about those two 103 loss seasons in the 60's. 1962 was the worst season of these woeful 50 years. Rock.

The 1950's

Year W-L Wins Loss PCT POS GA/GB Manager
1959 74-80 74 80 0.481 5 -13 Scheffing (t)
1958 72-82 72 82 0.468 5 -20 Scheffing (t)
1957 62-92 62 92 0.403 7 -33 Scheffing (t)
1956 60-94 60 94 0.390 8 -33 Hack
1955 72-81 72 81 0.471 6 -26 Hack
1954 64-90 64 90 0.416 7 -33 Hack
1953 65-89 65 89 0.442 7 -40 Cavarretta
1952 77-77 77 77 0.500 5 -19.5 Cavarretta
1951 62-92 62 92 0.403 8 -34.5 Frisch/Cavarretta
1950 64-89 64 89 0.418 7 -26.5 Frisch
1950's 672-866 672 866 0.437   -27.9  

Well, this is easy. All this was before I was born, but jesus christ, what a fucking disaster of a decade: THE WORST. Did they hold a party in 1952 when the team hit .500 for their one and only time?

Okay, just for the sake of due diligence, I give you one highlight. Ernie Banks won 2 MVP awards in the 50's. Ta-da!

Wrapup Quotes

"Nice guys finish last"

- Leo Durocher

Maybe, Leo. Wrigley Field is an awfully "nice" experience. Sammy, Gracey, Kerry Wood... all these guys do seem pretty "nice". Ernie, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Ryno... all really nice guys. We didn't always finish last, so let me improve on Leo's accuracy a bit:

"Nice guys never finish first"

- Bill Krieger

I know, I know... lots of bitching, Bill.

But, in reality, being a Cub fan is great. No team has better tradition than the Cub... it's just not a winning tradition.

I love going to Wrigley Field.

I loved listening to Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse.

I love Kessinger, Ernie, Santo, Ryno, Gracey, Sammy, Sutter, Billy Williams, Zim, Andre Dawson, Beckert, Ron Cey, Bobby Dernier, Fergie, Randy Hundley, Sutcliffe, Sarge Matthews, Ron Cey, Bill Madlock, Kenny Holtzman, Jim Hickman, Freddy "Fumbles" Young, Ivan DeJesus, Manny Trillo, Jody Davis, Ted Abernathy, Phil "the vulture" Regan, Paul Popovich, Dave Kingman, Larry Bowa, Bobby Murcer, Rick Monday, Steve Swisher, Bill Caudill, Rod "the shooter" Beck, Terry Mulholland, Lee Smith, Mitch Williams, Carmelo Martinez, Adolfo Phillips, Bill Hands, Dick Selma, Mickey Morandini, Riggs, Jose Vizcaino, Jose Hernandez, Ken Rudolph...

About the only Cub I can remember really disliking actually is Leo Durocher. Cock smoker. Actually, I'm not too fond of Don Baylor either. Some day nice guys will win, and when it happens I'll be there.

"Cub win! Cub win! Cub win!"

- Harry Caray

That's more like it. Thanks, Harry...

yow, bill