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You didn't think it was possible, did you? You didn't think this Cub season could be even worse than you projected.
Behold! They lost on Sunday at the end of a game featuring a new sort of trifecta - the opponent scored on a passed ball, a wild pitch and a balk. The wild pitch was one of five in one inning uncorked by Cubs pitchers Edwin Jackson and Michael Bowden. A new Major League record!
That 10-7, 10-inning contest capped off a 1-3 series against the World Champion Giants the Cubs started by blowing a 5-0 lead. There were many reasons that 7-6 loss went goofy last Thursday, but my favorite was that at a critical juncture, pitcher Scott Feldman failed to competently cover first on a ground ball to first for the third time this season - three times in two starts!
Feldman plays for a rebuilding team that has professed to only caring about teaching young players to play the game the right way. The preseason featured an extended spring training due to the need to make allowances for the World Baseball Classic. Practically the only drill they do in spring training on certain days is the "pitchers covering first" drill.
I wonder if Feldman realizes his inability to make this play is an embarrassment to every last member of the Cubs organization. In addition, it is hard to feel good about the core competence of said organization when gaffes like Feldman's are actually routine. They happen every, single, day.
A little more than a week ago, for the first time in Major League Baseball history, brothers hit solo home runs to tie and then win a game in the bottom of a ninth inning against a former closer (Carlos Marmol) that everyone in Chicago knew was over-matched except for the Cubs' manager. Then one of the team's top prospects was suspended for five games after he menaced an opposing team with a bat (another wonderful episode in the ongoing series, "Teaching young players to play the right way!").
And there is plenty of fun stuff off the field as well. A twisted Cutesy Cubbie fan tried to deliver a goat's head to the owner. The season is barely two weeks old for gosh sakes!
Let's be clear about one thing: when a team doesn't care about winning, everything deteriorates quickly.
When Vince Lombardi said "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," what he was actually saying was that "pursuing winning is the only thing."
And what he meant by that was that competitive enterprises don't work unless the people running the show are doing absolutely everything they can to win.
(Lombardi wasn't the first to utter that quote by the way. UCLA football coach Red Sanders came up with it first in about 1950. But Lombardi adopted it and repeated it on numerous occasions.)
The Cubs have made it clear for the second season in a row that they don't care about winning. And now they are reaping the rewards.
Team president Theo Epstein announced before the season started that he didn't care if his team improved from last year to this one.
He made the ridiculous assertion that it doesn't matter if a team wins 78 games instead of 73.
Of course, this Cubs team can only dream of winning 70 games, let alone the 78 that could actually put them within a decent winning streak of contention (repeat after me: "Less than a decade ago, the Cardinals won the World Series after winning 83 games in the regular season. Less than a decade ago . . . ").
Epstein and his cohort can continue to pretend that by being terrible right now, they are putting the Cubs in position to win in the future. Smart fans know that's a crock. By being terrible right now, the only thing the Cubs are teaching their young players is how to be terrible.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.
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