Despite Loss Cubs Capture 2016 NL Central Division

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

It wasn’t the way they wanted, but they’ll take it just the same. The fans were buzzing with excitement at Wrigley Field waiting for a Cubs victory over the Milwaukee Brewers to touch off a National League Central Division crowning celebration of epic proportions. Unfortunately, the Brewers decided to play party spoilers and fought off the Cubs to gain a 5-4 victory. Still, the Cubs had one more chance to win the division Thursday night as another St. Louis Cardinals loss would clinch the Cubs first division title since 2008. So as the fans trickled out to the streets of Waveland and Addison, the Cubs stayed in the clubhouse to watch the Cardinals finish their game against the San Francisco Giants.

When Matt Adams made the final out in the Cardinals 6-2 loss, the Cubs reached goal one of this highly anticipated season–2016 NL Central Champions. There was celebration in the clubhouse and out in the streets of Wrigleyville. However, the feel good moment was only fleeting not for just the team but the fans as well. The success of this season will ultimately be defined on one simplistic moment–whether or not a Cub will record the final out of the 2016 World Series.

There is guarded optimism throughout the North Side as this team has proven all year that they are the team to beat. They have been the front runner all year and never shied away from the expectations that most teams crumble to when crowned preseason favorites. Every Cubs fan is well within his or her right to approach these playoffs with some skepticism. They may be afraid to peak around the curtain to see how this plays out. Do the Cubs indeed break the 108 year old curse or is it more heartache?

A lot is weighing on this team because of how good they’ve proven to be. Falling short of winning the World Series would be more devastating than past playoff shortfalls. However, this team is different than all the other teams this year and the majority of Cubs teams from previous years. They have three pitchers vying for the NL Cy Young, they have two of the top favorites to win the NL MVP, they have seven All-Stars, and they have a flamethrower for a closer. These are all facts. And no matter what team it is, a team consisting of such players is the favorite to win the World Series.

As a result, there has been a different level of excitement for the Cubs fan base this year and there will be a different level of excitement for the fans come playoff time. Everyone will be turned up to 11 so to speak to watch every game, every out, every pitch. This is the Cubs and their fans’-all across the city, state, country, heck, even world-time. October baseball is coming and so are the Cubs. History be damned!

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All-Star Break Couldn’t Come Soon Enough as Cubs Lose Again and Arrieta Loses 2nd Straight Road Game

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

The Cubs (52-34) found a new way to lose a game as Jake Arrieta had a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the 7th inning and quickly lost the lead as the Cubs fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-4. Just when the Cubs were close to righting the flooding ship everything broke apart after Arrieta walked Adam Frazier, which led to a four-seventh inning. The Cubs offense again did not offer any much of a fight against the Pirates as they were unable to get themselves back into the game. Meanwhile, the Pirates were able to tack on another run against Trevor Cahill in the eighth inning to give themselves a four-run cushion.

It feels like over these last three weeks nothing has changed. Assuredly, the Cubs starting pitchers were never going to sustain the high-level of performance all five were pitching at in May. However, they have come nowhere close to that level since June. Arrieta is nowhere close to the Ace that he has been over the last year. Jon Lester and Jason Hammel are declining rapidly and John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks are so inconsistent that no one knows what to expect. This is all on top of the bullpen that keeps dropping down further and further in all of MLB in terms of bullpen ERA.

Cubs President Theo Epstein told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers before Thursday’s game with the Atlanta Braves that their recent struggles is “sort of baseball reality.” That would appear to be a more optimistic approach to their 5-14 record in their last nineteen games. Sitting back with the thought that this is just a funk that all teams go through and expecting them to eventually get out of it is a game of chicken when coming down to the trade deadline. Will Epstein make a few minor changes as he believes the team will right itself? Or does he really believe deep down that the team peaked in May and will need to make significant moves to shake things up to get the team back on track?

Game 87
Jon Lester (9-4, 2.67 ERA) will take his turn at getting the Cubs back in the win column. This will be Lester’s fourth start of the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is 2-1 against the Pirates having pitched 18.1 innings giving up only four earned runs on 17 hits. Lester has also struck 21 Pirates while only walking seven. He, like all Cubs pitchers of recent, is looking to bounce back from a terrible previous outing. In his last game, against the New York Mets, Lester had the worst game of his career. He only made it to one out in the second inning before Manager Joe Maddon had to pull him. In that brief period Lester allowed eight earned runs on nine hits, including three home runs.

The Cubs will be facing tonight rookie right-hander Chad Kuhl (1-0, 4.09 ERA). Kuhl made his major league debut on June 26 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He gave a solid performance in the Pirates 4-3 win in which he got the decision. He got a no-decision in his last game, against the Oakland A’s, in which he surrendered two earned runs on seven hits over six innings. Kuhl features four pitches—fastball, sinker, slider, and changeup. His fastball can reach up to 96 mph. He also has great command as he has only walked one batter so far in his 11 total innings pitched.

