For the Chicago Cubs, five is the magic number

How long will Theo Epstein’s honeymoon last with Chicago Cubs fans?

Imagine if your goal, whenever you took the car out of the garage, was to get to your destination without having an accident. Or, if every time you sat down to eat a meal, your primary goal was not choking to death. That would seem pretty pathetic, wouldn’t it? Yet that’s a bit how being a Cubs fan feels this year, since the team’s stated goal is now finishing the year with less than 100 losses.

Nobody expected the first year of the Theo Epstein regime to be a success. Theo’s team in Boston made the playoffs in their first year, and were a Pedro Martinez collapse away from getting to the World Series. But the common wisdom is that Theo inherited that team, more than he built it himself. And Jim Hendry left quite a mess to be cleaned up, too. This was going to take some time, as the conventional wisdom in Chicago went before this season began.

Before April had even ended, and the Cubs were looking like a team going nowhere for the rest of the season, I floated the possibility in this space that the Cubs could lose 100 games in a season, for the first time since 1966. And now, all these weeks and months later, avoiding that fate seems to be the only drama left in this woeful season.

So, if the Cubs can find a way to fashion five wins out of their final 12 games of the season, they will achieve their modest, and almost insulting, goal of less than 100 losses. I’d hate to think that anyone could walk away from a 90+ loss season with something resembling a moral victory.

It’s human nature to put the best face on a bad situation, I suppose, but will there be any cheers of celebration if, during a meaningless three-game series in early October, the Cubs beat the Houston Astros to secure a 63-win season? Has the bar really been set that low for one of the oldest franchises in the National League, and a major market team that has the financial resources that the Pittsburgh Pirates and several other teams can only dream of?

Theo and his braintrust are still getting the benefit of the doubt, for now. And he has all but thrown in the towel for being competitive next season, too. But he has to realize that the clock is ticking, and a 98- or 99- or even a 100-loss season represents an even worse beginning than most people bargained for.

It needs to be said that 2012 has not been a good year for the Chicago Cubs, regardless of what happens over these final 12 games, and any attempts to suggest otherwise will not be received favorably.



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