It’s late as I write this, and I’ve stayed up to follow a 16-inning game. I should be in bed right now, but the last two games have been historic, and ultimately disappointing in the extreme. So, writing about them for a few minutes can’t hurt.
When I wrote the Cubs season preview a few weeks ago, I suggested that Emilio Bonifacio had a chance to make the team’s roster out of spring training. He had a minor league contract, and it was a longshot for him to go into spring training and break camp, but he pulled it off. And now he’s written his name into the record books, with nine hits (nine!) over the first two games of the season. Nobody has had that many hits in the first two games of a season before, and if he’s not the talk of baseball come Thursday morning, he should be.
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Some players won’t have nine hits before May rolls around, and I’ll check back on May 1 to see if that’s right. But only two games into the season, Bonifacio is hitting .750 and is on pace to record 729 hits for the season, if he plays all 162 games and keeps up this pace. Neither one of these will happen, of course, but it’s been fun to watch him get on base so regularly thus far.
But a look at the four players who recorded eight hits in their first two games of the season reveals a disturbing trend. Showboat Fisher, who accomplished the feat in 1930, scored three runs in his first two games of the season. Ira Flagstead and Dante Bichette, who accomplished the feat in 1926 and 1998, respectively, each scored four times in their two games. And Wade Boggs scored five times when he accomplished the feat in 1994. It stands to reason that getting on base leads to scoring runs, and that’s what a team has to do in order to win games.
Boggs’ Yankees team and Bichette’s Rockies team both swept the first two games they played, while Flagstead’s Red Sox team and Fisher’s Cardinals team both split their first two games. Their eight-hit performances were supplemented by some offense from their teammates, but this was not so in Bonifacio’s case.
For all of his prowess at getting on base, Bonifacio has only come around to score once this season. And — perhaps not surprisingly — the Cubs lost both games to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bonifacio is clearly doing his job by getting on base and setting the table, but the rest of the Cubs’ offense has been staggeringly ineffective so far this season.
After an 0-for-11 performance with runners in scoring position (or RISP) on opening day, the Cubs went an astonishing 1-for-16 with RISP in their second game. If you’ve never witnessed anyone or any team hitting .037 before, you’re not alone in that. Professional hitters don’t remain professional hitters for too long with those numbers on their stat sheet.
The Cubs, as a team, have wasted Bonifacio’s record-breaking performance. This is not at good omen for the rest of the season.