Outlook: This is a series between two teams trending in opposite directions. The Pirates have caught fire as of late and have now won eight out of their last ten games as the Cubs have only won two out of their last ten games. It just gets down to performing, plain and simple. The Cubs hitters need to get the bats going and if they are not producing runs then they need to make the proper adjustments. The starters need to refocus and get back to what was bringing them success. Lester needs to shake his last outing out of his memory and move on. Overall, if their struggles are the same struggles that all teams go through, then it is now time to break out of it and show everyone that the real team was the one back in May and not now.

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A Cub for Life: The Life, Death, and Remembrance of Ken Hubbs

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By Frederick Krauss Ph.D.

The Cubs players and fans share a unique bound that has stood the test of time. They share a certain closeness that is not felt in other fan bases. The Cubs embrace the fans and the fans embrace the players in a way that forms a deeper and lasting bond. I think that the bond is fortified even deeper when both go through the ups and many downs that they have together.

The Cubs organization and fans have suffered its share of heartache and disappointment on the field. From missed playoff opportunities to costly errors, the organization has had more downs than ups over the years. Still, there is a big difference between disappointment created on the field of play and tragedy off of the field. Unfortunately, the Cubs have felt that anguish too, none greater, arguably, than the sudden death of their sure-handed second baseman Ken Hubbs in 1964 at the young age of 22.

Ken Hubbs was on the cusp of being a star among stars on a tremendous Cubs roster. He epitomized the spirit of what it meant to be a Cub. He, along with Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Billie Williams, and Ron Santo were the bright future that lied ahead for the organization in the 1960’s. Hubbs and Banks were destined to be one of the better double-play combinations in the Major League Baseball history. More significantly, Hubbs, despite is young age, quickly established himself as a leader in the Cubs clubhouse through his steady play and the exemplary way he presented himself. The loss of Hubbs stung the Cubs and the fan base for years to come as the players lost a brother and the fans lost a player who they endeared because he always took the time to be accessible.

Hubbs was the storybook American athlete. He was born in Riverside, California on December 23, 1941 and raised in Colton. After overcoming an early childhood hernia, which prevented him from being active, Hubbs quickly excelled in all sports. Right away he quickly gained national fame by leading his 1954 little league team to the championship game of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

In high school, at Colton High, Hubbs lettered in four sports—football, basketball, baseball, and track. He also became an All-American in basketball and football. Hubbs was such a good athlete that Notre Dame recruited him to play quarterback and UCLA legendary coach John Wooden recruited him to play point guard. Still, Hubbs chose baseball because he felt that it was the clearest route to becoming a professional athlete. So when the Cubs drafted him in 1959 and offered him a $50,000 signing bonus he signed and officially became a professional baseball player.

Hubbs had a significant impact on the Cubs organization in the short time he was with them. He went up the ranks as a shortstop and outfielder, but since Banks was entrenched at shortstop the organization switched him to play second base. He made his debut with the club on September 10, 1961 and went on to play in ten games that season.

It was his first full season as a rookie in 1962 that established Hubbs as a real major leaguer. That season he won the National League Rookie of the Year award by batting .260 with five home runs and 49 RBI. However, it was not his bat that won Hubbs the award, but his glove. Hubbs went a then MLB record for a second baseman 78 games and 418 chances without making an error. He also became the first rookie to ever win a Gold Glove. He also holds the single-season record for most at-bats by a Cubs rookie at 661.

The story goes that halfway through the 1962 season, Phil Wrigley saw how well Hubbs was playing and how bright his future was with the Cubs that he tore up his contract and doubled his salary. And although his offensive stats slightly went down the following year his glove cemented him as a permanent fixture at second and to be Ernie Banks’ running-mate for several years to come. Unfortunately, the 1963 season was the last year that the Cubs and their fans got to enjoy the excellence of Hubbs’ play and character.

Hubbs had a fear of flying, but the competitor in him decided to fight it by earning his pilot’s license throughout 1963. He finally earned his license in January 1964. On February 13, 1964 Hubbs and his childhood friend Dennis Doyle were flying a Cessna 172 from a visit in Provo, Utah back to Colton. There was a storm approaching that morning, but Hubbs felt like he could make it out of the Provo area before the inclement weather hit.

On February 14, Hubbs’ father Euliss reported to authorities that his son’s plane had not landed at the airport near Colton. Search and rescue crews were sent out over the three states that covered his flight path. Rescuers discovered the wreckage of Hubbs’ plane near Bird Island in Utah Lake on the outskirts of Provo, Utah.

It turns out that Hubbs discovered he was not going to be able to out-fly the storm and decided to turn back as the visibility became hazy. At the time of the flight he only had 71 hours of flying experience. As a result, Hubbs was not qualified to fly by instruments, which pilots have to when visibility is disrupted. His inexperience caused him to lose the horizon and sent the plane in what experts call a “graveyard spiral.” Hubbs was 22 years old at the time of his death.

