Cubs inch toward day when wins, losses actually matter
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter June 24, 2014 10:57PM
Updated: June 25, 2014 12:06AM
Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio knows better than anyone else what his job is, and 2½ years of results suggest he is as good as anyone in the organization at what he does.
‘‘Being able to win a couple of
series as of late is huge for us, for the morale of the club, for young players,’’ Bosio said. ‘‘That’s what you’re trying to develop — that chemistry, that hunger, what it’s like to win. That’s how you accumulate winning records. That’s how you get culture with winning organizations.’’
But what happens to the progress, chemistry and morale when hard-won results are met with another roster sell-off toward the trade deadline July 31?
Even with a rough start to this homestand, the Cubs have a winning record in the last 5½ weeks. A young bullpen is taking shape, the starting pitching has been consistently competitive and the middle of the order is producing just enough to lead to victories in four of five series entering this homestand.
‘‘Guys are starting to get a taste for what our potential is,’’ said Bosio, who also played a big role in squeezing more out of the 2012 roster at about this time of year, only to see 25 percent of it traded in July.
It’s a fine line the Cubs’ rebuilding process walks, especially as the roster evolves to include more young players who might play roles in the turnaround.
Building-block shortstop Starlin Castro said this season feels different than 2012, even as he braces for the impending trades of rotation workhorses Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in the next few weeks.
‘‘Hopefully not,’’ he said. ‘‘But that’s business. We’ll see what happens.’’
Until then, he said: ‘‘I think this year we’re moving forward. We’re still in last place, but we have more emotion in here, and we’ve played a little better.’’
Reliever James Russell also was around in 2012. And though he
understands the business, he said it’s tough for guys in the clubhouse to deal with gains being set back by trades that shed key players such as Samardzija and Hammel.
‘‘It’d be a perfect thing to keep both those guys and build off of that and to add a couple of pieces in the offseason,’’ he said. ‘‘Then you’d look at it and say we’ve got ourselves a pretty damn good team.’’
Just as likely, Russell might be part of the sell-off, with relief-seeking teams such as the Angels and Royals following the Cubs recently.
Obviously, how good — and how ready — some of the players the Cubs get back in trades will be proof of how well they’re walking the fine line. In 2012, there was little to fill a gutted rotation that contributed to a post-trade-deadline tailspin and a 101-loss season.
The biggest question for players and coaches now involves when the front office starts seeking traction. The Cubs’ top two hitting prospects — Kris Bryant and Javy Baez — are a phone call away in Class AAA.
When will the results be allowed to matter? And when will players be added without major subtractions?
‘‘I hope soon,’’ Bosio said. ‘‘As competitive as I am and the rest of the guys in here are . . . nobody in this room takes losing well. We’ve been up against it the last couple of years.’’
Bosio clings to a vision of the day the Cubs are ready to add a proven veteran and keep their top-producing players, too. And a day the fruits of his coaching success can be measured in victories and losses.
‘‘That’s the thing,’’ Russell said. ‘‘[President] Theo [Epstein] and [general manager] Jed [Hoyer] and [chairman Tom] Ricketts kind of have a plan in place. Just watching that plan unfold is going to be something to see.’’