Chicago Cubs: 2012 regular season

Barney named Gold Glove finalist at 2B

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
1:04
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Darwin Barney will find out Tuesday if matching the record for errorless games in a single season will earn him some gold.

Barney was named Monday as one of three finalists at second base for a National League Gold Glove Award. The official announcement will be made Tuesday night in a live awards show airing on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. CT.

The other Gold Glove finalists at second base are the Cincinnati Reds' Brandon Phillips and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Aaron Hill. Phillips has won the award in each of the past two seasons and three times in the past four years. Neither Barney nor Hill has won the award.

Barney went 141 consecutive errorless games at second base this past season, setting a National League record and tying the major league mark set by the Detroit Tigers' Placido Polanco in 2007. Barney's streak ended when he made a throwing error in the eighth inning of a Sept. 28 game at Arizona.

Barney has already won a Fielding Bible Award for his defense prowess this past season. That honor was voted on by a group of 10 baseball experts that included writers, broadcasters and former players. Only one Fielding Bible Award is given at each position regardless of league.

No other Cubs players were named as a Gold Glove finalist. Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano did not make his first error of the season until a Sept. 6 game at Washington. It was his only miscue of the season.

The Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun, the Colorado Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez and the Atlanta Braves' Martin Prado were named finalists in left field over Soriano.

Darwin Barney scoops up fielding award

October, 25, 2012
10/25/12
5:37
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – The regular season ended less than a month ago and already Darwin Barney has one defensive award to his credit.

Barney was a first-time winner of a Fielding Bible Award, an honor that goes to one player at each position, regardless of league. The award is voted on by a panel of 10 baseball insiders that include Peter Gammons, Bill James, Joe Posnanski and Doug Glanville.

According to John Dewan, author of “The Fielding Bible, Volume III,” Barney led all second baseman in baseball with 28 runs saved, 17 more than his closest pursuer at second base, Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox. Pedroia won last year’s Fielding Bible Award winner at second.

Other Fielding Bible Award winners included, Mark Teixeira of the Yankees at first base, Adrian Beltre of the Rangers at third, Brendan Ryan of the Mariners at shortstop, Alex Gordon of the Royals in left field, Mike Trout of the Angels in center, Jason Heyward of the Braves in right, Yadier Molina of the Cardinals at catcher and Mark Buehrle of the Marlins at pitcher.

So how good of a predictor can the Fielding Bible Awards be for the eventual Gold Glove Award vote?

Pedrioa did follow is Fielding Bible Award with a Gold Glove at second base last season, but 2010 winner Chase Utley did not win a Gold Glove and neither did 2009 winner Aaron Hill. In 2008, Brandon Phillips of the Reds won both the Fielding Bible Award and the Gold Glove at second.

Barney’s closest competition for a National League Gold Glove Award this season is Phillips, who has won the award three times in the previous four seasons and each of the past two seasons.

2012 Cubs recap: Right field

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
8:45
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Bryan LaHairAP Photo/Jeff RobersonIt was a strange journey from first base to right field for Bryan LaHair in 2012.
Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position. Today he focuses on right field.

CHICAGO -- Right field at Wrigley Field was where Bryan LaHair was sent to reinvent himself this past summer, just before the plug was pulled on one of the more curious seasons in a good long while.

If LaHair eventually is dealt to a different club this winter, his season will barely go down as a footnote in Chicago Cubs lore, but as it happened it took on a triumph-to-tragedy tone.

By the time LaHair was moved to right field in late June, the story still had not been completely written on his adventure at first base.

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2012 Cubs recap: Shortstop

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
8:34
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position this week. Today he focuses on shortstop.

CHICAGO -- Starlin Castro got off to a hot start in 2012, got in a little over his head for a stretch and then got paid, officially cementing himself as one of the players the Chicago Cubs are committed to building around.

The Cubs shortstop showed the human element involved with even the most talented of players. Nobody has questioned the raw ability of Castro, especially when it comes to what he is able to do at the plate. But the 22-year-old showed that he is not immune to the mental challenges that come with playing the game.

[+] EnlargeStarlin Castro
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesDespite a small slump during contract negotiations, Starlin Castro showed in 2012 why he's a big piece of the Cubs' rebuild.
His ability to focus every game and on every pitch still is not at the level the Cubs would prefer. High-profile mental gaffes continued to show up, most notably when he forgot how many outs there were in an early-season game and then when he tried an ill-advised base-running maneuver later in the season.

