| "What the f--- am I supposed to do, go out there and let my f---ing players get destroyed every day, and be quiet about it? For the f---ing nickel and dime people to show up? The motherf---ers don't even work! That's why they're out at the f---ing game. They ought to go out and get a f---ing job and find out what it's like to go out and earn a f---ing living. 85% of the f---ing world's working, and the other 15 come out here."
---Cub Manager Lee Elia, 1983
There is bad baseball, and then there is legendarily, mythically bad baseball. We're talking about the variety of cutoff-man missin', pop-up droppin' sleepy-eyed ball that only a few franchises, at the rare confluence of history and ineptitude, have produced. Friends, we live in a golden age of bad baseball. What the '50s were to slick, brilliantly executed baseball on an epic scale, the current decade is to profoundly poor play. As connoisseurs of the absolutely pathetic, we suggest a few candidates from the class of '02 to rank with the '62 Mets, the '35 Braves or any of Lee Elia's broken-down collections of flotsam and vagrants:
The Devil Rays snapped a 15-game losing streak on Saturday in front of 10,811 true believers at Tropicana Field. Presumably, those 10,811 are the kind who listen to police scanners at every spare moment, desperate to witness a flaming six-car pileup. Or they just fell asleep during the previous night's game and club officials didn't bother to wake them. If you can do anything on the diamond for 15 consecutive games, you're good at it. And the D-Ray can flat-out lose. The brightest name on the marquee for the D-Ray? Designated hitter Greg Vaughn, batting an unholy .104 and slugging an unthinkable .130. Three years removed from a 50-homer season, Greg has yet to homer and has struck out 44 times in 115 at bats. He's flirting with the .400 mark for striking out, a Rob Deer-like feat.
The Tigers were actually swept by the Devil Rays to start the season, an appetizer that preceded an absolute all-you-can-eat 11-game buffet of losing. In addition to sloppy play, Los Tigres have not exactly spent well either. The highest-paid Tiger is Dean Palmer, out for the season with yet another injury after starting 0 for 12. The next-highest-paid Tiger is staff ace Jose Lima, who boasts a robust 11.30 ERA. To be ranked among baseball's very worst, it takes exactly this kind of complete institutional mayhem and incompetence. You can't buy titles, but you can buy bad. The Tigers have exactly one talented pitcher, 2-5 starter Jeff Weaver, and George Steinbrenner is talking openly about plucking him from Detroit's roster.
Although Milwaukee is currently three games behind them in the NL Central, we believe the Cubs are in the best position to lose consistently, on a grand scale. This is a team that intimately knows the darkest side of losing, knows where losing lives, knows its most private thoughts. The franchise has defined losing for several generations of Americans, and the tradition continues. The Cubs are 13-21 despite Sammy Sosa's .356 average, .806 slugging percentage and league-leading 15 home runs. They're 13-21 despite the occasional brilliant pitching of Jon Lieber and Kerry Wood. How is it possible? Well, the other twenty-some ballplayers have a little something to do with it. At one point this season, Sammy had 6 RBIs to go with his 5 home runs. No one is on base for this team. Looking for a quiet, lonely place to watch the game at Wrigley? Try third base when the Cubs are hitting. Fred McGriff is batting .210, Moises Alou .169, Roosevelt Brown .186, Delino DeShields .202, and Chris Stynes a brisk .217. And these guys play every day. Most of the pitching staff was actually stitched together by crazed Tribune Co. scientists using stolen corpses. It's ALIVE...barely.
Big Foam Finger