Hubbs’ death hit his Cubs teammates hard. Hall of Famer Santo said, “After he died, I had to see a priest. I couldn’t understand it. I mean. He loved life. He was a great human being. This was a kid who didn’t even smoke or drink.” Pitcher Lindy McDaniel lamented that “He had a real positive effect on the ballclub. The Cubs could always use that.” Several players served as pallbearers including Santo and Banks at the funeral where over 1,300 mourners attended. As then-Mayor Richard Daley wrote, “There isn’t a man in Chicago who wouldn’t have been proud to have him as a son.”

The death of Ken Hubbs left a lot of “what ifs” regarding the organization. What if he was still with the team in the 1960’s? Would they have made the playoffs or even won a World Series? Would he have prevented the collapse in 1969? Would he have helped the club in other capacities after his playing career was over? Again, there are a lot of “what ifs”, but the saddest of them all was that Hubbs was a brilliant young man with a bright future who symbolized everything that was great about the Cubs and their connection with the fans.

It was said that after day games at Wrigley Hubbs would go back to his Chicago apartment and play stick ball with the neighborhood kids. Hubbs’ legacy is felt to this day as there is foundation in his name, the Ken Hubbs Foundation, which provides scholarships to the best male and female student-athletes in the San Bernardino, California Area. Hubbs will forever be linked with the Cubs and what could have been. But also, he clearly defined the quality of person that the Cubs organization looks to have representing the club on the field.

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110-Years in the Making: A Look at the 1906 World Series between the Cubs and White Sox in Anticipation for a Possible Rematch

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

It is the second week of May and the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs find themselves in the unique position of both sitting atop of MLB standings. The White Sox lead the American League at 23-12; a 1 ½ game lead over the Baltimore Orioles and have a 5 game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. The Cubs at 25-8 lead the National League by 4 games over the New York Mets and 7 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central. Both teams have shown that they are the “real deal” and not just beneficiaries of a lucky start to the 2016 MLB season. Now, many are envisioning the possibility of a crosstown World Series, which would turn the city of Chicago upside-down with excitement. However, this would not be the first time these two teams played against each other for the World Series. In 1906 World Series the White Sox from the South Side faced the Cubs of then the West Side. In anticipation of a possible rematch 110 years in the making, here’s a closer look at what happened in that series.

The Cubs ran away with the NL pennant by winning an all-time record 116 wins. Their overall record of 116-36 and a win percentage of .763 remains a record to this day (the 2001 Seattle Mariners tied the wins mark of 116 but lost 10 additional games for a 116-46 record and a .716 win percentage).The team was led by the infield of Frank Chance (1B), Joe Tinker (SS), Johnny Evers (2B) and Harry Steindfeldt (3B), along with catcher Johnny Kling. The pitching staff was led by Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown, who won 26 games and had a minute 1.04 ERA. Frank Chance also served as the manager. The Cubs won the pennant by 20 games over the New York Giants even though they had won 96 games themselves.

The White Sox grinded their way to the AL pennant with a record of 93-58, three games ahead of the New York Highlanders, despite being hailed as the “Hitless Wonders” due to their AL-worst .230 team batting average. Amazingly, not one starting position player had a batting average over .300. In fact, second baseman Frank Isbell had the highest batting average among starters at .279. The Sox had a formidable starting rotation, though, of Frank Owen, Nick Altrock, Ed Walsh and Doc White. The team was lead by player/manager Fielder Jones who guided them to a then record 19-game mid-season win streak the pushed them into first place.

Heading into the World Series the press and the general public felt that the White Sox didn’t stand a chance against the mighty Cubs. On paper this look like a heavily one-sided contest that the White Sox could not overcome. However, it turned out, to this day, to be one of the greatest World Series upsets ever in MLB history.

Game 1, which was played on the Cubs’ West Side Grounds (eventually called West Side Park), was a match-up between the White Sox’s Nick Altrock and the Cubs’ Mordecai Brown. The game turned into a pitchers’ duel, which was the exact type of game the light-hitting White Sox needed to start off the series. The pitchers were both throwing shutouts until the fifth inning when the White Sox scored a run off of Brown. They scored another run off of him in the sixth before the Cubs finally responded with a run off of Altrock in the bottom of the sixth. The pitchers continued their duel and they both pitched complete games. The Cubs never could get another run to tie the game and lost Game 1 2-1. Both teams only had four hits apiece.

Game 2 was a change of venue to the Sox’s South Side Park III. The game featured the kind of performance that many expected out of the Cubs. Ed Reulbach held the White Sox to just one run on one hit. The offense scored seven runs on ten hits and chased White Sox starter Doc White out of the game in the fourth inning. The Cubs were led Steinfeldt who went 3-3 with one RBI and Tinker who was 2-3 with two runs and one RBI.