He was far from the only one to lose track of the situation or make poor decisions on the field this year, but the Cubs know that it is one of the few weaknesses of his game and is an easier fix than turning somebody into a high-level hitter or fielder.

There were other focus issues this season, though, that weren’t entirely Castro’s fault. As the Cubs engaged Castro’s agent in contract-extension talks, Castro’s play suffered, especially when it came to his offense.

Castro was still batting .300 in June when contract negotiations reportedly began to take place, but by Aug. 7 his average dipped to .272. He entered the season as a career .304 hitter in the major leagues after hitting .310 in the minor leagues.

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2012 Cubs recap: Third base

October, 15, 2012
10/15/12
10:40
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Ian Stewart Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Getty ImagesIan Stewart's injury put the Cubs in a hole at third base in 2012.
Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position this week. Today he focuses on third base.

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' biggest void this past season was at third base, which is saying something considering the team lost 101 games.

It’s still unknown how much of Ian Stewart’s struggles were caused by his injured wrist, which limited his season to just 55 games. Josh Vitters showed he isn’t ready for prime time after getting called up in August. In between, Luis Valbuena did what he could to hold down the fort.

The final numbers: Cubs third basemen combined for the worst batting average (.201), least amount of runs scored (50) and the lowest number of total bases (184) in all of baseball. They were second to last in OPB (.611) ahead only of the Chicago White Sox (.600).

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Ricketts promises results to fans

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
8:42
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Tom Ricketts, the chairman of the board of the Chicago Cubs, promised fans that the long journey to a world championship team will occur on his watch.

In a lengthy letter sent to season-ticket holders, the Cubs' top executive gave an update on the team's entire system, including projects in both the Dominican Republic (building a team complex) and Mesa, Ariz. (a new spring training facility).

Ricketts ended the letter with this promise to the season-ticket holders: "In the end, we (Ricketts and his family) are fans and our goal is to win. We're committed to building a champion the right way. The franchise has imparted on a path that will present challenges along the way but the destination is promising."

The Ricketts family purchased a 95 percent ownership from businessman Sam Zell and the Tribune company in October 2009. (The purchase price was $855 million with Zell retaining 5 percent for tax relief.) Since the acquisition, the Cubs have had a break-even record or better for only four out of 486 games played.

Ricketts admitted Thursday that watching postseason play is difficult with the Cubs still looking light years away from their ultimate goal after a 101-loss season in 2012.

"It would be hard to go to someone else's stadium and watch that," Ricketts said at a dedication for a new high school stadium that Cub Charities and the Kerry and Sarah Wood foundation paid for. "It's tough because the other day I sent out congratulatory texts to some of the owners in the playoffs and it just kills you because you want to be on the other side of that."

The Cubs, according to Ricketts, will put all of their profits and resources back into the development of the franchise and their related ventures. That confirmed a promise Ricketts made on the day he and his family purchased the storied franchise.

The team and the city of Chicago remain at a stalemate on future renovations of Wrigley field. Because of the landmark status of Wrigley Field, the Cubs must receive the approval of the mayor before any structural changes can take place. Although some major headway was made early in 2012 toward a partnership, political differences between the mayor and Joe Ricketts caused an icy logjam in talks.

Offseason plans for the Cubs will include some minor additions and enhancements. The city did OK a 56-seat addition that will feature new rows in front of the current wall behind home plate.

"We have a few smaller projects that we will do this year," Ricketts said. "There is always some cement to be repaired. More maintenance than renovation."

Cubs 2012 recaps: Starting pitching

October, 8, 2012
10/08/12
12:03
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Ryan DempsterMike Stobe/Getty ImagesRyan Dempster was a hot commodity at the trade deadline, posting a 2.25 ERA over 16 starts.
With the 2012 season finally over, Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position this week, beginning with the starting pitchers.

CHICAGO -- For one month, anyway, the Chicago Cubs had their act together and it was the starting pitching that led the way.

The season might have ended with 101 defeats, but the month of July wasn’t to blame as the Cubs posted a 15-10 record.

That things went south again once Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm were traded before the July 31 non-waiver deadline -- not to mention the season-ending injury to Matt Garza -- came as no surprise.

Overall, though, it was a rough ride as the Cubs starters combined for a 4.52 ERA, 14th best in the 16-team National League. Their 42 wins were 15th in the league.

