Slumping young Cubs 'learning a lesson'

It lasted almost three and a half minutes -- nearly uninterrupted. Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria spoke to reporters in Toronto at length about his team's 9-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night, their fifth defeat in a row.

"That's probably the worst game we've played all year," he said. "These men know that. It is something where we have to regroup and get our mind back around playing the game a certain way. As young men they're learning a lesson."

The game fell apart in the seventh and eighth innings when the Blue Jays scored eight runs to erase a 2-1 deficit and turn the contest into a blowout. The bullpen blew up, the Cubs committed two errors and the offense went to sleep. It got sloppy.

"No one likes losing but no one likes losing the way that game ended up developing," Renteria said. "It just steam rolled. It would be foolish for us to (pretend) it didn't happen."

This was more than a manager speaking about one loss in mid-September, with nothing on the line in the standings. This was Renteria sending a message for the future -- and to his future players. There's a good chance, whether starting or coming off the bench, next season's 25-man roster will mostly be comprised of the 35 who are on it now.

"It's a message we've been talking about since the beginning of spring but today the game lent itself to reiterating, re-emphasizing the same things we've talked about all year," Renteria said. "Staying in a big-league ballgame requires a commitment to bearing down and continuing to play the game. Being aware of the whole circumstance."

More than anything this is a reminder to fans that there are no shortcuts. Talented players may accelerate the rebuild that's taking place but everyone goes through ups and downs. We can make a case for the Cubs to contend next season, but it's not the likely scenario. It's the unlikely one.

"It's a great lesson," Renteria said. "I think they are getting an understanding, it's tough to win a ballgame. When things get chaotic you really have to come back and put yourself in the middle and do some things that put you back on track."

Some of that is coachspeak but with young players there is meaning behind those words. It's doubtful Renteria would have gone on so long if he had a veteran team. Young players make mistakes more than veterans. That's the simple truth and the Cubs will most likely be no different in that department come 2015. Even with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo in the lineup there will be growing pains -- maybe for more than just a year. The actual rebuild may be coming to an end, but that doesn't necessarily mean the winning then starts.

"We have to play nine innings of baseball," Renteria said. "We have to focus, stay loose and relaxed. But we have to direct our energies and focus on the game."

Individual growth is needed but learning to play as a team is just as important. Tuesday was a reminder that it's more likely than not there will be more games like it next season. And it means fans might have to adhere to the "P" word a little longer. Patience has to come with a young team no matter how talented they are.

"Today it really did get away on a lot of different levels and a lot of different places," Renteria said.

It probably won't be the last time he relays those sentiments, but it's all part of the process of becoming a winner.