Game 3, back at West Side Grounds, was another type of game that favored the offensively-challenged White Sox. Walsh pitched a complete game shutout against the Cubs only giving up two hits. Impressively, he struck out twelve and walked only one. Even more impressively, the two hits he gave up were both in the first inning—a single by Solly Hofman and a double by Frank Schulte. The Cubs starting pitcher Jack Pfiester also pitched a complete game, but gave up three earned runs on four hits.

Game 4, returning to South Side Park III, was another low-scoring pitchers’ duel between the Cubs’ Mordecai Brown and the White Sox’s Nick Altrock. Both pitchers threw complete games, but Brown was just a bit better as the Cubs won 1-0. Brown only gave up two hits while striking out five and walking two. Altrock gave up seven hits and the all-important run in the top seventh when Evers knocked in Chance to put the Cubs up 1-0 for good.

Game 5, at West Side Grounds, is where the White Sox bats finally came alive as they scored eight runs on twelve hits for an 8-6 win over the Cubs. The first inning saw the White Sox score a run on Ed Reulbach. The Cubs responded with three runs in the bottom of the first off of Ed Walsh. However, the White Sox would go on to score two in the third, four in the fourth, and one more run in the sixth. Walsh got the win and Pfiester, who relieved Reulbach in the third inning, would take the loss. Second baseman Frank Isbell led the way for the White Sox going 4-5 with three runs and two RBI. Also, shortstop George Davis went 2-5 with two runs and three RBI.

Game 6 became the closeout game held at South Side Park III. The Cubs got a quick run in the first inning off of Doc White, but the White Sox countered with three runs in the first and four runs in the second to take a 7-1 lead. The White Sox were able to chase Mordecai Brown in the second inning. By the time Brown was taken out of the game he gave up seven earned runs on eight hits without striking out a batter. Orval Overall came in on relief and was able to slow the suddenly viable White Sox offense, but by then it was too late. The Cubs would get two more runs off of White, but would never make much of a threat to the White Sox lead. The Sox won the game 8-3. They were lead by right fielder Ed Hahn who had four hits, while Davis had another three RBI game to go along with his two hits. First baseman Jiggs Donahue knocked in three while collecting two hits. Isbell also had three hits and an RBI.

In the end, the White Sox were able to beat the Cubs four games to two as it became one of the greatest upsets in World Series history. There was a full 23-game difference between the two ball clubs to end the season, which is still a record today. Nevertheless, the upset would not have a lasting effect on the Cubs as they would go on to become the first back-to-back World Series Champions the following two years in 1907 and 1908. The Cubs and White Sox have yet to find themselves opponents in the World Series, but with the advent of interleague play the rivalry has rekindled on the field among players rather than fans in the bars. However, with the hot starts by both teams this season it is as great a possibility as ever that Chicago might see a World Series rematch between Cubs and White Sox. It appears that both fan bases are ready for the rematch!

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Getting Nothing for Something: The Cubs Trade of Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals

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By Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

To know about the Cubs is to learn about the very early success of the franchise and a lot of heartache and questionable decisions since then. Happenings on the field of play have caused a lot of anguish for Cubs fans. However, many of the questionable decisions by the front office over the decades have haunted the organization, as well. No decision causes more frustration and hand-wringing among lifelong Cubs fans than the trade of outfielder and future Hall of Famer Lou Brock to the rival St. Louis Cardinals. The following is a closer look at why the Cubs front office arrived at the decision to trade Brock, the players that were involved, and the subsequent results. It is noted that this topic leaves a bad taste for Cubs fans, but the trade of Brock is an essential aspect of the Cubs narrative.

The term “Brock for Broglio” is a phrase that is used throughout all sports, beyond baseball, to signify a lopsided trade. I know for Cubs fans it is a subject hard to swallow even to this very day as it was the beloved Cubs who gave up on a future Hall of Famer without much in return. Yes, hindsight is always 20/20, especially with trades, but to think that the Cubs front office gave up on a player like Lou Brock is dumbfounding even though there was only a glimmer of the sings that he was going to be a star. As one wishes to learn about the Cubs this is the one transaction that must be examined to better understand the team’s history.

Lou Brock was signed as an amateur free agent by the Chicago Cubs in 1960 and quickly climbed the ladder of the minors to make his major league debut on September 10, 1961. Brock had a very good rookie year in 1962, batting .263 with 9 home runs, 35 RBI, 7 triples, 24 doubles, and 16 steals. In 1963, his second year, he had a similar year where he batted .258 with 9 home runs, 37 RBI, 11 triples, 19 doubles, and 24 steals. In 52 games the following season with the Cubs he was on pace for yet again a similar season—.251 average, 14 RBI, 2 triples, 9 doubles, and 10 steals. His numbers were not great, but with Brock there was so much potential that the Cubs management failed to recognize. He had blazing speed and was an excellent defender. It was only a matter of time before his bat came around. Moreover, he was still only 25 and in his third full season in the Major Leagues.