[+] EnlargeGarza
Howard Smith/US PresswireMatt Garza's season came to an early end after he suffered an elbow injury in late July.
“We made the tough decision to invest a little more in the future at that time,” president Theo Epstein said of the trade deadline. “It’s never easy to do that, but to be honest, that fit the greater vision of the organization. Had we found ourselves in contention, or close to it, we wouldn’t have done that. But the fact is that we weren’t close to contention and so we ended up trading 40 percent of our rotation -- not something you want to do if you want to win a lot of games the rest of the year.”

In the end things went as expected for the starting staff, with the only exception being that Garza is still a member of the Cubs organization. He figured to be dealt before the end of the season, but his elbow injury July 21 in an outing against the Cardinals nixed those plans and ended his year.

Garza finished the season with a 3.91 ERA over 18 starts and held opponents to a .236 batting average.

Dempster lifted his trade value with a 2.25 ERA over 16 starts, but things didn’t work out exactly as the club had planned when the right-hander vetoed a trade to the Atlanta Braves. Dempster earned his veto power as a 10-year veteran with at least five years with the same club. Instead of the Cubs landing major-league-ready pitcher Randall Delgado from the Braves, they ended up ended up with a pair of Single-A players from the Texas Rangers --third baseman Christian Villanueva and right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

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Cubs' LaHair is selfless to the very end

October, 3, 2012
10/03/12
6:56
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Chicago CubsJohn J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Getty ImagesIf Wednesday was his Cubs finale, Bryan LaHair made a memorable exit with a walk-off RBI single.
CHICAGO -- If Bryan LaHair doesn’t end up returning to the Chicago Cubs next season, his final act was noble.

He drew the curtain on 2012 with his game-ending single Wednesday in the bottom of the ninth inning that provided the Cubs will a rare scene this season: A celebratory scrum on the field.

But it was the tribute LaHair delivered earlier in the game that showed what he is made of. He wanted to hit one more home run this season for his ailing grandmother, and while getting a rare start at first base in the season finale, a home run is what he delivered.

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Cubs say scars will provide inspiration

October, 3, 2012
10/03/12
6:32
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The cold-hearted cynic could shrug and say the Chicago Cubs deserved their fate this season.

[+] EnlargeDale Sveum
Jake Roth/US PresswireThe Cubs' Dale Sveum can be "a great manager" says Alfonso Soriano.
They could point out that a flawed roster and a starting staff that was dismantled by trades and injuries was lucky not to lose more than 101 games.

Part of the reality, though, is that a season of this much struggle will leave its scars as the club moves forward. The question is whether those scars will be a burden or provide inspiration.

For David DeJesus, it’s the fourth time he has experienced a 100-loss season, with the first three coming while playing for the Kansas City Royals in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“It’s tough,” DeJesus said. “We want to go out there and perform for our fans and for our (coaching) staff, but it’s one of those years that things happened. It’s a part of the phase that we’re going through right now and hopefully next year we can come into spring training and they can put some guys around us to hopefully succeed and put us in the playoffs.”

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In a dark season, Rizzo represented light

October, 3, 2012
10/03/12
6:10
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Just because the Chicago Cubs finished the season with 101 losses doesn’t mean all hope is lost.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Rizzo
David Banks/Getty ImagesAfter batting .285 with 15 home runs, Anthony Rizzo gives the Cubs another building block.
Anthony Rizzo emerged as a flesh and blood representation of a brighter day, delivering extra-base hits, driving in runs and limiting his strikeouts, all while playing defense that suggested a Gold Glove would be in his near future.

As far as rebuilding cornerstones go, Rizzo and Starlin Castro are hard to beat.

“It was nice but obviously we didn't win a lot of games so that kind of dampers it,” Rizzo said after a season where he had a .285 batting average with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in 337 at-bats. “I guess on a selfish note it was nice to come up and produce and perform especially after last year to come back from all that.”

“All that” was his rough major-league debut last season when he batted just .141 with the San Diego Padres in 128 at-bats.

Things are different now. As the winter approaches Rizzo finds himself standing on firm ground for once. He knows that when spring arrives he is finally guaranteed to have a starting job in the big leagues. He also knows he won’t be traded like he was over the last two winters, but jokes that he will take a wait-and-see approach.

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Rapid Reaction: Astros 3, Cubs 0

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
9:49
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – The Cubs’ 3-0 defeat to the Houston Astros on Tuesday was their 101st of the season and left them with one game remaining.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Chris Volstad gave up just one earned run over seven innings, but the Cubs' offense continued to struggle. The Cubs were shut out for a second consecutive night in the final series of the season and have been held scoreless in three of the last seven games. The Astros entered next to last in the National League with a 4.58 team ERA, while the Cubs were just one spot better at 4.54.

