After beating up the Brewers on Thursday, and avoiding a four-game sweep by the second-worst team in the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs are coming back to Wrigley Field for their final homestand of the season.
The most appropriate thing I can think of to say is “Good riddance.”
There are just nine games left for the Cubs this season, and each of them mean something to the teams they’re playing. Atlanta is trying to secure home-field advantage through the NLCS, and the Cardinals and Pirates are battling for a division title. There’s nothing left for the Cubs other than to play the spoiler.
Or is there?
If they should split their final six games at home, the Chicago Cubs have a chance to avoid writing their names into the franchise record books. They’ve already set the franchise record for most players used in one season, which isn’t exactly a happy distinction. But this one would be far more interesting, at least in my mind. And it would be, perhaps, the culmination of what can only be described as two lost seasons on the North Side of Chicago.
In 2012, when Dale Sveum came riding into town as the Cubs’ new manager, everything was looking up. No more Jim Hendry, no more Mike Quade, and the cast of underachieving veterans was being thinned out by Theo Epstein and his people. Things could only get better, as the old song from the ’80s goes.
But it didn’t happen that way. The Cubs lost 100 games in a season for the first time in my lifetime (and likely in yours, too). A big part of that was a dreadful collapse after the trading deadline, but the team’s inability to win on the road played a big part as well. The team ended 2012 with a 23-58 road record, the worst such mark in a team history that goes back to late 19th century.
The Dale Sveum era was hardly off to a rousing start.
If the ultimate goal of a team is to do better than the year before, then the Chicago Cubs can call 2013 a success. Even if they ruin the table — which seems like a good opposite term for “run the table” — the 64 wins they already have would make this season a three-game improvement over last year.
But the Cubs have another franchise record in view, and like last year’s record, this one won’t be a good one to have. Should the Cubs win less than three games on their final homestand, they will become the first Cubs team ever to lose 50 games at home in the same season.
To recap, last year was the worst road record in Chicago Cubs history, and this year could end up as the worst home record in Cubs history. It would make for an interesting set — like bookends, in a way — and would also be a fitting going-away present for Dale Sveum. Let’s see if it comes to pass this way.