13 Cubs moments to forget in 2013
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter September 29, 2013 7:12PM
Updated: September 30, 2013 1:21PM
The worst summer in Chicago baseball history ended, naturally, with losses by both the Cubs and the White Sox — the Cubs fell 4-0 in St. Louis on Sunday — for 195 combined losses in a season with no shortage of lowlights. Here are 13 from the North Side:
◆ April 6: Five games in, $20 million closer Carlos Marmol blew a save and lost the closer job. On June 25 he was designated for assignment and later dumped in a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The symbol for season-long disarray in the bullpen, Marmol has a 2.53 ERA with the Dodgers and is headed to the playoffs.
◆ April 8: Less than two months after raising eyebrows by saying Tribune-era payrolls were ‘‘unsustainable,’’ Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts admitted before the home opener that plans for revenue-generating stadium changes did not include a timeline for restoring baseball budget cuts. ‘‘Frankly, I haven’t been focusing on that lately,” he said. Hours later, the Cubs lost a fourth consecutive game; they spiraled to a 5-13 start on the way to their fourth losing season in as many years of Ricketts ownership.
◆ April 20-21: Manager Dale Sveum called out struggling core players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo for possible demotions to minors. ‘‘I don’t think [anyone’s] invincible if you’re not performing,’’ he said. One already had a seven-year deal; the other was closing in on one; neither was going anywhere. The remarks prompted an angry phone call from Castro’s reps. Both Castro and Rizzo finished the season hitting under .250.
◆ May 1: At a downtown business function, Ricketts articulated the Cubs’ empty threat to move from Wrigley Field if the city didn’t approve ballpark changes — something team officials had allowed others to say for them until then. Talking to reporters later, Ricketts denied it was a threat but never took it off the table.
◆ June 2: Edwin Jackson, the Cubs’ $52 million marquee free-agent acquisition, lost 8-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks to fall to 1-8 with a 6.29 ERA — one of the worst pitchers in baseball for the first two months.
◆ June 11: Ian Stewart, the $2 million bust already exiled to a minor-league bench for attitude and performance, was suspended over a late-night Twitter binge calling out Sveum and the Cubs. He later negotiated a release that recouped about $100,000 for the Cubs.
◆ Aug. 30: Cubs icon Ryne Sandberg, three-time pursuer of the Cubs’ managing job, returned to Wrigley as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies and defeated the Cubs 6-5.
◆ Sept. 16: Jackson ignited a dugout altercation with Sveum in Milwaukee when he muttered his displeasure after getting pulled in the fourth inning. Twelve days later, he would become the first Cub since 1999 to lose 18 games.
◆ Sept. 17: Team president Theo Epstein put Sveum on the hot seat by declining to say if Sveum would return for the final year of his contract. Hours later, a second dugout altercation erupted when Jeff Samardzija went off on coach David Bell over defensive alignment.
◆ Sept. 20: After a ninth-inning meltdown, closer Kevin Gregg blasted management to the media over being been told Pedro Strop would get chance to close. Gregg later walked the ramps to the press box and claimed a misunderstanding with Sveum after talking with Epstein. Epstein decided against releasing Gregg.
◆ Sept. 27: Epstein said no decision has been made on Sveum and bristled at media speculation.
◆ Sept. 27: The Cardinals beat the Cubs 7-0 to clinch the National League Central, making the 2013 Cubs the first team to see three teams clinch against them (the Atlanta Braves clinched the NL East and the Pittsburgh Pirates a playoff spot in the previous six days).
◆ Sept. 29: The Cubs suffered their 96th loss and broke franchise records for losses in two consecutive seasons (197) and three (288).