Cubs can't hold off century mark

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.”