I believe it was former longtime baseball manager Gene Mauch who said, “Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning, you got off to a bad start. If you lose in the middle of the season, you’re in a slump. If you lose at the end, you’re choking.”
I believe that because I googled “quotes about losing streaks” and Mauch’s was the first one that came up. It’s called reporting, people.
Anyway, Mauch was right about the narratives we in the media tend to apply to losing streaks based on nothing more than the time of a season. We’re not always the most original folks.
But there’s a reason so many of us were drawn to Guaranteed Rate Field this weekend like flies to honey or, probably more apt, rats to a trash heap. It’s not just because the White Sox’ “bad start” is an easy story. It’s because the Sox already appeared — quite clearly — to be in the throes of a season-defining losing streak.
Yes, it’s still April and there’s a ton of baseball left. That’s the whole problem.
We in Chicago, especially, should know the kind of losing streak from which there is no return when we see one. Why? Because there have been so many of them here lately.
Remember the cratering Cubs of 2021? On June 24, they were tied for first place in the division after throwing a combined no-hitter at the Dodgers. Eleven straight losses later, they were empty husks of their former selves and president Jed Hoyer was waist-deep in the muck of a championship-core sell-off.
The Blackhawks attempted to put a winner on the ice in 2021-22, adding defenseman Seth Jones and star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, but something went terribly wrong: The season started. The Hawks’ first victory didn’t come until Game No. 10 — a franchise-record losing streak finally over — by which time grenades had started going off within the front office in response to the investigation into the abuse of former prospect Kyle Beach. In-over-his-head coach Jeremy Colliton soon would be gone, too, a performance-based firing.
The 2022 Bears didn’t merely lose but elevated it to an art form. Ten games in a row to end the season, they outmaneuvered the opposition in order to finish with fewer points on the scoreboard. A team — and a perversely delighted fan base — desperate to control the No. 1 pick in the draft would not be denied.
The Bulls’ six-game losing streak entering the All-Star break in February wasn’t nearly as dramatic, but it did leave them in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Was there anyone left who still needed convincing the roster assembled by Arturas Karnisovas never would work?
And now we have the Sox, losers of nine straight, owners of an abominable 7-20 record, still talking a pretty good game despite showing no signs whatsoever that they’re anything but a bottom-of-the-barrel team.
“It’s the same as it was when we started the season [and] felt we had the talent to contend for this division and make some noise in the postseason,” general manager Rick Hahn said before a 14-5 loss to the Rays to begin this homestand. “That goal hasn’t changed. We made our job a heck of a lot harder based on the first 25 games, but the goal hasn’t changed. …
“You’re not going to see me sitting out here 25 games into the season saying I don’t believe in this group, based on the talent we have, the track record these guys have, the focus and commitment to these players. You’re not going to see me abandon ship 25 games in.”
Rookie manager Pedro Grifol surely didn’t imagine a month like this when he took the job. One wonders if he actually believes his team will snap out of it and make this season bearable.
“I’m not happy,” Grifol said, “but my confidence is not shaken. I’m not happy about it. Nobody in this clubhouse is happy about it. Nobody in this building is happy about it. But we have 130-something games left, and we have guys that have performed here. And they’re just not going to not perform.”
From his lips to the baseball gods’ ears, then.
But the ship is listing, and this losing streak isn’t funny at all.