Chicago Cubs: 2012 season

2012 Cubs recap: Bench

October, 22, 2012
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Dave Sappelt Troy Taormina/US PresswireDave Sappelt's strong play off the bench may land him the fourth outfielder's job in 2013.
Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position. Today he focuses on the bench.

CHICAGO -- There were many areas that led to the Chicago Cubs' slow start and ultimate crash in 2012, and the bench was not exempt from that group.

The left-handed dominated lineup figured to have secret bench weapons when it came to opposing left-handed starters, but the strategy backfired in a hurry.

The Cubs were one of the best hitting teams against left-handed pitching over the previous two seasons, but slow starts from right-handed hitters Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson prevented the trend from continuing.

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2012 Cubs recap: Right field

October, 19, 2012
Padilla By Doug Padilla
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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New ticket prices reflect Cubs' struggles

October, 16, 2012
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- Before the 2010 season, their first as owners of the Chicago Cubs, the Ricketts family raised ticket prices by 10 percent, continuing a trend of major price increases from the last few years of Tribune Company ownership.

While the Cubs didn’t make the playoffs in 2009, they had a winning record and 2010 was only two years removed from the Cubs having the best record in the National League.

But things have changed. For the third straight season, all losing affairs of increasing magnitude, the Chicago Cubs are lowering season ticket prices for the 2013 season.

According to data from Team Marketing Report and the 2013 season ticket data sent out today by the team, the Cubs’ average season ticket price will be $44.61, down from $45.83 last season, which was the third-highest in baseball. All prices include the 12 percent amusement tax.

That figure doesn’t include the 3,500 or so club box seats the Cubs now consider “premium” seats. If you factor in those “premium” seats, the Cubs’ average ticket is $48.96, down from $50.06.

[+] EnlargeChicago Cubs Fans
Brian D. Kersey/Getty ImagesAttendance at Wrigley Field has been declining over the past few losing seasons.
Of course, a severe downgrade of fortune has coincided with the Ricketts family takeover. Since the 2008 playoffs, the team’s record has declined each season, with 2012’s 101-loss campaign marking only the third time in franchise history the team has lost 100 games.

But Wrigley Field is a tourist draw and there is a long waiting list for season ticket holders.

According to David Kronheim, who runs the analytics site, the Cubs’ 2012 attendance total of 2,882,756 was the highest-ever for a team that lost 100 games. The 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks had the previous record of 2,519,560.

Still, it broke the Cubs’ streak of eight straight seasons drawing more than 3 million as the Cubs lost an average of 1,669 fans per game. The Cubs’ 2012 average of 35,590 is way down from the franchise peak of 40,743 in 2008. By the end of the season no-shows outnumbered the fans in their seats as the actual attendance looked to be a fraction of the announced numbers.

For the season, individual tickets will be priced $1-$2 more for the second straight season. In the past, the Cubs were one of the few teams not to price individual games tickets higher.

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Ricketts promises results to fans

October, 11, 2012
Levine By Bruce Levine
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."

2012 Cubs report card

October, 7, 2012
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Check out our expert's grades, then share yours for each player on the 2012 team.

Grade the Cubs

Soriano open to offseason trade from Cubs

October, 3, 2012
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- With the Chicago Cubs' new management going on Year 2 of a rebuilding project next season, Alfonso Soriano said before the final game of the season that his door is open to being traded.

Read the entire story.

One-hundred percent awful

October, 2, 2012
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
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.

Rapid Reaction: Astros 3, Cubs 0

October, 1, 2012
Padilla By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs couldn’t avoid the century mark, falling 3-0 to the Houston Astros on Monday at Wrigley Field for their 100th loss of the season.

How it happened: The Cubs were handcuffed on offense in the opener of the final series of the season. They entered the final inning with just two hits, and one of those was from David DeJesus, the first Cubs batter of the game. It was the 15th time the Cubs were shut out this season after not getting their first shutout until May 20.

