Chicago Cubs: 2013 Regular Season

Cubs season review: Rotation

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
12:37
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Jesse Rogers recaps the Cubs by position and looks at what changes might be in store for 2014.

WoodAP Photo/Paul BeatyTravis Wood was impressive in 2013, throwing 200 innings.
Simply put, the starting rotation kept the Chicago Cubs from being a complete embarrassment in 2013. They’re the one group who earned their paychecks, to the tune of 91 quality starts, fifth most in the National League. Their win totals weren’t very high but that was because the offense and bullpen failed them. And even though their ERA rose throughout the year, some of that was due to the trades of Scott Feldman and Matt Garza. Both were pitching very well, which led them to be dealt to needy contenders. Overall, the Cubs rotation was the strength of the team.

The good: It has to start with Travis Wood. He developed into the ace of the staff, finishing the year in the top 10 in several categories league wide, including batting average against (.222), ranking sixth among NL starters who took the mound at least 20 times. His ability to work both sides of the plate made him dangerous against lefties and righties. And his athleticism helped him at the plate, on the basepaths and most important, to make 32 starts while throwing exactly 200 innings. If not for giving up three runs in his final inning of the year his ERA would have finished below 3.00, a feat for any pitcher. The rest of the staff had its moments as well, whether it was Garza coming back from an injury to pitch well or Feldman coming out of nowhere to facilitate his trade. Jeff Samardzija pitched well in some big games (Opening Day, the White Sox) while fill-ins Carlos Villanueva, Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta all showed flashes.

The bad: It’s no secret Edwin Jackson had a bad year after signing a $52 million deal last offseason. It’s hard to pinpoint why things went wrong as more often than not he simply didn’t give his team a chance to win, getting hit hard and walking the opposition at the most inopportune of moments. His 18 losses were the most since Steve Trachsel in 1999 and most of them had nothing to do with a bad bullpen or anemic offense. It was on him. Ironically, the player signed to be an innings-eater barely made it to 175. Unlike Wood, Samardzija didn’t always keep his team in the game either, badly giving up leads or simply not minimizing damage. Instead of a one- or two-run inning, Samardzija would give up a crooked number and the Cubs would be hopelessly out of the game. His high ERA (4.34) was a result of bad innings not necessarily overall bad outings -- though those isolated innings led to a shorter stints than he would have liked.

Who’s next: The Cubs won’t be dipping into the minor leagues for their starting staff for 2014. By season’s end they had the in-house candidates for next year already on the roster. The most intriguing is righty Jake Arrieta. He was acquired for Feldman mid-season and immediately showed he has elite stuff. Now he just needs to harness it. Assuming no one is traded from the staff, expect Samardzija, Jackson and Wood to return with Arrieta as the No. 4 starter to begin the year. Villanueva is under contract as is Rusin so either of them could be the No.5 man. Scott Baker returned admirably from Tommy John surgery but is a free agent. Expect the Cubs to add an arm or two for depth.

2014 outlook: It still might be a rotation in flux in 2014, but the upside is starting to show. Samardzija is a big key. He needs to get to where Wood is in his progression. There’s the assumption that Jackson will rebound as the back of his baseball card shows better numbers than he displayed in 2013. Arrieta is the other key at the back end of the rotation. If he develops, he won’t be a No. 4 starter for long. His stuff is that good.

Cubs coach McKay "crushed" for Sveum

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
6:51
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Being fired from his job is a new experience for former Chicago Cubs first base coach Dave McKay. He, along with manager Dale Sveum and the rest of the Cubs coaches, were let go on Monday, though McKay does have a chance at returning when the Cubs hire a new manager.

“It was a surprise,” McKay said by phone on Thursday afternoon. “I won’t say it wasn’t a surprise. For Dale, I was pretty much crushed. Rather me then him. I liked the effort Dale put in.”

McKay is highly regarded as an outfield coach and helped turn former Cub Alfonso Soriano into a better defender since McKay’s arrival from the St. Louis Cardinals before the 2012 season.

His firing isn’t something he’s used to, having been a part of the Oakland Athletics from 1984 to 1995 and the Cardinals from 1996 to 2011.

“Different than anything I’ve been a part of because I had been with Tony LaRussa for 27 years,” McKay said. “I was really fortunate and blessed to be working for a guy that every year you weren’t wondering if you’re coming back or not. You knew you were coming back.