The Cubs management felt that Brock was not making any progress as a player, even though his average was staying the same his steals were raising steadily and his on base percentage in 1964 was the same as 1963 at 3.00, which was an increase from the previous years. Still, the Cubs management was looking to cut their losses with Brock as early as May 26 when the Chicago Tribune’s Richard Dozer reported that the Cubs and Cardinals were considering a trade of Lou Brock for left-handed pitcher Ray Sadecki. In his article, Dozer describes Brock as “Chicago’s powerful, fast and sometimes erratic right fielder.” Dozer’s description showed how many viewed Brock—so much potential, but lacked consistency.

Sadecki would have turned out to be at least a halfway decent trade as he would eventually win 20 games in 1964 to help lead the Cardinals to the National League pennant and winning the World Series. Instead, on June 15, 1964, at the then trade dead line, the Cubs traded Brock, Jack Spring, and Paul Toth to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio, Doug Clemens, and Bobby Shantz. Even though the trade involved six players it is widely thought of as a trade between the two main players Brock and Broglio.

The trade at the time did not register with many people. The Cardinals first baseman, Bill White, said what many thought, that “Brock struck out a lot and didn’t know how to run the bases. We thought we had given up too much.” But as MLB historian Jerome Holtzman said “That was the greatest deal made at the deadline. It was one of the worst trades in the history of the Cubs.”

What transpired after the trade was nothing short of a disaster for the Cubs. Broglio would go on to win only four games for the Cubs who would end up finishing the 1964 season in eighth place—17 games behind, naturally, the first place St. Louis Cardinals. Broglio would go 1-6 in 1965 and 2-6 in 1966 before he was sent down to the minors and never pitched in the majors again.

Brock, on the other hand, took off towards a Hall of Fame career immediately. He instantly made an impact with the Cardinals playing in 103 games hitting .348 with 12 home runs, 44 RBI, 33 stolen bases and helping to lead the Cardinals to winning the World Series. He would also lead the Cardinals to another World Series win in 1967 and another NL pennant in 1968.

Brock ended his career with 3,023 hits, 938 stolen bases, and batted .293. He also became a six-time All-Star who hit over .300 eight times. Furthermore, he held the Major League season and career stolen base records until Rickey Henderson surpassed him. Brock would go on to be inducted into the 1985 Hall of Fame.

The hard part for the Cubs faithful is wondering what would have been. At the time of his trade, Brock shared an outfield with fellow future Hall of Famer Billy Williams. Additionally, he was teammates with future Hall of Famers third baseman Ron Santo and shortstop Ernie Banks. Not to mention, defensive wizard, second baseman Ken Hubbs before his untimely and tragic death.

One would think that a team with four Hall of Famers and another star, whose life was cut short, had to be destined for the World Series. Maybe it was a change of scenery to St. Louis that caused Brock to take his career to the next level, or maybe it was the impatience of the Cubs management that allowed room to grow as player? Maybe if the management gave him just one more season Brock would have blossomed before their very eyes and brought the Cubs fans the World Series Championships that he brought St. Louis? One will never know. But to know the Cubs is to also understand these “what ifs.”

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Can Arrieta Become MLB’s First 30-Game Winner Since Denny McLain in 1968?

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Chicago Cubs all-world pitcher Jake Arrieta won on Thursday to push his record to 5-0 in his first five starts of the 2016 Major League Baseball season. That win extended Arrieta’s consecutive win streak to 16, which is the longest streak in the major leagues in a decade. Joe Maddon decided to pull Arrieta out after five innings, which ended his streak of quality wins at 24—two short of Bob Gibson’s record.

At the beginning of the season experts were focused on whether or not Arrieta or Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the best pitcher in baseball. Now, after his second no-hitter, experts have begun to compare these past two years to those of Gibson in 1967-68 and Sandy Koufax from 1963-1966. Although Arrieta has plenty of work to do before he can cement himself among those greats he is certainly on his way this year with the 5-0 start.

Given Arrieta’s dominance over the past two years coupled with his 5-0 start it is fair (if not fun) to pose the question, “Can Arrieta become MLB’s first 30-game winner since Denny McLain won 31 in 1968?” Even though the thought of a 30-game winner nowadays seems outlandish, could all the elements be set in place for it to occur? You have (1) a pitcher at his peak on (2) a first place team who (3) provides 9.42 runs in support per game started and (4) already has five wins before the calendar has turned to May.

For those who think the modern game prevents players today from reaching such lofty goals only have to look at the 2012 Triple Crown season by Miguel Cabrera. Prior to that season many experts thought it would be impossible for a player to lead a league in all three major batting categories. And why would they think otherwise? No player had won the Triple Crown since the Boston Red Sox’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Moreover, since 1878 the feat had only been accomplished 16 times among 14 players. Yet, Cabrera was able to achieve what many thought was impossible. Still, like Arrieta today, the elements for even a chance of it to occur were in place. At the time of the 2012 season, Cabrera was 29 years old, in the middle of his peak years, and was on a first place team that was battling until the last three games for a playoff spot. Cabrera’s accomplishment was able to change the narrative surrounding the Triple Crown from it being impossible to it could happen again (see Mike Trout and/or Bryce Harper). So, can Arrieta change the narrative of the 30-game winner like Cabrera did with the Triple Crown? Possibly.

