The 2019 season ended poorly for the Cubs. They finished September with an 11-16 record, thanks in part to a disastrous 9 game losing streak. It was crushing, as they were only 2.5 games out of first and had a solid wild card lead going into the month. St. Louis took control, Milwaukee surged, and the Cubs wound up being way out of the picture.
As late as September 16th, they were 2 games behind the central leading Cardinals and a game up on Milwaukee. After the collapse, they finished 7 games out of first. It was a choke, no buts about it. Given the poor timing of being in the middle of a competitive window, calling it a disappointing season might be a bit of an understatement.
It raises a good question: was 2019 among some of the all time regular season chokes of the franchise?
1969: The Cubs entered September 3rd at 84-52, ahead of the Mets at 77-55. One similarly themed 8 game losing streak later, the Mets pulled ahead for good. The Cubs finished 8 games out that year, at 92-70 with only 9 wins in the last month of the season. They had a division lead much later than the 2019 team, and their September record was even worse. Considering 2019 was the 50th anniversary of a similar fated 1969 Cubs team, it's a natural comparison.
2004: This team had very high expectations. St. Louis was on fire all year, finishing with 105 wins. The Cubs were left to compete for a wild card. On September 25th, they had a 1.5 game lead. After an ill timed bullpen blowup, they'd struggle and drop 6 of 8 games, finishing out of the playoffs. They finished 3rd in the wild card, behind Houston and San Francisco.
2001: The Cubs had a 2.5 game lead on the wild card in early September, but after a bullpen blowup finished 5 games out of the playoffs. The team went 10-12 in September, but also 13-16 in August--more of a slow burn than a full on choke.
2018: I have a hard time calling this one a choke. September 2nd, they were up by 5 games. On September 18th, they had a 3.5 game lead over the brewers and a magic number of 10. The Brewers went 19-7 in September, to the Cubs respectable 16-12. The Cubs even finished winning 4 out of 5 while the Brewers still tied them for the division by sweeping a terrible Tigers team in Milwaukee. Then there was the one-game playoff, which the Cubs lost, and the wild card game, which the Cubs also lost. Just like that, it was all over. It hurt.
Based off the numbers 1969 sounds horrendous. The extended losing streak and later being blown out for the division is hard to swallow. But 2019, based on the numbers, it really hurts.
Here's to hoping for a return to glory in 2020!