Two months into the season we really have no feel for which teams are going to win the pennant in the American League or the National League, but the front-runners for the title of Worst Team In Major League Baseball for 2012 have been clearly delineated. It looks like a three-way race. Three teams, the Chicago Cubs, the Minnesota Twins, and the San Diego Padres have separated themselves from the pack.
Since I guessed way-back-when that the Cubs would be the worst team in baseball this year, I can’t say I am surprised they have fulfilled my prophecy. My only surprise to date is that the Houston Astros are not right down there wallowing in the mud with the other three squads. (They still have time, though.)
In this year of the added playoff teams the amazing thing is just how many clubs have at least an outside shot of making the post-season. Even teams within six or seven games of .500 are really only one long winning streak away from becoming playoff contenders. This change where a wild, wild card is added makes the big leagues more like the NBA and NHL than it has ever been before. There is a lot of baseball to be played, but given the number of teams with records a handful of games over .500 or a handful of games under .500, we may wake up on October 1 with a sub-.500 team in the playoffs.
That has occurred numerous times in the NBA and NHL and it has even occurred in the NFL. It’s an ugly development when it does happen and a sure sign that a sport’s playoffs are too engorged, but not even having teams with losing records being rewarded with playoff berths has ever shamed a sport into reducing the number of teams allowed in. Sure as shootin’ baseball is on that path, if not this year than in a year to come.
It so happens that I love baseball enough to go to games even if the home team is in the cellar. Makes it easier to get good seats, in fact. While it is more exciting to follow a winning team, a championship team, my local team being bad never kept me away from the ballpark. I also recognize that not everyone has the pure devotion to the game that I do. There are plenty of people who could care less about their local team (in any sport) if it is not going to win some type of title.
The Cubs seem to defy that pattern. Win (occasionally), lose (usually) or draw, the Cubs almost always fill Wrigley Field. It helps to have a home park that is a national landmark and a tourist destination. So don’t worry about the Cubs, even if more than 100 years has passed since victory in a World Series. With ex-Boston Red Sox leader Theo Epstein at the helm to start a fresh rebuilding movement Chicago will show improvement over the next couple of years.
Don’t know what to say about the Twins and the Padres. The fans aren’t as loyal so I’m thinking by September there are going to be so many empty seats for games that anyone who attends will be almost guaranteed a foul ball. It’s going to be a long summer for fans of the Cubs, Twins and Padres, but it’s still baseball, it’s still Major League baseball, and you can still have fun at the park sitting in the sun and cheering for a favorite player in a losing cause.