Cubs president Theo Epstein graced the media Friday with an on-field chat before his team went out and continued playing spoiler, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-4 at Wrigley Field.
Epstein went over a number of topics with us media types, including the possibility of a 100-loss season, the fact that the Cubs haven’t “quit” and the job manager Dale Sveum has done.
With Friday’s victory, the Cubs have a record of 57-87 and are on pace to finish 64-98. Six more victories will assure them avoiding the dreaded century mark in losses.
“We got the magic number down to 6,” Sveum said. “These guys know it. They’ve got a lot of pride right now to try and stay away from that number.”
Although that’s cold comfort, it is something.
“No one wants to be associated with a 100-loss team,” said Epstein, who is finishing his first season in charge of the Cubs’ baseball operations. “It would be really nice to avoid. We’re going to try to win every game. If we can win enough to avoid 100, that would be a small victory, but it’s certainly better than losing 100. The guys feel that. No one wants to be a part of that.”
That’s part of an attitude, Epstein said, that has remained positive despite the overwhelmingly losing record. In other words, Epstein agrees with observations made in this space that the Cubs have not “quit.”
“For a team that’s where we are in the standings, this has been one of the best clubhouses I’ve been around,” he said. “They show up to play every day. They’re prepared. They work hard. With very rare exceptions, we’ve played really hard for nine innings every game and left it all on the field.
“Usually, when you have a losing environment, when you’re losing on the field, it starts to seep into the clubhouse a little bit and you see some things that shouldn’t happen. Really, I haven’t seen much of that this year. I’ve been proud of the way we’ve conducted ourselves.”
A lot of the credit for that should go to Sveum and his coaching staff. For those reasons, among others, Epstein said Sveum isn’t being graded on wins and losses this year.
“We told Dale when we interviewed him for the job, based on where we are as a franchise, we’re going to try to win, but we’re not even going to evaluate him on wins and losses the first couple years, to be honest, because it wouldn’t be fair,” Epstein said. “We knew we would be putting out a team that had too much developing talent to evaluate strictly on wins and losses. I think he’s done a fantastic job, to be honest with you.”
In Friday’s victory, rookie left-hander Chris Rusin worked 5 innings to earn his first major-league victory. Starlin Castro hit his 13th homer of the season, a 3-run shot to left in the sixth as the Cubs broke open a 4-3 game.
“It feels good,” Rusin said. “Glad I got that off my chest. I can relax and keep going, hopefully keep pitching well.”
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