Still, how hard is it to win 30 games in an MLB season? Similar to the Triple Crown, since 1901, the 30-game threshold has only been reached 19 times. Here is the list of those pitchers:

Pitcher Season Wins Team
Denny McLain 1968 31 Detroit Tigers
Dizzy Dean 1934 30 St. Louis Cardinals
Lefty Grove 1931 31 Philadelphia A’s
Jim Bagby 1920 31 Cleveland Indians
Pete Alexander 1917 30 Philadelphia Phillies
Pete Alexander 1915 31 Philadelphia Phillies
Walter Johnson 1913 36 Washington Senators
Walter Johnson 1912 33 Washington Senators
Smoky Joe Wood 1912 34 Boston Red Sox
Jack Coombs 1910 31 Philadelphia A’s
Ed Walsh 1908 40 Chicago White Sox
Christy Mathewson 1908 37 New York Giants
Christy Mathewson 1905 31 New York Giants
Jack Chesbro 1904 41 New York Highlanders
Joe McGinnity 1904 35 New York Giants
Joe McGinnity 1903 31 New York Giants
Christy Mathewson 1903 30 New York Giants
Cy Young 1902 32 Boston Americans
Cy Young 1901 33 Boston Americans

The frequency of 30-game winners is astonishing. Since 1920 there have only been four players to win 30 games. Moreover, if you subtract the times in which a pitcher accomplished the feat over multiple seasons the number of pitchers overall is reduced to 13. Thus, for Arrieta to reach such an accomplishment would be remarkable.

For Arrieta to win 30 games a number of factors will have to come into play with health being the biggest factor. Another major factor is how many starts Arrieta will get this season. For instance, last season Arrieta started a career-high 33 games, which if repeated would mean Arrieta would have to not only practically be perfect in every game he pitches but would also need a decision in just about every start. In comparison, Denny McLain needed 41 starts in order to win 31 games in 1968. In today’s five-man rotations 41 starts would be impossible.

An ideal and realistic number of starts would be 35. Such a number of starts would provide a little leeway for an off-game and a no-decision. Another factor is the potential of Manager Joe Maddon resting Arrieta if the Cubs should have a substantial lead for home field advantage in the National League. Maddon will assuredly give Arrieta rest in preparation for the playoffs if the Cubs have the best record in the NL locked up. As a result, a team or two will need to be battling the Cubs for best record in the NL for Maddon to keep sending Arrieta out every fifth game.

To say it is impossible for Arrieta to accomplish such a feat is short-sighted, as baseball is a sport of possibilities. Yes, it is difficult for Arrieta or any other pitcher to win 30 games. But with the right elements in place anything can happen. If Arrieta can stay healthy and get 35 starts and the Cubs continue to give him generous run support then at the very least he has a shot.

With one month into the season it is evident that something magical is happening on the North Side this year. The Cubs have had their best start of the season since 1907 and we all remember that squad and how that season ended. If the Cubs can join those 1907 and 1908 teams and win the World Series this year then why can’t Arrieta also win 30 games to lead them? In baseball anything is possible.

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Cubs Notes: A Look at Some Cubs Impressive Statistics, Team Chemistry, Dexter Fowler’s Offseason Paying Off, Reason for Jake Arrieta’s Struggles in Baltimore, Journalists Running Out of Things to Say About the Cubs

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

The Cubs stand 14-5 today, which is their best start since the 1907 season. Currently, the Washington Nationals have a better record at 14-4 in Major League Baseball. To say that the Cubs have met expectations is an understatement, because even the most optimistic fans would have felt greedy if they asked for this start to the season heading into Game 20 on Tuesday versus the Milwaukee Brewers. Here is a look at some promising statistics:

  • The Cubs already stand 3.5 games ahead of the second place St. Louis Cardinals, which is a nice cushion for not even 20 games into the season.
  • The Cubs lead the majors with a +68 run differential; the next closest is the Cardinals with +40.
  • Not only do they win at Wrigley Field but they win on the road as well having won their first four road series this season. Their overall road record is 10-3.
  • Jake Arrieta is leading the NL in wins with 4. While Jason Hammel and Arrieta are second and third in NL ERA with 0.75 and .087 respectively. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda leads with a 0.36 ERA.
  • Anthony Rizzo is second in home runs and RBI with 8 and 21 respectively, behind Bryce Harper and his 9 home runs and 23 RBI.
  • Dexter Fowler is second in the NL in batting with a .385 average behind Nationals Daniel Murphy who has a .397 average.
  • Despite leading the league in runs and run differential the Cubs are only eighth in the NL in team batting average at .255. However, their team average should start to trend upward as Rizzo and Jason Heyward are starting to raise their averages from a slow start to the season.