“I never had to worry about or experience the general manager or owner’s idea of how they do something like this. It’s unusual for me, but I understood where [president of baseball operations] Theo [Epstein] is coming. He called and we had a nice conversation and hoped we would be back at it again.”

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Yanks up first for Girardi, then what?

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
8:00
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- As the storylines start to unfold regarding the Chicago Cubs' managerial position, there's at least one thing we know about free-agent-to-be manager, Joe Girardi: The New York Yankees want him back. And, according to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, Girardi might feel the same.

"Yeah, I think he likes it here," Cashman said in a news conference Tuesday. "If you're good at what you do, you'll have opportunities to stay. He's definitely going to have that. We're going to give him a real good reason to stay. He's earned that."

[+] EnlargeJoe Girardi
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsJoe Girardi seems to be at the top of the Cubs' wish list for manager, but the Yankees are preparing to keep him in New York.
Cashman said he talked to Girardi on Monday over coffee and planned to meet with his agent, Chicagoan Steve Mandell, on Wednesday. Girardi is under contract with the Yankees until the end of this month, which means the Cubs would need permission from the Yankees to discuss their opening -- at least during October -- after firing Dale Sveum on Monday. Cashman was asked if the Cubs had called yet.

"Not able to say, but he is under contract and we have an interest in trying to keep him," he said. "Joe has been consistent since we've had him here."

But we've only heard from Cashman as Giardi hasn't spoken publicly since the season ended for the Yankees on Sunday. The Yankees understand their manager might be in high demand.

"I can't speak to other opportunities," Cashman said. "We can't control what other options may be out there. If you're good at what you do, people are going to have interest."

On Monday, Cubs president Theo Epstein said he would look "first and foremost" at people with managerial experience. If Girardi re-signs with the Yankees, Epstein's options turn to a manager under contract with a team -- which would take a trade to pry away -- or one who has been let go recently, like former Mariners skipper Eric Wedge. Or one who has been out of the managerial game for some time.

But Epstein didn't rule out a rookie manager again. In lieu of experience, the ideal candidate would have to show signs of being great leader, in whatever baseball capacity they've been involved. The Cubs undoubtedly gave some insight into this when they hired Sveum in the first place, before the 2012 season. They interviewed several other candidates.
Here's an update on where some of those names are now:

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Through firing, Cubs explain what they want

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
11:25
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs had too much respect for former manager Dale Sveum to get into specifics about the reasons he was fired on Monday, but in detailing what they want in a new manager -- with a plethora of young talent on the way to the big leagues -- they told us all we need to know.

“In order for us to win with this group -- and win consistently -- we must have the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the major league level,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “We must have clear and cohesive communication with our players about the most important parts of the game. And, even while the organization takes a patient, long view, we must somehow establish and maintain a galvanized, winning culture around the major league club.”

The implication is Sveum failed to provide at least some of these things. Epstein said the troubles began in the first half, and a heart-to-heart meeting with Sveum after the All-Star break put him on notice. As the season wore on, Cubs brass obviously believed the changes they were seeking weren’t going to materialize with Sveum at the helm, so they fired him one year earlier than most people thought they would.

So what wasn’t working in the first half of 2013 that set off the alarms? It might have just been something in the air about the culture in Year 2 of the Epstein/Sveum regime, or maybe it was something more specific. After all, you don’t fire someone for something in the air unless a mutiny is about to take place. There was nothing so outwardly dramatic to be concerned with, so maybe it did come down to the on-field progress -- or lack thereof -- by core players.

There’s only one really important aspect that transcended the entire season, from star player to benchwarmer: The Cubs couldn’t get on base. Getting on base is the centerpiece of an Epstein offensive attack. The Cubs ranked 14th in the National League in that category. Their core players, such as Starlin Castro (.284), Anthony Rizzo (.323), Darwin Barney (.266) and even newcomer Nate Schierholtz (.301), were abysmal at reaching first. In the end, only the catchers -- Welington Castillo (.349) and Dioner Navarro (.365) -- stood out in this category.

It’s not necessarily that Sveum is directly responsible for the lack of on-base percentage -- he wasn’t going up there with a bat -- but maybe the issues were in the message. For such an important aspect of Epstein’s building process, the Cubs were making no headway. This is just one tangible example, but it provides some perspective on Sveum as a leader: The messages weren’t getting through to the liking of Epstein and the front office.