What it means: It was just the third time in franchise history a Cubs team lost 100 games. No matter what happens over the final two games they won’t match the club record for 103 defeats set in both 1966 and 1962.

Outside the box: Reliever Shawn Camp made his 79th appearance of the season, but remained one behind Dodgers reliever Randy Choate for the most in baseball. Camp, who was considered by manager Dale Sveum to be the Cubs’ first-half MVP, has now pitched 10 consecutive scoreless innings (over 11 outings) going back to an appearance Sept. 2 against the San Francisco Giants.

Off beat: Like leap year, regular-season games in October don’t take place all the time. The current series against the Astros is the first time the Cubs have played a regular-season game in the month at Wrigley Field since 2009 when they went 1-2 against Arizona. The Cubs began play Monday with a 33-27 record in regular-season games at home in October.

Up next: The Cubs will send right-hander Chris Volstad (3-11, 6.64 ERA) to the mound in the middle game of the final series of the season. The Astros will counter with right-hander Bud Norris (6-13, 4.82) in the 7:05 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.

Soriano's numbers up in Cubs' down year

September, 23, 2012
By Sahadev Sharma
The difference between 99 and 100 may not seem like much to most, but to the Chicago Cubs, avoiding the 100 loss mark is essential. After their 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, the Cubs fell to 59-94 and are back on pace to lose 100 games for the first time since 1966.

“With nine games left we’ve got our work cut out for us,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Six are on the road and only three at home. We gotta find some way to come up with four wins. Hopefully these guys come out and understand you don’t want to be a part of that.”

[+] EnlargeAlfonso Soriano
AP Photo/Paul BeatyAlfonso Soriano's homer in the sixth inning gave him his 105th RBI of the season.
Alfonso Soriano agreed that at the very least, avoiding 100 losses would be a minor mental victory.

“We gotta get it going, at least play .500 on the road or more. We’ve had a (losing) season, but it can be worse if we get over 100 losses. We just want to keep fighting and not get to 100 losses because three-digit losses is too much. So far (this season has been) frustrating, but I think for the organization it can be good (to avoid 100 losses).”

While the Cubs are having one of their worst seasons, Soriano is wrapping up one of his most impressive in a Cubs uniform. With his solo home run in the sixth -- his 31st of the year -- Soriano set a career-high with 105 RBIs on the season.

Soriano was pleased that he could do his part to contribute, but pointed out that he had a little help as he racked up his big RBIs total.

“I think that’s the first year that I had opportunity to have a lot of RBI, because most years I batted leadoff,” Soriano said. “Now my game has changed, I don’t have speed but now I’m just kind of a power hitter. I think I have 105 RBI because I’m batting cleanup.”

His improvements defensively have also contributed in making this one of Soriano’s better all-around seasons with the Cubs. Soriano admitted that this year was the first time he’s ever gotten instruction on how to play the outfield. First base coach Dave McKay routinely coaches all the outfielders on how to play defense.

That revelation is all the more surprising considering that Soriano moved from second base to left field in spring training of 2006, his only season with the Washington Nationals. Soriano said that the only ‘coaching’ he got at that time and prior to this season was shagging fly balls during batting practice.

Though some may argue that 2012 is Soriano’s best with the Cubs, they’d be conveniently forgetting his 2007 and 2008 campaigns with the club. Soriano posted an OPS of .897 and .876, respectively, in those seasons, while making the All-Star team and being a vital part of a playoff team in both those years.

However, it’s likely that this season is the most surprising of Soriano’s career. Not only does he have a career-high in RBI, but at 31 home runs and 143 games played, he needs three more homers and five more games to pass his Cubs-career highs in both categories. Watching Soriano struggle with knee problems over the first three months of the season makes the fact that he may reach 150 games played all the more remarkable.

“He just keeps going,” Sveum said. “He’s had to play a lot of games this year with very few days off. We just don’t score many runs, it’s difficult to give him many days off. He’s done one heck of a job, left field, at the plate, everything about this season has been one of his best seasons.”

Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 6, Cubs 3

September, 23, 2012
By Sahadev Sharma

A quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday at Wrigley Field.

How it happened: The Cardinals jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third inning after a two-run double by Allen Craig and an RBI single from David Freese. The damage could have been worse, but prior to Craig's double, Matt Carpenter got thrown out when he headed to third base thinking the runner ahead of him, John Jay, had scored. With both Carpenter and Jay on third, Anthony Rizzo tagged both runners and Carpenter was ruled out. The Cubs scratched across a pair of runs in the fourth and the teams traded solo homers (Pete Kuzma and Alfonso Soriano) in the sixth to make it 4-3. But the Cubs bats went silent after that and the Cardinals tacked on a few more to put the game out of reach.

What it means: With Sunday's loss to the Cardinals the Cubs not only missed out on a chance to play spoilers against their arch-rivals (with the victory, the Cardinals remain 2.5 games ahead of the Brewers for the final NL Wild Card spot), they also are back on pace to lose 100 games for the first time since 1966. With nine games remaining on the season, the Cubs need to go 4-5 to avoid the dubious distinction.

Outside the box: With his solo home run in the sixth, Soriano drove in his 105th run of the season. That gives Soriano a new career high for RBIs in a season, passing his previous mark of 104, which he posted in 2005 with the Texas Rangers.

Up next: After an off-day in Colorado on Monday, Chris Rusin (1-2, 6.00 ERA) and the Cubs take on the Rockies with Jorge De La Rosa (0-1, 12.27) toeing the rubber at Coors Field on Tuesday night at 7:40 p.m.

Kerry Wood ready to pitch in, help Cubs

September, 23, 2012
By Sahadev Sharma
Prior to Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs held a ceremony to honor Kerry Wood's accomplishments with the team. From the way most were talking, it was hardly a going away party for Wood, as it appears that both the Cubs, and Wood himself, expect him to once again be a part of the organization.

“We’ve kicked some ideas around, (I’ve) met with and talked to Theo about it,” Wood said about a possible role with the Cubs. “We’re all kinda on the same page and I’m sure we’ll get something done soon and work out all the details. (I) definitely want to be around and definitely want to be involved. In what aspect, we’ll figure that out probably this winter.”

[+] EnlargeWood
Tasos Katopodis/Getty ImagesThe Cubs honored Kerry Wood before Sunday's game against the Cardinals.
Wood added that he expected to be visible at both spring training and Cubs Convention in the future. While he didn’t anticipate being a coach and claimed to have no desire to someday be a general manager, he emphasized that he wanted to be a part of the team some way, not a public face that would “go around town cutting ribbons and kissing babies.”

Though he is yet to have an official title, it didn’t stop Wood from campaigning for some other former Cubs to come around more often and once again be a part of the organization.

“Hopefully we’ll get Ryno back,” Wood said of Ryne Sandberg, who spent this past season managing the Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A affiliate. “Actually, it wouldn’t be bad thing to see Sammy (Sosa) come around too. He did a lot for this organization and a lot for this city. It’d be a shame for him not to come back.”

Hearing Wood mention Sosa was a bit of a surprise as Sosa’s tenure with the Cubs ended on bad terms. After a late season collapse left the Cubs out of the playoff chase on the last game of the 2004 season, Sosa added to the negative atmosphere by leaving Wrigley Field before the end of that final game. Sosa was traded that offseason to the Baltimore Orioles and hasn’t been associated with the Cubs organization since.

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Marmol's best not good enough vs. Beltran

September, 22, 2012
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO – The oddest part of Carlos Marmol’s first blown save since May 2 was that he might have had some of his best stuff of the season Saturday.

The Chicago Cubs’ closer was two outs away from weakening the St. Louis Cardinals’ hold on the second wild-card spot in the National League when Marmol gave up a game-tying home run to Carlos Beltran. The Cardinals won it 5-4 in the 10th against Cubs reliever Jaye Chapman.

“I made one mistake and paid for it,” Marmol said. “That’s the game, though. He made a good swing and I take my hat off to him.”