Suggested Articles for Fans to Read:

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Cubs News: Cubs Leading In Several Pitching Categories, Jesse Rogers’ Mailbag, Chicago Tribune’s Original Article on Cubs First Game at Weeghman Park, Power Shift in the NL Central, and the Changing Rivalry between Cubs and Cardinals fans

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

  • The Cubs go for a series sweep today against the St. Louis Cardinals after getting two strong outings by starters John Lackey and Jason Hammel as well as solid performances by the bullpen. The Cubs have the best record in the majors at 11-3 and are now second in the majors in earned run average at 2.15 (Washington has a 2.14 ERA). The pitching staff is leading the majors in quality starts with 13 and batting average against with .199. They are also leading the National League in fewest walks given up with 28.
  • ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers answers twitter mailbag questions about Theo Epstein’s contract, the next possible call-up, who should hit in the three-hole, and much more.
  • The Chicago Tribune reposted the April 20, 1916 article that documented the Cubs first game at Weeghman Park. I recommend this as a read for any fan of the Cubs or baseball enthusiast as it captures the celebration of the Cubs move to the North Side and the beginning of a remarkable history between a team, its fans, and stadium.
  • CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney writes that after the Cubs’ second straight win against the Cardinals the balance of power is beginning to shift in the National League Central.
  • The Chicago Sun Times’ Sean Greenberg addresses the controversy surrounding St. Louis Cardinals fans in a thought-provoking piece.

 

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Before Wrigley Field There was West Side Park

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By Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

To understand a team it is essential to know its origins. Everything about the Cubs is tied with Wrigley Field. Although it’s hard to believe, the Cubs actually existed before Wrigley Field. Interestingly the Cubs started out in their inaugural season in 1876 as the Chicago White Stockings. They played as the White Stockings from 1876 to 1890. During that period they played at four different parks: 23rd Street Grounds, Lake Front Park, Lake Front Park II, and West Side Park I.[1] In 1891 the White Stockings changed their name to the Chicago Colts in honor of their player/manager Adrian “Cap” Anson.

What I found interesting is that Baseball Reference lists the team in 1890 as the Chicago Colts[2] while Baseball Almanac as lists the 1890 as the Chicago White Stockings.[3] Still, during that time of name transition the organization played as the Colts at South Side Park and West Side Park II. Between 1898—1901 the organization was known as the Chicago Orphans. The team was referred to as the Orphans after Anson was fired. Finally, in 1902 the name of the team was settled with the Cubs. The Cubs played at West Side Park II until 1916.

The period between 1902 and 1915 was easily the organization’s most prosperous period. The second West Side Park was the site where the team won the most games in a season in MLB history (116 in 1906), the famed Tinker to Evers to Chance combo played, and, most significantly, last won the World Series (1908). Thus, I thought it would appropriate to get to know the park they played in before Wrigley.

The website Chicagology provides the best description of the West Side II[4], which I recommend reading in full detail. However, for the sake of brevity, the following is a list of facts about the ballpark:

  • Opened in May 1893 where the team split games between South Side Park until permanently moving for the 1894 season.
  • Located at the block bounded by Taylor, Wood, Polk, and Lincoln (now Wolcott) Streets.
  • Home plate was located at the intersection of Polk and Lincoln.
  • Known as West Side “Grounds” but during its day was known as West Side “Park.”
  • Similar to Wrigley Field, flats were located across the street from Wood Street that would eventually provide rooftop seating.
  • Dimensions: Left Field – 340 ft., Center Field – 442 ft., Right Field – 316 ft.
  • The University of Illinois Chicago Medical Center is now located on the block.

By 1910, West Side Park II began to become run down as owner Charles Murphy refused to maintain the integrity of the ballpark. Cubs became the third most popular team in Chicago behind the Chicago White Sox of the American League and the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. The Whales were owned by Charles Weeghman and were located on the city’s North Side playing at Weeghman Park. When the Federal League folded at the conclusion of the 1915 season, Weeghman bought a large interest in the Cubs and moved them to Weeghman Park (which is now Wrigley Field) for the 1916 season, thus closing West Side Park II and beginning the rich tradition of Cubs baseball on the North Side.

The closing of West Side Park left Chicago Cubs fans longing for their old ballpark. In response Ring Lardner gave the park a proper eulogy in The Chicago Tribune:

Elegy Written In A West Side Ball Yard[5]
By Ring Lardner

The whistles sound the knell of parting day,
The toilers travel slowly home to tea.
I’ve got to write a parody on Gray
Though it be painful both to you and me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
Save for chattering of the laboring folk
Returning to their hovels for the night.
All’s still at Taylor, Lincoln, Wood, and Polk.

Beneath this aged roof, this grandstand’s shade,
Where peanut shucks lie in a mold’ring heap,
Where show the stains of pop and lemonade,
The Cub bugs used to cheer and groan and weep.