Or maybe the losing had just beaten Sveum down and the Cubs were afraid the culture change they were seeking wasn’t coming as their crop of young talent made its way to the big leagues.

Either way, there were tangible and seemingly intangible reasons for Sveum’s firing. Unless he turned out to be one of those special people who grew into an elite manager, the odds were against him staying here long term. There was just too much to do, too much to overcome, and it cost Sveum his job.

Cubs, Sveum end losing season

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
5:22
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was addressing the media for the final time in 2013 after a 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. Just as fellow core player Anthony Rizzo walked by, Castro was asked when the Cubs would start winning again. After Sunday, it’s officially 105 years since their last championship.

“Me and this guy right there, we’ll be a good team for sure,” Castro said as he nodded Rizzo’s way. “I think in two years, two or three, I think we’ll compete.”

The Cubs front office has been definitive in not putting a timetable on it but the players might be feeling a little antsy after a 66-96 season. That followed a 101-loss year, but the five-game improvement means nothing in the big picture.

“I want to win and I know the guys in here want to win,” pitcher Jeff Samardzija said after suffering loss No. 96 on Sunday. “That’s the bottom line, winning ball games.”

Before any winning can happen the Cubs are going to decide if Sveum and his coaching staff are the right people for the job moving forward. The front office will let him know on Monday if he’s back for the final year of his contract.

“Like I said before, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it,” Sveum said after the game. “We’ll find out in 12 hours or 15 or whatever it is. It’s upon us.”

Sveum’s steady demeanor is one reason he was hired during an expected, tough, rebuilding project. It’s also the reason you won’t hear a bad thing about him from his employees.

“I love Dale,” pitcher Carlos Villanueva said. “I’ve loved him for a long time. ... There’s not one person that can say anything bad about him. He can only be who he is. With what he had he did a good job.”

That’s why he won’t be judged on wins and losses but on more intangible things. Simply put, after two years at the helm, the Cubs will decide if he’s the right man moving forward with a younger core of players coming

“As a player you want consistency,” Samardzija said. “You want to build those relationships and you want that to lean on at certain times when you need that.

“It’s not our call. It’s whatever they want to do and what’s best for the organization.”

Whatever happens, Sveum earned the player’s respect. That’s in front of the media or behind closed doors.

“Everybody has been great,” Rizzo said. “Dale’s been great, the coaches have been great.”

Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 4, Cubs 0

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
3:56
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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ST. LOUIS -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the season finale on Sunday.

How it happened: The Cardinals scored three times in the first four innings and never looked back in sweeping the Cubs. Jon Jay singled home one run in the third while Daniel Descalso and Shane Robinson had run-scoring hits in the fourth. The Cardinals added one in the eighth on a double by Tony Cruz. Meanwhile, a patched-together pitching performance shut down the Cubs as starter Jake Westbrook pitched one inning followed by Joe Kelly’s 5 1/3. Three other relievers helped finish off the shutout. Jeff Samardzija went six innings for the Cubs, giving up eight hits, no walks and three runs.

What it means: The Cubs scored two runs in the entire series, in the ninth inning of a 6-2, Game 2 loss. There were a couple of positives down the stretch as Anthony Rizzo reached 40 doubles with a first-inning gapper and Starlin Castro was better at the plate in the final weeks than he was all season. Samardzija finished the season with a 4.34 ERA but actually was better in his final few starts, proving he can at least get through a full season as a starter.

Final numbers: The Cubs finished the season with a 66-96 record. Rizzo led them in home runs with 23, RBIs with 80 and walks with 76. Dioner Navarro had the highest batting average (.300) among players with 200 or more at-bats while Castro struck out one more time (128 to 127) than Rizzo to lead the team. On the mound, Travis Wood led with nine wins and the lowest ERA (3.11) among starters. Kevin Gregg had 33 saves.

What’s next: The Cubs will have meetings on Monday at Wrigley Field with manager Dale Sveum and the coaching staff. Some changes are expected, if not with the manager, then at least with his staff.

Edwin Jackson ends rough first season

September, 28, 2013
9/28/13
8:03
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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ST. LOUIS -- It might go down as the worst first season of any Chicago Cubs free agent in history. Pitcher Edwin Jackson barely finished the year with a below-5.00 (4.98) ERA in losing his 18th game of the season on Saturday to the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Started off shaky, ended shaky,” Jackson said of his season. “S----y year, to sum it up.”