It was shades of Friday’s series opener when Darwin Barney hit his own game-tying home run in the ninth inning and the Cubs went on to the victory. The Cardinals returned the favor and then won the game on Jon Jay’s RBI double in the 10th inning.

Implored earlier in the season to throw more fastballs and stop relying so much on his slider, Marmol had a fastball that touched 96 mph Saturday and he started off the ninth inning with an impressive three-pitch strikeout of Jay. But after getting ahead 0-1, Beltran crushed Marmol’s next offering onto Sheffield Ave.

“His velocity kind of blew Jon Jay away on three fastballs and got ahead,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Beltran’s one of the best hitters in baseball and he just dropped the head on another 95-plus mph fastball and that’s just the way it happens.”

In converting 19 consecutive save opportunities, Marmol had put together a 0.49 ERA over those outings. He had also been good about avoiding the long ball, last giving up a home run July 6 at New York against the Mets.

“He had a heck of a run, (19) saves in a row, hadn’t given up a home run since the All-Star break and it still took one of the best hitters around to do it,” Sveum said. “That’s stuff’s going to happen with a one-run lead. You’re not going to hold 40 saves in a row with just a one-run lead so he’s done a heck of a job for us.”

He already became the fifth Cubs pitcher with at least 20 saves in three consecutive seasons, he is third on the club’s all-time list with 115 saves and he had a 1.40 ERA since July 14 before coughing up a run Saturday.

It’s been an impressive turnaround after his struggles from last season, but even Marmol knows this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business.

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Rapid Reaction: Cubs 5, Cardinals 4

September, 21, 2012
Padilla By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in 11 innings Friday leaves them needing just four more wins to avoid the 100-loss mark.

How it happened: David DeJesus hit a game-ending single in the bottom of the 11th inning. Darwin Barney sent the game into extra innings with his two-out, two-strike, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth. Chris Volstad gave up three runs but needed 116 pitches just to get through five innings. The Cubs got even in the third inning on RBI hits from Barney and Alfonso Soriano. It was the 104th RBI for Soriano this season, tying his career best from 2005 when he played for the Texas Rangers. The Cardinals grabbed the lead again in the fourth on a straight steal of home from Pete Kozma.

What it means: The Cubs are back to embracing their spoiler role. A day after the Cincinnati Reds won at Wrigley Field to clinch a playoff spot, the Cubs made sure the Cardinals couldn’t strengthen their position in the wild-card race. If the season ended today, the Cardinals would be the National League’s second wild card team. But while one rival is bummed, another is happy. The Milwaukee Brewers opened the day as the Cardinals’ closest pursuer, 2 games back.

Outside the box: When the Cardinals’ Kozma describes his straight steal of home to his grandkids one day, it might end up sounding more exciting than what really happened. After a leadoff triple in the fourth inning, Kozma broke for home on an attempted squeeze by Daniel Descalso. On a high pitch from Volstad, though, Descalso failed to make contact. But Cubs catcher Welington Castillo couldn’t corral the pitch. Because Kozma had already broke for home he got credit for the steal and Castillo was not charged with the passed ball.

Off beat: It’s gotten so bad for Bryan LaHair that even when it does seem like he’s about to get a chance to play, he doesn’t play. The left-handed hitting LaHair was called on to pinch hit in the sixth inning so the Cardinals went to rookie left-handed reliever Sam Freeman. So manager Dale Sveum hit for LaHair with the right-handed hitting Josh Vitters, who struck out swinging.

Up next: The Cubs will send left-hander Travis Wood (6-12, 4.25 ERA) to the mound against St. Louis on Saturday in the middle game of a three-game series. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Adam Wainwright (13-13, 3.97) in the 12:05 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.

Rapid Reaction: Reds 5, Cubs 3

September, 20, 2012
Padilla By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs were swept after a 5-3 victory by the Cincinnati Reds, who clinched a wild-card playoff berth with the victory.

HOW IT HAPPENED: After new Cubs starter Jason Berken cruised for six innings, the Reds jumped on reliever Manny Corpas for five runs. The Cubs finally got on the board in the seventh with an RBI single from Anthony Rizzo. With a fourth-inning triple, Starlin Castro recorded a hit in six consecutive at-bats going back to Wednesday. The Reds reduced their magic number for clinching the National League Central to three.

WHAT IT MEANS: So much for the thought that Castro might become complacent after signing a long-term contract at the end of August. With a clear mind, a hefty wallet and confidence to work deeper in counts, Castro is crushing the ball again as his six consecutive hits showed. Castro’s triple also makes him the sixth Cubs player in the last 50 years to hit at least 12 triples in a season.

OUTSIDE THE BOX: After an uninspired Cubs debut last weekend when he gave up six runs on eight hits over four innings to the Pirates, Berken found his groove in start No. 2. The right-hander gave up just two hits over six innings with two walks and five strikeouts. Berken will get two more starts this season to make a case for himself heading into spring training next year.

OFF BEAT: Darwin Barney’s errorless streak nearly came to an end in the seventh inning. The Reds’ Denis Phipps hit a ball up the middle that Barney gloved. Despite not much of a chance to get the out at first base, Barney threw anyway and the ball bounced past first baseman Rizzo but did not go into the Reds’ dugout. Phipps was safe on an infield single and because he didn’t advance, there was no error. He now has 135 consecutive games at second base without an error.

UP NEXT: The Cubs will send right-hander Chris Volstad (3-10, 6.26 ERA) to the mound Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a three-game series. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Chris Carpenter (0-0, 0.00) in the 1:20 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.

Rizzo's two-homer, six-RBI day a winner

September, 16, 2012
By Sahadev Sharma
The Chicago Cubs' 13-9 comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday saw multiple story lines come and go.

First, Alfonso Soriano reached 100 RBIs for the third time in his career – and his first in a Cubs uniform – with a run scoring single in the first inning. Then Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez took center stage as he hit two towering home runs that flew past the left field stands onto Waveland Ave. Quite the achievement for a left-handed hitter.

[+] EnlargeRizzo
AP Photo/Paul BeatyAnthony Rizzo had the Cubs' first six-RBI game since Aramis Ramirez in 2010.
But in the end, it was the Cubs’ young first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, whose career day would stand out.

“There were a lot of great things that happened in that game, obviously Rizzo’s day is spectacular,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “I think Joe Mather's leadoff home run (in the sixth) got things going after we weren’t really doing anything. That inning snowballed into a five-run inning, and obviously Rizzo’s blast.”

Rizzo’s grand slam in the sixth inning was his second home run of the game and the blow that put the Cubs up for good at 10-9. Rizzo knocked in six runs on the day, something no Cub has accomplished since Aramis Ramirez did so on July 20, 2010.

“I didn’t know what they were saying and then I realized that’s what you do,” Rizzo said of the fans beckoning him for a curtain call after his decisive grand slam. “It was pretty cool.”

In 72 games with the Cubs, Rizzo has put up a .300/.352/.491 line with 14 home runs. That includes a stretch of 28 games from July 31 to Aug. 29 in which he struggled with a .231/.289/.279 mark and only three extra-base hits.

But with one big game on Sunday, Rizzo matched his home run total from a tough month of August.

“You work every day hard,” Rizzo said of bouncing back from his August struggles. “(There are) days you’re gonna feel good and days you’re not going to feel good, you just go with it. You go with the flow and understand that’s the nature of the game.”

Immediately following that rough patch, Rizzo has flowed into a stretch of 16 games in which he has an OPS of 1.095 with five home runs and five doubles. Sveum was happy to see that Rizzo was able to adjust and recover from his August doldrums.

“He went into that little lull and figured some other things out,” Sveum said. “Everything he’s done up here is obviously what we’ve expected. We don’t expect any more or any less, he’s been spectacular since he’s been here.”



Starlin Castro
.292 14 65 58
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
WJ. Arrieta 10
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167