The adverse guess of Mr. William Klem,
The miscalled strikes of Eason and of Orth,
No more shall rouse the fire of hate in them:
They yield to their successors over north.

Where Anson used to hit ‘em on the pick,
Where Lange was wont to grab ‘em off the grass,
Where Dahlen used to kick and kick,
Where Danny Friend was worked for many a pass.

Where games were won by Callahan and Griff.
Where long home runs were knocked by Danny Green:
Where, later, Bill Maloney used to whiff,
Where Ruelbach used to wound ‘em in the bean.

Where Artie Hofman pulled his circus stunts,
Where Sheckard dove and caught ‘em on his brow,
Where “Schlitz” was banished from the field (just once),
Where Heine started many a healthy row.

Where Joe got courage to go on the stage,
Where Brownie did his own and others’ toil,
Where Evers used to brew his boiling rage,
Where Chance cussed John McGraw and Larry Doyle.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble bleats,
The moles, untroubled, now dig up the turf,
And gnats and roaches occupy the seats
That other bugs once filled, to help out Murf.

“To help out Murf? And who was he?” you say.
I answer with a melancholy sigh:
“Approach and read (if you can read) the lay
Graved on the door we used to enter by:”

THE EPITAFT.

He was the one real Fox of modern time;
He had competitors all licked a mile.
He gave to baseball all he had—a dime
He gained from it (‘twas all he wished)—his pile.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode.
Let him enjoy his well deserved repose At 6157 Sheridan Road.

(The poem, originally appeared in The Chicago Tribune, April 20, 1916, was a parody of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Graveyard.”)

I recommend checking out Deadbaseball.com and its excellent pictorial of what rests on the grounds today.[6]

 

[1] http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teams/cubsatte.shtml

[2] http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/1890.shtml

[3] http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teams/cubsatte.shtml

[4] https://chicagology.com/baseball/westsidepark/

[5] http://sabr.org/cmsFiles/Files/theinsidegame-volume9no1.pdf

[6] http://deadballbaseball.com/?p=2358

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Will Kris Bryant Surpass Ron Santo as Greatest Cubs Third Baseman?

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By Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is on his way to super-stardom, if he is not already there. After winning the 2015 Rookie of the Year and helping the Cubs make the playoffs for the first time since 2009, Bryant has been front and center as one of the faces of the organization. He not only has gained acclaim throughout the Cubs fan base, but national pundits predict him to contend for the National League Most Valuable Player for the next decade.

Bryant has brought significant excitement to the Cubs and fans, because due in large part to his hitting prowess. He’s a power hitter who can also hit for average. The sky’s the limit with his abilities. However, in the end, one is left to wonder will he end up as the Cubs greatest third baseman? The question is a tough one to answer as that title currently goes to Hall of Famer Ron Santo.

Santo played 15 years in Major League Baseball with 14 of them with the Cubs (his final year in 1974 with the Chicago White Sox). Santo was a nine time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves. He was elected posthumously to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.[1] Not only was he a beloved player, but also a beloved sportscaster serving as the WGN radio color commentary for the Cubs from 1990 until his death in 2010. In 2003 the Cubs retired his No. 10.

Bryant has a lot to accomplish and live up to in order to transplant Santo as the organization’s number one third baseman. For his part, though, Bryant has got off to a good start. Amazingly, his numbers are strikingly similar to those of Santo in their age 23 seasons:

Age 23 Statistics G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO AVG OPS
Ron Santo 162 630 79 187 29 6 25 99 6 42 92 .297 .500
Kris Bryant 151 559 87 154 31 5 26 106 13 77 199 .275 .858

Although Bryant played in eleven less games than Santo, Bryant had more home runs, stolen bases, walks, and runs batted in. However, Santo had significantly more hits and a higher average. The glaring statistic between the two is strikeouts. Bryant, with his big swing, led the majors with 199 strikeouts, which were 107 more than Santo. The high strikeout rate is a cause for concern, but Bryant is looking to cut that down in 2016. Overall, Bryant has a great start to unseat Santo as the greatest Cubs third baseman, but as one can see, he still has a long ways to go to match his career statistics:

  G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO AVG OPS
Ron Santo 2243 8143 1138 2254 365 67 342 1331 35 1108 1343 .277 .826
Kris Bryant ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

As of now, Bryant is in his rookie contract and has a few years of arbitration ahead of him. However, the trajectory of Bryant’s career would make it that there will be pressure from all sides—team, agent, and the fans—to have a long term deal in place. It is highly probable that the Cubs will make Bryant a lifelong Cub or at least one until his mid-thirties. If this is the case, and say Bryant plays 12 seasons with the Cubs until he is 35 years-old than he would have to average per year approximately 29 home runs, 188 hits, 95 runs, and 111 RBI to contend with Santo’s numbers. It’s a tall task, but one that Bryant is certainly capable of achieving.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Kris Bryant will become the greatest third baseman to play in a Cubs uniform?

[1] http://baseballhall.org/hof/santo-ron

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