WHAT IT MEANS: At least Volstad will get to head into the offseason with a good taste in his mouth. The big right-hander, who ended a 24-start winless streak in August, and actually won three of four starts at one stretch, was just about at his best. He didn’t walk a batter over his seven innings, while striking out six and he probably won’t feel the slightest bit bad that he did it against the lowly Astros.

OUTSIDE THE BOX: The Cubs completed the night portion of the home schedule, going 10-20 under the Wrigley Field lights this season. Since lights were installed in 1988, the Cubs are 254-254 in their 508 night games. The 30 night games this season were a franchise high, passing the 29 played in each of the previous two season.

OFF BEAT: As of Tuesday evening there were still tickets available for as low as 95 cents at stubhub.com to gain admission to the Cubs’ season finale Wednesday afternoon. Tickets for games earlier in the series against the Astros were selling for as low as 50 cents. Cheap tickets or not, the Cubs will nearly draw 2.9 million fans, low for their standards but still impressive for a team that has lost 100 games.

UP NEXT: For the final game of the season Wednesday, the Cubs will send left-hander Travis Wood (6-13, 4.39 ERA) to the mound. The Astros will counter with right-hander Edgar Gonzalez (3-1, 4.15) in the 1:20 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.

LaHair believes return to Cubs is 50-50

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
8:56
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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[+] EnlargeBryan LaHair
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesBryan LaHair has taken the high road all season, and that could bode well in the future.
CHICAGO – While the Cubs’ season was no doubt disappointing, it was most peculiar for Bryan LaHair.

The slugging left-handed hitter got off to an impressive start as basically the only hitter on the Cubs who was able to deliver in the early going. And despite cooling off considerably he was still an All-Star in July. But the team’s struggles brought about roster changes, leaving LaHair as basically an observer.

“It’s a unique kind of season,” LaHair said. “How many times have you ever seen it or has anybody has ever seen it? You go from being an All-Star to being on the bench and having a different role. It’s just different, unique. It doesn’t surprise me. It seems like that’s what should have happened.”

LaHair is a big believer in fate, but mostly because he is confident that with hard work he can determine his. He never complained about being benched and is even willing to be a reserve next season if the Cubs will have him back.

But he also knows that other teams saw what he did in the first half when he was batting .308 at the end of May with 10 home runs.

He was asked if it’s a 50-50 chance that he gets traded this season.

“I would definitely say that,” LaHair said. “I haven’t heard of anything like that from the horse’s mouth, (president) Theo (Epstein) or (GM) Jed (Hoyer) or any of those guys. I would say that there is a possibility there is a team out there that would want me to play every day. I would say that. Moving forward I don’t know what they want and how they would evaluate me at this point and if I will be here next year.”

Even before LaHair made the All-Star team, he had been struggling with the bat. By the end of June he was moved off first base when Anthony Rizzo was brought up and stopped playing in the outfield at the start of August when Brett Jackson arrived.

He was basically solid for 150 at-bats, struggled for 150 and then never got another 150 to see what he could do with it. But he refuses to see things as the prospects depriving him of the chance that finally came to him at age 29.

“I’m not going to look at it as I’m a victim,” LaHair said. “It was probably a good decision. I think deep down they kind of know what they have in me. They know I can handle the big-league pitching and hit for power and I’ve showed them I can play at an elite level. I think it was a good decision to get some young guys in here. Unfortunately it affected me.”

Taking the high road can only help LaHair in the end. He has finally started to come around as a pinch hitter in the latter stages of the season and would probably have to reprise that role if he comes back. But the Cubs would probably deal him away first, at the very least so he can finally spread his wings over a full season for once.

“Obviously not playing every day, I want to play every day,” he said. “I’m an everyday player. I think I’ve shown I can hit off the bench. I’m capable of doing that. But I’m an everyday player. If I’m going to be here and be on the bench then I will accept my role, but I think I’m an everyday player.”

Was there ever any frustration?

“I’m on board 100 percent,” he said. “As long as I’m wearing this uniform I have a role and whatever my role is I just want to try and do the best I can at it.”

Cubs' lost season provides 'stark baseline'

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
8:13
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Theo EpsteinJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTheo Epstein was not happy with this season, but he does not blame Dale Sveum.
CHICAGO – A few days before his State of the Team address, Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein gave a sneak preview to the media Tuesday.

