Here come the Cubs… not your daddies Cubs, not your Granddaddies Cubs, Not your Great Granddaddies Colts, Orphans or even White Stockings.
Nope, these are the new Cubs… the ones with high K pitchers and that manager with the sweatbands.
If you’re like me you have a not so unique point of view about the Cubs, they used to be in that “other” division and well they stunk…. Pretty bad too, especially if you remember the post Durocher Cubs and the end of the Phil Wrigley era.
Then there’s that whole they haven’t won anything since 1945 stuff. Curses and goats, Harry Carey. All that’s missing is a grounder between someone’s legs.
Oh wait they have THAT too!!!
You can’t avoid this stuff if you have ears and live the game; it’s a carnival of excuses full of charming tales of woe and futility.
I have a frie
nd who lives in Chicago, doesn’t know much about the game today, but indulges me when I am in town and we head down to Waveland Avenue.
Nice park, sunny days, the sound of the bat, ivy (planted by a Veeck no less) It has dare I say… atmosphere. Which of course is ruined by that horrid color blue of the Cubs jerseys.
Anyway when there in the only park that housed a Federal League team you can’t help be soaked in the history of the game on the Northside and then the bitter truth always creeps in.
Here’s the bitter truth.
The Reds are not the oldest franchise in baseball.
The Braves and the Cubs are the oldest National League Franchises.
The longest continuing operating franchise in the National League is the Chicago Cub franchise.
Shhh… don’t tell the Reds marketing department.
The Cincinnati Reds were kicked out of the National League in 1880 for having keggers at their games and doing business in their park on Sunday’s. After helping form the American Association they reappeared in the NL in 1890, their buddy St. Louis showed up the next year
Since then the Reds and Cubs have had a healthy “western” baseball relationship, but that changed when Montreal and San Diego joined the league in 1969.
Before divisional play the Cubs were the Reds opponents on Opening Day 28 times, between 1898 and 1916 the Cubs and Pirates rotated the honor of playing the Reds on their most cherished day and it was a Cubs batter (Johnny Evers) who was the first MLB player to bat at Redland Field in 1912. Doing battle with the Cubs was a tradition that somehow receded in the Astroturf era.
The Cubs have been around long enough to have more than one history. Part of baseballs draw is the deep history of the game and it’s in the Bizarro world of the Cubs that we can find one of the great tragic tales of the game.
“There is a body of tradition to this ball club that holds up in bad years as well as good.”
“Statistics place alone place the Cubs with the kings of baseball, but no amount of statistics, artfully compiled and proudly totaled up, can tell the story of the team that has a hold on the great American Midwest that will never be loosed.”
Ed Burns on the Chicago Cubs in 1948.
The Cubs as the season started in 1948 could claim that they had won SIXTEEN of the NL titles, that’s 23%, the Giants also won 23% of the titles, leaving the scraps for the rest of the league to fight over, unfortunately the Reds were one of those teams fighting for the scraps and could only claim 3 NL titles at that moment, but an equal amount of World Series wins as the Cubs with two.
But the Reds had made their mark on the games landscape, that’s for sure.
Everyone knows the Big Ones (First Professional Team, First Night Game) but the Reds were also the first team to have a Ladies Day (1876), Farm System (1895) and the first to travel by air (1934) and one of the first of two (got to have two) to play a game on television. The National Leagues office was even in Cincinnati for the Giles years, occupying the 6th floor of the Carew Tower and departing to San Francisco in the early 70’s when Feeny took the reigns.
So why does all this matter?
It really doesn’t… but if you like to watch a world turned upside down compare the Reds and the Cubs franchise since the post war glow was still warm on the Northside of the city on the lake.
All Time Franchise History
WINNING PERCENTAGE PCT W ERA G 1 Giants .541 9957 0.16 41231 2 Dodgers .524 9220 0.19 38280 3 Cubs .515 9756 0.01 41773 4 Pirates .511 9183 0.04 40135 5 Cardinals .508 8798 0.00 40187 6 Reds .505 8898 0.01 39316 7 Braves .499 9442 0.03 39975 8 Phillies .467 8586 -.27 40584
Note: does not include Reds American Association Record.
1876-1945 WINNING PERCENTAGE PCT W ERA G 1 Giants .561 5111 0.25 14638 2 Cubs .560 5417 0.25 14734 3 Pirates .537 4668 0.14 13724 4 Reds .494 4114 0.13 13085 5 Dodgers .493 4084 -.01 13437 6 Cardinals .486 3912 -.11 13478 7 Braves .473 4561 -.06 14584 8 Phillies .446 4053 -.45 14897 1946-2004 WINNING PERCENTAGE PCT W ERA G 1 Dodgers .552 5136 0.36 24843 2 Cardinals .526 4886 0.08 26709 3 Braves .526 4881 0.13 25391 4 Giants .521 4846 0.07 26593 5 Reds .515 4784 -.11 26231 6 Phillies .488 4533 -.09 25687 7 Pirates .486 4515 -.06 26411 8 Cubs .467 4339 -.24 27039
Whoa what happened? A .93% drop in winning percentage for the Cubs and .21 climb in that column for the Reds. The Reds is easy to grasp, strong team cultures can last for a few decades and really boost the wins.
However the Cubs drop is unprecedented in both leagues. It’s an incredible run of poor seasons, punctuated with bad decisions made from the offices at the top of Wrigley all the way to the dugout, including abrasive leaders like Durocher or ad-hoc groups like the College of Coaches.
Why such a drop? That itself is a study that could take awhile, but look at the ERA vs the league. A drop from .25 above average to -.24 below average can really take the wind out of the sails of any franchise.
So here come the Cubs, trailblazers from the beginning, class clowns for a good portion of their existence and currently producing pitching at a rate that would make Ed Reulbach and Lon Warneke grin ear to ear.
I hope the Reds take it to them.
Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the “American League”…. but I digress.
Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be.
After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A’s fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey.
A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia