For a Chicago Cubs franchise that went 108 years without winning a World Series title, pinpointing “rock bottom” is tough. There is one particular day that could make a case for it.
July 16th, 2006. The Chicago Cubs hosted the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on Sunday Night Baseball. A national cable audience got to see the eventual National League pennant-winning Mets take on a Cubs team that was spiraling out of control. This day lives in Cubs infamy and might be rock bottom for Cubs fandom.
First of all, let’s sum up that 2006 Cubs team. They finished 66-96, dead last in the NL Central, with the most memorable moment being Michael Barrett punching A.J. Pierzynski. Manager Dusty Baker was gone after the season, as was Mark Prior.
This evening summed up the 2006 team perfectly. It saw Baker throw his hands up in frustration in the dugout and even chuck his hat against the bench. It was embarrassing for the team, and eventually, the fans as this all happened on a national broadcast. Proceed if you dare, here are the Cubs hitting rock bottom.
The events of July 16th, 2006 at Wrigley Field
On a clear, comfy evening, 40,157 packed into Wrigley Field as Sean Marshall took the ball for the Cubs to face the Mets. Things started great as the team jumped to a 5-0 lead by the second inning and carried a 5-2 lead into the top of the sixth. Then everything unraveled.
Here is how the sixth inning unfolded:
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Flyout, E4, single, single, home run (grand slam), walk, E4 (fielder’s choice), single, single, groundout, home run (grand slam), double, home run (two-run), walk, walk, flyout.
Eleven runs, two errors, grand slams by Cliff Floyd and Carlos Beltran, and a pissed off manager. What made this worse was the fans in the bleachers started throwing trash onto the field in disgust. That is never a good look for fans, even if they are frustrated over their team’s misplays. The baseball world pointed and laughed at the team and their fans that night.
Why could we call this game rock bottom?
There have been plenty of awful Cubs seasons over the years, but this season and this game stand out. What was hard on Cubs fans was watching the White Sox come off a World Series in 2005 and celebrating that all year round, and then watching the 83-win Cardinals win the World Series in October. While the Cardinals are much bigger rivals than the White Sox, getting to watch the other Chicago team win it and celebrate while being in the dumps was not easy.
Then go to the game itself. Trashing the field and giving up 11 runs is embarrassing enough. Still, it also was a painful realization that a team that just three years prior came within five outs of a World Series under Baker had spiraled in the complete opposite direction. Baker throwing his hands up and chucking his hat was him saying, “I’m so done with this.” It felt like it could not get much worse.
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Kind of funny how exactly 10 seasons later, the team would go from rock bottom to the top of the mountain by winning the World Series in 2016. It is not necessarily fun to look back at moments like these, but it is a humble reminder of how things have changed.