After emerging from a ceremony where two students were given scholarships, Epstein stopped to take a few questions, letting it be known that he would rather assess what happened after the season was completely finished.

On the 100-loss season, Epstein said that 65 would have been a much better number. Epstein said he has never been a part of a club that lost 100 games.

“I don’t think anyone, not many people around here, have been through this many losses in a season and it just serves as motivation, a very stark baseline where we are and how much improvement we have to make,” he said.

Despite the struggles, Epstein complimented Dale Sveum for the work he did as a first-year manager.

“I think Dale has done a fantastic job,” Epstein said. “The 100 losses aren’t his fault in the least bit and he has done a really good job of maintaining as much of a winning culture as much as he can during a season like this.”

Both Sveum and Epstein said player evaluations and face-to-face meetings have already started. The pitchers met face-to-face with the staff Tuesday, while position players will meet Wednesday and the coaches will meet after the final game.

“We’re not satisfied with the way the year has gone,” Epstein said. “There were positive developments in certain areas but no we were not happy with how the year has gone."

His assessment of off-the-field concerns was the same.

“(There were) some good things, some bad things,” he said. “I think we learned a lot and understand there are a lot of areas we still need to improve every day and we’ll work hard every day to improve the organization.”

One-hundred percent awful

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
12:45
AM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- After a freefall that lasted the entire season, the Chicago Cubs finally bottomed out with a thud Monday.

The 2012 squad became just the third in franchise history to lose at least 100 games and the lemon juice on the open wound was the fact that it came against the Houston Astros, the only team in baseball with a record worse than theirs.

“Nobody wants to be a part of it, but the bottom line is we’re going home like a lot of other teams with a lot better records,” manager Dale Sveum said. “If you’re not going to the playoffs, a lot of times the wins and losses don’t matter.”

That might be how Sveum consoles himself, but the fact was that it was a number the manager tried to avoid, setting it up its avoidance as an artificial goal. It wasn’t like 99 defeats was much better, but it was one of the few causes Sveum had left to rally his troops around.

Read the entire column.

Cubs can't hold off century mark

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
10:34
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- After a freefall that lasted the entire season, the Chicago Cubs finally bottomed out with a thud Monday.

The 2012 squad became just the third in franchise history to lose at least 100 games and the lemon juice on the open wound was the fact that it came against the Houston Astros, the only team in baseball with a record worse than theirs.

“Nobody wants to be a part of it, but the bottom line is we’re going home like a lot of other teams with a lot better records,” manager Dale Sveum said. “If you’re not going to the playoffs, a lot of times the wins and losses don’t matter.”

That might be how Sveum consoles himself, but the fact was that it was a number the manager tried to avoid, setting it up its avoidance as an artificial goal. It wasn’t like 99 defeats was much better, but it was one of the few causes Sveum had left to rally his troops around.

Rookie Anthony Rizzo came a hair away from guaranteeing it wouldn’t happen, only going as far as to say it wasn’t something that he didn’t want to be a part of. Rizzo seemed to take no satisfaction in the fact that much of the team’s struggles didn’t have anything to do with him.

Like Rizzo, the veteran Alfonso Soriano managed to be productive during the struggles but not even his best effort was enough to make much of a difference.

“Nobody wanted to have a 100-loss season but it’s happened and there is nothing you can do about it,” Soriano said. “Hopefully we can win the last two and don’t have a losing season like this next year.”

With only those two games remaining, the Cubs at least know they can’t match the mark for most defeats in franchise history. The 1962 and 1966 teams each lost 103 games.

It remains to be seen what the sting of this type of season can do to future clubhouse leaders like Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Soriano hopes the youngsters can use the sting of 2012 to push themselves in future seasons.

If there was any progress made this season it was in a clubhouse where the team showed character and seemed to enjoy each other’s company without turning against each other during the struggles.

“I think the owner (Tom Ricketts) and the president (Theo Epstein) did a very good job to put together a group of people where everybody felt fine in here,” Soriano said. “I think we have a tough season this year but most of the people enjoyed working hard to get better and try to win. That’s all we can do and we’ll see what happens next year.”

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.290 14 65 57
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 30
RBIA. Rizzo 71
RA. Rizzo 81
OPSA. Rizzo .889
WJ. Hammel 8
ERAT. Wood 4.81
SOJ. Arrieta 135