Cubs say scars will provide inspiration

CHICAGO -- The cold-hearted cynic could shrug and say the Chicago Cubs deserved their fate this season.

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.”

The young core of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija now know how low you can go. And there could be another season of below-.500 baseball before it’s completely turned around for the better.

The way some of the youngsters see it, the scars don’t have to be negative.

“Hopefully everyone this winter learns (from what happened) and gets hungry,” Rizzo said. “It should be motivation for everyone in here especially those who know they're going to have a job here next year. Hopefully everybody goes in the offseason working hard.”

Despite the losing, new manager Dale Sveum held the clubhouse together with his consistent, no-nonsense demeanor. Because he doesn’t get too high or too low, he actually was a little melancholy for the end of the season. Call him a glutton for punishment.

“I don't know, I think when we get into this business of baseball you're always kind of sad to see the season end,” Sveum said. “It's kind of part of your life and that's what you do on an everyday basis. It's nice to go home and regroup a little bit but at the same time it doesn't take too long to get right back in the saddle and back in the dugout and clubhouse with the guys.”

There could be a number of new faces when the clubhouse does reconvene in Mesa, Ariz., in early February. Already Wednesday third-base coach Pat Listach was dismissed.

But as far as Sveum is concerned, team president Theo Epstein said this week that he is more than pleased with the job the manager is doing.

“He’s great,” said Alfonso Soriano, who had a rebirth this season at age 36. “He cannot do much because we see what kind of a team he has, and he always keeps everybody together and laugh and enjoying themselves because that’s why we’re here. We try to enjoy it. But he’s good. I have nothing to complain about him. We lost 100 games, but it’s not his fault because we didn’t have a team to compete. He can be a great manager.”

It will take a lot of new pieces to fix, but the collective sense is that things are moving forward and the goal will ultimately be achieved.

Since they see things heading inthe right direction, it was only fitting then that the Cubs moved into the offseason by dancing on the infield after a walk-off victory in the finale against the Houston Astros. That victory, though, was delivered by Bryan LaHair, who could be traded this winter.

“There were positives,” Darwin Barney said. “You look at some of the young guys that contributed and are moving in the right direction, and I think that’s something to be positive about. I think some of the young arms learned a lot about themselves. It’s just one of those things where it’s tough to find positives when you’re playing such a team game but that’s how it works. We have to get better and we have to improve.”

Perhaps Wednesday’s 5-4 victory over the Astros was just what the Cubs needed heading into the winter.

“It's better than 102 (defeats),” Sveum said. “It was nice to have a walk-off win to finish the year off after the problems with the season and everything. The best way you can finish the season is finish at home and have it be a walk-off win.”