Cubs fans were probably cursing most days Jackson took the mound after he signed a four-year, $52 million deal last winter. He’s the first -- and basically only -- big-money guy signed in the Theo Epstein era.

“I got three more years here to look forward to,” Jackson said. “I’m definitely looking to changing everything around.”

Jackson might have an excuse for Saturday’s game, as he felt tightness in his right lat and never could get the “extension” he said he needed on his pitches. But that doesn’t explain the rest of the season, during which he gave up more hits than innings pitched and struck out the fewest batters since 2008. His stuff just wasn’t very good.

“There’s a lot of people that want to throw one season away in their career,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s over. Now it’s time to start from scratch in spring training.”

It’s probably too soon to worry about the Cubs front office in terms of scouting major league talent; they’ve had success spending on lesser talent. But with so few dollars to spend right now in free agency, they can’t have many misses. Jackson was supposed to be durably consistent. In this case, one out of two isn’t very good. He just didn’t keep his team in the game often enough.

“Just a crazy year,” Jackson lamented. “If I had the answer, I would have changed it a long time ago.”

And that brings us back to first-year, free-agent seasons with the Cubs. Forgetting the money, Jackson had easily the worst year of anyone signed last winter. Add the $52 million guaranteed, and it hurts even worse.

Carlos Pena in 2011 made $10 million while hitting .225. But he hit 28 home runs and drove in 80. That’s something at least. Former bad boy Milton Bradley’s 2009 season might be comparable to Jackson's season. He was making $10 million that year while producing 12 home runs and 40 RBIs before injuries and a season-ending suspension curtailed his Cubs career.

They were one-and-done in Chicago. Unless he’s traded, Jackson has a chance to redeem himself.

“I don’t feel like I pressed,” Jackson said of his season. “There may have been times where I overanalyzed things and was thinking too much and not allowing myself to go out and do what I’m capable of doing athletically.”

Take 2 comes in 2014.

Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 6, Cubs 2

September, 28, 2013
9/28/13
6:35
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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ST. LOUIS -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday:


How it Happened: Cubs starter Edwin Jackson was hit early and often as the Cardinals scored two in the first and four in the third. Matt Holliday hit a two-run home run to start the scoring before Yadier Molina and Pete Kozma produced run-scoring doubles. The final blow -- after an intentional walk to the No. 8 hitter -- was a run-scoring single by pitcher Adam Wainwright. Jackson left the game with lat discomfort on his right side after that hit. Anthony Rizzo hit a ninth-inning home run to ruin the shutout, and Donnie Murphy drove in another run, but the Cubs managed just three hits off Wainright and Cardinals’ relievers in the first eight innings.

What it Means: Jackson ended his season about the same way he began it: by getting hit hard. He gave up eight hits and six runs in just 2.2 innings to a team that celebrated a division title late into the night on Friday. Jackson has three more years left on his contract, so there’s plenty of time to rebound from his poor season, but as of this moment, he’s a candidate for one of the worst free-agent signings in Cubs history. He went 8-18 with a 4.98 ERA in 2013.

Outside the Box: Starlin Castro is quietly finishing the season on a high note. Since returning to the leadoff position after a one-day stint batting eighth in late August, he’s raised his batting average seven points and he’s hitting the ball with more authority. It’s also the time he said he would return to his roots as a hitter and not worry about how many pitches he sees. His finish could be a huge lift for him heading into 2014.

What’s Next: The Cubs season concludes on Sunday when Jeff Samardzija faces Jake Westbrook.

Handicapping the Cubs' coaching staff

September, 28, 2013
9/28/13
3:21
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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ST. LOUIS – With Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum’s short-term fate to be determined Monday, what does that mean for his coaching staff? Even if Sveum is dismissed, it’s highly doubtful the Cubs would get rid of his entire staff.

Handicapping the coaches from the outside looking in can be a difficult task. They do the bulk of their work behind closed doors, in the form of video and of course communicating with – as well as teaching -- the players. They aren’t subjected to twice-a-day media scrums like the manager, and their success or failure with players can’t always be measured in numbers.

Still, there are some things that become obvious in terms of the value of a coach, especially with the task of developing a young core.

