I was in attendance on June 2 at Wrigley Field, when the Chicago Cubs defeated the San Diego Padres in a game that included a Javier Baez home run. Back then, the Cubs were playing well, and it looked like they might be a surprise contender in the National League Central.
Fast forward to July 5, when the Cubs were in the middle of the first of two 12-game losing streaks this season and their longest such streak since 2012. I was also in attendance for that game, and while the crowd was spirited overall, things felt much different. It’s as if the fans could tell that big changes were coming to Wrigleyville, and, sure enough, just a few weeks later Jed Hoyer gutted the team by trading away Craig Kimbrel, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Baez – among others.
It was two games, one month apart, with completely different atmospheres. The Cubs still have a week left to go in this largely forgettable 2021 season, with a road trip that will see them go to Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Yet the season finale at home, a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, felt like the closure of a disappointing chapter of Cubs baseball.
Chicago Cubs: A fitting end to a disappointing season at Wrigley
The Cardinals were in a similar situation to the Cubs at the trade deadline – both teams were on the fringes of contention and at a potential crossroads (though one difference is that the Cardinals had more players signed long-term, while all the Cubs’ big names that were traded were only signed through this year). Yet while the Cubs subtracted, the Cardinals added, with former Cubs hero Jon Lester among those the team brought in.
It took time, but the Cardinals were rewarded with their patience as they have now rattled off 16 straight wins and are on the verge of claiming an NL postseason berth. The Cubs, meanwhile, will finish with their worst record since 2013, when they went 66-96 while in the middle of Theo Epstein’s big rebuild.
Another loss to the Cardinals seems like a fitting way to end the season at Wrigley Field, given how things have gone to this point. A crowd of 26,547 – really small for a Sunday Cubs-Cardinals game – filled largely with fans clad in red watched as the Cardinals tied the game in the eighth then put together a bizarre rally for two runs in the ninth without even hitting the ball out of the infield.
The home team had some hope in the bottom of the ninth, as another bizarre play – this one on an infield fly rule call – prolonged the game. But Ian Happ struck out, and that was it. The relatively small number of Cubs fans, many of whom were probably paying attention to the Bears score, were sent home disappointed once more.
It was a strange year indeed at the Friendly Confines, one that we’ll thankfully soon be able to put in our rearview mirror so we can focus on next season. Until then, we’ll watch and see how this final week plays out. There won’t be much to cheer for, but at least we’ll be able to watch on TV as we say goodbye to the 2021 Cubs one last time.