CHICAGO (MCT) — Fifty years ago this week, only 595 fans showed up at Wrigley Field for the opener of the Cubs-Mets series, the last time two teams with 100-plus losses faced each other.
The ‘62 Cubs — with future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Billy Williams and Ron Santo on the roster — wound up taking two of three from the expansion team, finishing with a franchise-worst 103 losses, to the Mets’ major league record 120.
The Cubs needed to sweep the 106-loss Astros to avoid becoming the third 100-loss team in club history but fell 3-0 before a sparse crowd at Wrigley.
How important was it for the players to try to avoid 100?
“It hasn’t been talked about (in the clubhouse), how important it is,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s just something everyone wants to shy away from and Houston is playing good baseball. We’ve just got to put together three W’s.”
Astros starter Lucas Harrell shut out the Cubs on two hits over six innings, and the Astros bullpen held on.
No matter what happens the final two games, the Cubs hope the season is a low-water mark in the foundation of sustained success. Even so, manager Dale Sveum said this is not exactly the way they envisioned things in the spring.
“I don’t think you ever expect 99 losses, but I didn’t expect to compete for a World Series either,” he said. “That would’ve been icing on the cake, or we would’ve had to have diamonds in rough step up and do ridiculous things for us to be one of those teams that competes for a World Series, and then you add pieces. We went the other way and made trades to get (prospects) in our organization.
“We knew we were behind the 8-ball to have any great season, but you never think you’re going to lose 99 games either.”
That’s not what Sveum was saying back in February when the Cubs convened in Mesa, Ariz. After addressing his players before the opening workout, Sveum was asked what he told them.
“I just let ‘em know that’s a team that can compete and do really well,” he replied. “We’re not here to rebuild. We’re here to try to win the World Series this year.”
With an announced crowd of 32,167, the Cubs surpassed the 2.8 million mark in attendance — a feat few 100-loss teams can claim. More than half of Monday’s tickets went unused, however, as season ticket holders and scalpers took yet another bath.
But the “future is bright” mantra continues to be spread by the Cubs, 100 losses or not. Sveum pointed to the “changing of the guard” in the Cubs clubhouse since the summer sell-off, naming Jeff Samardzija, Rizzo and Welington Castillo as young leaders of the core group.
“There’s definitely guys that are starting to step up in some roles that, going into spring training, it will be a very different atmosphere than going into it this past spring,” Sveum said.