Return to the bad old days a challenge for Cubs

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Zach Davies walks in the dugout after pitching during the third inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins on Saturday in Miami.

    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Zach Davies walks in the dugout after pitching during the third inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins on Saturday in Miami. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/14/2021 10:04 PM

There was a time when every Cubs season was like this -- playing out the final couple of months, hopelessly out of the pennant race.

During most of the 70s, 80s and 90s, the unofficial end of baseball season in Chicago was the first day of Bears training camp.

 

If the Cubs or White Sox were having a decent season, maybe it would extend to the Bears preseason opener.

For the most part, baseball in Chicago was like bowl season in college football. The meaningful games end, then six weeks later, the playoffs start.

So maybe it's worth appreciating the seven-year gap between the Cubs playing meaningless games in August. Not sure if any of the bad old days were quite like this, though. In the previous three games, the Cubs gave up 10, 17 and 14 runs.

The Cubs were more competitive Saturday, but let one get away in Miami and the 5-4 loss stretched their losing streak to 10 in a row.

Frank Schwindel, who is hitting .381 since joining the Cubs, hit a 3-run double in the eighth inning to erase a 2-run deficit. But the Cubs gave it back in the bottom of the eighth. Four of Miami's 5 runs were unearned, the result of 3 errors by Sergio Alcantara at shortstop.

Heading into Saturday's action, the Cubs had the 10th-worst record in MLB. There's probably no catching the Diamondbacks, Orioles or Rangers, but if the Cubs lose their cards right, they could get to the No. 4 or 5 draft pick in 2022. Losing all their remaining games against the Pirates would help the cause.

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How valuable would a top-5 pick be for the Cubs? Hard to say, since most baseball players face a long climb to the majors.

Here's a list of Cubs picks in the top 5 since 1981: Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Josh Vitters, Mark Prior, Luis Montanez. Corey Patterson, Kerry Wood, Mike Harkey, Drew Hall, Shawon Dunston and Joe Carter. So roughly 55 percent success rate.

Cubs manager David Ross didn't have many endings like this during his 15 years in the majors as a player. The worst might have been 2014 with Boston, when the defending champion Red Sox finished 71-91 and Jon Lester was shipped off to Oakland without him.

How tough is it to go through a stretch like this when you're not used to it?

"It doesn't matter whether you've been on winning teams or losing teams," Ross said. "Every baseball man that I know -- player, coach, manager, front office, bat boy -- they're competitive and losing should never feel good or be OK with anybody.

"I think my mindset is we've got to get better. That's the main thing, continue to compete. Nobody likes losing."

Ross talked about showing some character in Friday's game. The Cubs gave up 11 runs in the second inning against the Marlins, but hit some late home runs and pulled within 14-10 by the end of the game.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Nobody was having fun in that (second) inning," Ross said. "But the back end of that game was pretty exciting and fun and that goes from pitch to pitch, inning to inning, game to game.

"You try to hang onto those moments and when things aren't going well and you're struggling, you try to teach and I understand that we've got to keep moving forward and help each other out and continue to get better."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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