By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) For a franchise so synonymous with failure, one of the more remarkable facts about the Chicago Cubs is that they really haven’t failed quite as much as you might think.
Well, relatively speaking, of course.
Currently caught up in a nine-game losing streak that’s left the team with the worst record in baseball (15-29), this incarnation of the North Siders is headed due south. To put things in perspective, as of today, the Pirates – who haven’t had a winning season since 1992 – have five more victories than the Boys in Blue.
In fact, so bad are these Cubs that their winning percentage of .341 currently has the team on pace to lose a whopping 107 games.
Not surprisingly, that final tally would be the organization’s worst in 140 seasons of playing baseball. But what might surprise you is that a 100-loss campaign in 2012 would be only the third time in the Cubs’ famously sadsack history that the team has hit triple digits in losses – and it would be the first time in 46 years.
When Dale Sveum was just two years old.
Yes, back in 1966, Leo Durocher’s Cubs stumbled their way to a 59-103 record, finishing dead last in the National League and 36 games behind the pennant-winning Dodgers. Four seasons earlier, in 1962, the Cubs’ infamous “College of Coaches” (mis)guided the team to an identical 59-103 record that left them 42.5 games behind the NL champion San Francisco Giants.
However, that was still 18 games better than the New York Mets, who during their inaugural season in ’62, posted a 40-120 record that left them a staggering 60.5 games out of first place.
A full five decades later, the 1962 Mets’ mark of shame still stands as the worst record in the history of baseball. But, remarkably enough, when it comes to the MLB list of the all-time bad baseball seasons, the Cubs’ twin 103-loss seasons barely rate.
In fact, of MLB’s 30 franchises, the Cubs’ worst record is still better than the worst posted by 24 ballclubs. So, if you’re really looking for something to hang your hat on, ponder these numbers:
The Mets have lost 120 games (in ’62), the Tigers 119 (in 2003), the A’s 117 (in 1916 as the Philadelphia Athletics), the Pirates 112 (in 1952), the Red Sox 111 (in 1932), the Phillies 111 (in 1941), the Diamondbacks 111 (in 2004), the Padres 110 (in 1969), the Nationals 110 (in 1979 as the Montreal Expos), the Giants 110 (in 1985), the Blue Jays 109 (in 1979), the Marlins 108 (in 1998), the Orioles 107 (in 1988), the Rangers 106 (in 1963), the White Sox 106 (in 1970), the Braves 106 (in 1988), the Brewers 106 (in 2002), the Royals 106 (in 2005), the Rays 106 (in 2005), the Astros 106 (in 2011), the Cardinals (105 in 1908), the Indians 105 (in 1991), the Dodgers 104 (in 1904 as the Brooklyn Superbas) and the Mariners 104 (in 1978).
Only the Twins (102 losses in 1982), the Reds (101 in 1982), the Rockies (95 in 1993 and 2005), the Angels (95 in 1968 and 1980) and the Yankees (95 in 1990) can stake a claim to having all-time worst seasons that are actually better than the Cubs’.
And the records of the Twins (who lost 113 games as the Washington Senators in 1904) and the Yankees (who dropped 103 as the New York Highlanders in 1908) should both come with asterisks.
So, what does all this mean? Well, not much. Although, it does highlight how the Cubs – if they maintain their current losing ways – do have a chance to make history this season.
Granted, it’s certainly not the kind of history that Theo Epstein envisioned when he bolted Beantown for Wrigleyville this past offseason, but I suppose it may be a macabre reason to pay attention to the Cubs during the dog days of summer.
And, hey, things could be worse.
Even with the worst record in baseball, the Cubs are already in far better shape than Coppin State University, which this season saw its baseball team go 1-53.
Now, that’s a record even the ’62 Mets can laugh at.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.