Here’s a look at the status of some on Sveum’s staff:

Chris Bosio, Pitching coach



Considering the Cubs keep trading his pitchers, he might be the hardest to judge. But by all accounts he’s done an admirable job. Travis Wood would be the poster child for a success story. Bosio has gotten him to work all sides of the plate and not be afraid to throw any pitch at any time. Jeff Samardzija still has room to grow but hasn’t embarrassed his pitching coach in any manner. And it would be hard to point to Bosio for the failures on the staff. Former pitcher Shawn Camp's struggles could not have come as a shock, considering his age and mileage on his arm. Carlos Marmol was on the decline before Bosio appeared on the scene. Kyuji Fujikawa got injured before Bosio could have much effect on him. There are enough positives -- and few provable negatives -- to think Bosio could return even if Sveum doesn’t.

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Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 7, Cubs 0

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
10:16
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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ST. LOUIS -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Cubs’ 7-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday:

How it happened: Travis Wood got the first two outs in the opening inning, then promptly gave up three runs on four hits and two walks before his season ended at inning’s end, as expected. Yadier Molina had a two-run double and Jon Jay a run-scoring single as the Cardinals sent nine to the plate in the first. They added one run in the third inning on a David Freese home run off of Brooks Raley. A throwing error by catcher Dioner Navarro plated another run in the fourth, as did a fielder’s choice by Molina. Matt Holliday went deep in the sixth. The Cubs managed very little off starter Lance Lynn, though Starlin Castro went 3-for-3 off him.

What it means: Before the game, manager Dale Sveum said Wood would only throw one inning so he could reach 200 innings pitched. The Cubs figured that was enough stress on his arm after a long season; unfortunately the three runs he gave up raised his ERA to above 3.00 (3.11) for the year. ... The Cardinals clinched the division title with the victory.

Outside the box: Sveum said he wouldn’t scale back on Saturday’s starter, Edwin Jackson, but he would limit Jeff Samardzija’s pitch count on Sunday, as Samardzija already has thrown a career high in innings. ... The Cubs have made some minor moves in their scouting department, among other areas. They aren’t ready to announce the changes but should after the season is complete on Sunday.

What’s next: Game 2 of the series has been moved to 3:15 p.m. CT on Saturday from the originally scheduled time of 6:15 p.m. due to inclement weather moving into the St. Louis area. The league wants to make sure all games get played that have playoff implications. Jackson will oppose Joe Kelly.

Epstein impressed by fans' commitment

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
7:46
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein isn’t surprised by his team’s drop in attendance this season. In fact, he’s impressed with those who have come out to watch a last-place team.

“You can look at it both ways,” Epstein said before Friday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. “We’ve traded 40 percent of our rotation two years in a row now and 2.6 million showed up to watch us play.”

The Cubs saw their paid attendance drop for the fifth straight season, drawing the lowest numbers since 1998. They're assured of a second consecutive last-place finish under Epstein as they rebuild the organization from top to bottom.

“All we can ask of our fans is to trust us we are working as hard as we can to make it happen,” Epstein said. “I would never spend someone’s money for them. But I will say the experience will be more rewarding if they’re around for the whole journey.”

That’s a sentiment Epstein has expressed before, asking fans to jump on board as the Cubs restock the system with talent.

“It’s a huge asset we have as an organization,” he said of Cubs fans. “I don’t doubt and will never doubt the dedication of our fans.”

Epstein likes to talk of the “health” of the organization and believes it’s better now than a year ago and the year before that. While he can’t say for sure when the team will turn the corner, he’s committed to a plan that will include spending money -- once it’s realized from new television deals and the renovation of Wrigley Field.

“That’s coming in the future, but we’re not exactly sure, yet,” Epstein explained. “The general business plan and the general baseball plan for the organization are more or less synced up.

“Do we have it down to an exact year we’re going to achieve a certain amount of wins or when we’re going to have X amount of additional dollars to spend? No. We’ve had to remain flexible because there are a lot of variables involved.”

What that means is developing the prospects, then finding the holes on the field that need to be filled. By that time money should be available to spend on specific free agents.

At least that’s the plan.

Cubs have long way to go in tough division

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
6:08
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Cubs ended their home season on a positive note, putting a crimp into Pittsburgh’s quest for a division title. The Pirates, who clinched a playoff berth with a win Monday, are on the verge of being eliminated from the division race after losing 4-2 to the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon.

