Cubs on a mission to avoid 100 losses
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org September 5, 2012 10:12PM
Dale Sveum, Larry Vanover
The facts: 6:05, CSN, 720-AM.
The starters: Justin Germano (2-5, 6.30 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmerman (9-8, 3.01).
Updated: October 7, 2012 8:10AM
WASHINGTON — Talk about not being better off than four years ago.
Four years ago, the Cubs spent September trying to win 100 games and finish with the best record in the National League. Now the mission among several players is to keep from losing 100 games.
“It’s important to us,’’ shortstop Starlin Castro said. “I know the team is struggling a little bit. I know it’s like we don’t have anything to play for, but we don’t want that to happen.’’
Not even such a modest proposal looks feasible for this 16-rookie bunch — especially after another blowout loss, this time 9-1, to the powerful Washington Nationals on Wednesday night, sending the Cubs to their 27th loss in 35 games.
“This series so far, it’s just men playing against boys,’’ Cubs manager Dale Sveum said a couple hours after being ejected from the dugout by umpire Larry Vanover — and just before admonishing a beat reporter for asking about starter Chris Volstad’s homer-homer-single-homer start to the third inning.
“I don’t know why you always want to beat down Volstad all the time,’’ Sveum said of the 2-10 pitcher who went 24 consecutive starts without a win until 11 days ago.
If Sveum was on edge, maybe it’s the mounting losses underscored by a three-loss start to a series that has included a 22-7 scoring deficit and 12 home runs by the Nationals the last two nights.
“This is by far the best team we’ve played all year,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the Cubs aren’t just worse off than they were four years ago — they’re unrecognizable.
“I don’t even know who those players are,’’ said the Nationals’ Mark DeRosa, a Cub fan favorite from the 2007-08 playoff run. “I know [Alfonso] Soriano, and [Jeff] Samardzija and [Carlos] Marmol.’’
DeRosa and Samardzija played golf Wednesday, and not surprisingly that 2008 season was a hot topic.
“I still think they shouldn’t have broken up that team,’’ said DeRosa, who was traded after that season to help create payroll room for Milton Bradley. “That was a special team. It was a great group of guys.’’
Neither the Cubs nor DeRosa have been the same since.
These days, even from the dugout of the best team in the majors, DeRosa and former Cubs pitcher Tom Gorzelanny have a hard time watching a team in full rebuilding mode.
“It’s definitely something you don’t want to see with the Cubs, how iconic the team is. The [fans] always want to see a winner there,’’ said Gorzelanny, a Marist High grad. “But you have to think to be successful you have to have a good farm system, and obviously you’ve got to make sacrifices to try to figure that out.’’
DeRosa said he can’t believe what he sees.
“But it’s a decision they made,’’ he said. “You’ve got to give it a year or two before you really make any judgment on it.’’
Both players point to their current team, built around a list of first-round draft picks headlined by No. 1 overall picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper — along with key free agent signings (Edwin Jackson, Jayson Werth) and trades that included landing Wednesday’s winner, Gio Gonzalez (18-7).
The Cubs need to finish 12-14 the rest of the way to avoid 100 losses. And even with the high draft pick this finish will ensure, there are no guarantees the Cubs can pull off the kind of impact the Nationals made with the Strasburg and Harper drafts.
Gorzelanny laughs when those top overall players are factored in to the comparison.
“Yeah, that’s the thing,’’ he said, “You might have to [draft] a No. 1 overall for a couple years.’’