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updated: 8/26/2013 5:49 AM

Cubs' young stars learn August can be tough on clubhouses

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  • Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, here during warmups in San Diego, understands that baseball is a business with lots of roster changes, but he'll still miss former teammate David DeJesus. Veterans being shipped off to other teams is just one thing of what makes August a challenging month for many teams, says Len Kasper.

      Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, here during warmups in San Diego, understands that baseball is a business with lots of roster changes, but he'll still miss former teammate David DeJesus. Veterans being shipped off to other teams is just one thing of what makes August a challenging month for many teams, says Len Kasper.
    Associated Press

 
 

We are nearly through baseball's toughest month.

No, it's not September, it's August. Yes, September isn't easy either, considering some players/teams are limping to the 162-game finish line.

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But remember, rosters expand to 40 players on September 1, which allows managers to give their players some rest, particularly the pitchers.

August is so difficult because these guys have been playing for over five consecutive months dating back to spring training and their bodies are tired and banged up. It's also usually the hottest and most humid month of the season.

I think August is especially difficult for non-contenders, who normally trade some of their better players to plan and reload for the future. That can sometimes create frustration in the clubhouse among those who remain, because they feel like they're a bad team being made worse.

Players having rough years might start to look up at the scoreboard in frustration as a 2-for-4 day barely moves the batting average. If you're normally a .300 hitter who's batting .240, by now, even .270 feels impossible to attain.

Then you have players who hear they've been put on waivers by their team, not knowing if it means an eventual trade or nothing at all. Most guys are put through waivers just so teams can see who is still available to trade, but it can't be much fun to find out on Twitter that you're one of those targets.

In the case of the Cubs, there's probably a little of all these things happening in the clubhouse right now.

They've watched most of the longest-tenured veterans get moved and at least partially as a result the team's record has suffered. Not that all the transactions have come as any sort of surprise, but when teammates lose their friends and, in some cases, mentors, it's no fun.

I could sense Starlin Castro's disappointment when Alfonso Soriano was dealt and the same from Anthony Rizzo when David DeJesus was moved. But, as Rizzo said, this is a business and there are constant reminders of that.

Now, all those guys can do is look forward. Barring an incredible finish, Castro's numbers will pale in comparison to his first three seasons. Rizzo's walks and power numbers look OK, but he needs a strong burst to finish with a respectable batting average.

I know we hear all about the clichés of this being a team sport, but let's face it, baseball is a sport made up of individual performances that turn into team success. And selfishness can be rewarded if channeled in the right direction.

And in the cases of Castro and Rizzo, their focus now needs to be 100 percent on themselves. The trade rumor distractions involving their teammates are in the past and the team is out of the race. This final month-plus is all about working hard on fine-tuning their game and turning their weaknesses into strengths. Really, that goes for everybody on the roster.

For the record, I think the vibe in the clubhouse is where it should be. I don't sense a "let's just play out the string and make off-season travel plans" situation going on.

It's a younger, less experienced team than we are used to seeing, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for this time of year with the record the Cubs have. There aren't a ton of established guys with long big-league track records.

And that should give everybody plenty of incentive to play hard and intelligently until the final pitch of the year.

• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]

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