OK, Dale Sveum, Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod and all you other new boys in Cubs management –you get it now?
This isn’t Boston, or Milwaukee, or even San Diego, some of your former MLB stops.
This isn’t even, specifically, Chicago. (Two teams here, you know.)
This is the Cubs.
This is what they do.
They lose 7-4 heartbreakers at home, to teams such as the Nationals.
They trot out two famed set-up and closer dudes named Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol in consecutive games – every game this season, for those of you keeping score at home – and blow both games, in which they were leading after the seventh inning.
Yes, it’s just two games.
There are 160 to go.
But the Cubs should be undefeated and are instead two games behind the division-leading Cardinals. Sound familiar?
To Cubs fans, of course.
So you may be wondering, young brain trust: How do the Cubs do it?
There, my friends, is the mystical Grail, the secret that has never been fully revealed. Discover it, and perhaps you can find a remedy, and then your praises will be sung for centuries like those of Odysseus and Beowulf. Or at least Orval Overall.
Starting pitcher Matt Garza was almost as good in this second game against the Nationals as starter Ryan Dempster was in the first on Thursday. Garza gave up five hits and two runs in six innings and left with a 4-2 lead. On came unheralded reliever Rafael Dolis and down went the Nats, one-two-three.
Then comes the eighth inning.
It’s a partly sunny day, 60 degrees, wind blowing gently out of the south, quite pleasant. It’s much different from Opening Day when the temperature was in the low-40s and the wind was blasting in from the north at 18 mph, knocking every drive flat as a tortilla.
Out comes Wood, the charitable former phenom who fanned 20 Houston Astros in a single game in 1998. Woody’s job: simply hold the Nationals for one inning so Marmol can pitch the ninth and lock the door.
Our buddy gets two outs and then … dear God.
Did you see it, Dale, Theo, Jed, Jason?
Of course you did.
Did you believe it? That’s the better question.
Wood gives up a home run to Danny Espinoza, a single to Ryan Zimmerman, a single to Adam LaRoche. Bases loaded. Cubs still lead, 4-3.
In comes closer Marmol. He walks Jayson Werth, gives up a hit to Chad Tracy, a double to Roger Bernadina, walks Wilson Ramos, and…
What a mess.
All it did is remind Cubs followers that there are many facets to the game, and that none of them mean anything if a team can’t close out wins.
Here is a baseball fact for all the genius mathematicians now employed by the Cubs. The only out that matters is the third out.
Oh, and why was it you traded away useful utility pitcher Sean Marshall, anyway? None of those guys you got in exchange are in the bigs. Was that sabermetrics or saber scarring?
The Cubs have given up seven runs after leading and having two outs in the eighth inning of two games.
Wood was booed lustily as he walked off the mound, and Marmol was booed with even more lust. And not the good kind.
The “Lovable Loser” thing is long gone at Wrigley, and you might want to make note of that, new operators.
“It’s no panic situation, so far,” manager Sveum said afterward. He mentioned that it was just “a couple of bad innings.”
True. But Charles Manson has had just a few bad decades in prison. OK, wrong parallel. But we’d like this flaw in the Cubs’ process to be recognized for what it is – a systemic, historic, viral thing.
It can be summed up thusly: They can’t keep losing like this!
Wood was not around to describe what he thought happened in the eighth. That, too, is Cub-like. If it hurts, I don’t want to talk about it.
Marmol , who did stick around, said of the failure, “You can’t think about. You have to go forward.”
He’s right. But shouldn’t forward mean ahead, not backward?
Food for thought, Cubs leaders.
Food for thought.