With three playoff teams in the NL Central, the Cubs know what an uphill battle they have to become one of the elite teams in baseball.

"We have a very tough division," Anthony Rizzo said after Wednesday's victory over 16-game winner Francisco Liriano. "We want to play good baseball in St. Louis and go into the winter on a high note."

Rizzo and company will be faced with the third clinching celebration against them in less than a week Friday. Any Cardinals win or Pittsburgh loss over the last three games of the season will give St. Louis the division title.

Atlanta, Pittsburgh and soon St. Louis will have clinched against the hapless also-rans, which begs the question, how long will it be until the Cubs are competing for something relevant?

"The bar is set now," Rizzo said. "Those teams are young, and they are not going anywhere for years to come. We need to step our game up all around and continue grow as a team and as people."

The harsh reality is playing the best teams in baseball 77 times a season will test the Cubs and their resolve for years to come.

"Record-wise, we have the top three teams (in our division)," manager Dale Sveum said. "They all have 90-plus wins, the pitching from these top three teams is good as there is in baseball...That is where everything starts."

The Cubs ended their home season tying for the fewest wins with the 1957 club (31). They also have the dubious distinction of having lost the most home games in franchise history (50).

Attendance in 2013 lowest in last 15 years

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
5:56
PM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs finished a disappointing season with a club-record 50 home losses, which is almost criminal considering the prices they charge for tickets.

At least there weren’t that many witnesses.

The Cubs finished their homestand with a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday in front of an announced crowd of 26,171. That cemented their worst season of attendance since 1998.

(Read full post)

2014 starting staff taking shape already

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
5:50
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- If you’re looking for progress or advancement in the Chicago Cubs' rebuilding process then maybe there’s something to see on the starting staff heading into 2014 and beyond.

[+] EnlargeJake Arrieta
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJake Arrieta is 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA with the Cubs and looks to have sewn up a spot in next year's rotation.
Instead of three names -- Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson -- as part of the current core, the Cubs might have added a fourth when Jake Arrieta was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles for Scott Feldman earlier this season. It sounds like Arrieta is entrenched heading into spring training next year.

“If you’re looking at it, you’re looking at a fifth spot,” manager Dale Sveum said before Arrieta shut down the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-2, on Wednesday. “We have four pretty much already locked up for next year.”

Samardzija, Wood, Jackson and Arrieta have jobs to lose. They’re all young enough or have contracts that indicate they can be here for the next several years. No one can say how productive they can be.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 4, Pirates 2

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
4:29
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in their home finale on Wednesday:

How it happened: Little used -- or known -- Darnell McDonald hit a three-run home run off Pirates ace Francisco Liriano in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie. McDonald actually went 3-for-3 off Liriano, collecting two doubles before his home run. The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on back-to-back hits by Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo before the Pirates tied the game in the third on a bases-loaded walk to Justin Morneau. That was one of the few blemishes by starter Jake Arrieta, who only walked two while giving up four hits over six innings, out-pitching Liriano.

What it means: Arrieta secured the No. 4 or 5 spot in the rotation heading into spring training before Wednesday's final performance and his ceiling continues to be sky-high. A full season without the pressure of being a top-of-the-rotation guy -- he is a former Opening Day starter in Baltimore -- could see him finally fulfill his potential. His stuff was excellent again and might be among the best on the team. But stuff alone doesn't make a winning pitcher. He'll need to learn from his up and down year and advance from there. ... It was good to see Rizzo hit Liriano in his first two at-bats. He was right on the ball for both singles.

Outside the box: The Cubs' paid attendance for Wednesday was 26,171, bringing the 81-game total to 2,642,682. It's the lowest since 1998 and a drop-off of 240,074 from a year ago. Paid attendance at Wrigley Field has gone down for the fifth consecutive year. Major League Baseball doesn't release the number of actual bodies in the seats.

What's next: The Cubs have a day off on Thursday before opening their final series of the season in St. Louis. The Cardinals can clinch the division title with a win on Friday as Travis Wood (9-11, 2.98) will take on Lance Lynn (14-10, 4.09).

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Anthony Rizzo
BA HR RBI R
.285 25 55 68
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 25
RBIA. Rizzo 55
RA. Rizzo 68
OPSA. Rizzo .927
WJ. Hammel 8
ERAJ. Samardzija 2.83
SOJ. Hammel 104