Demoralizing losses wearing on Sveum's patience

Demoralizing losses wearing on Sveum's patience

May 5, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Tony Andracki

Everybody knew the rebuild would take time. The Cubs weren't expected to win a World Series in only the second year under the new front office.

But the start to the 2013 campaign has been tough to swallow for everybody, from the fans to manager Dale Sveum.

"Whether it's late leads or a mistake in the field or some meltdowns in the bullpen, we've had some difficult losses 30 games into the season," Sveum said prior to Sunday's series finale with the Reds at Wrigley Field.

"It's no fun for anybody. The players battle, battle, battle and get those leads and then all of a sudden, they're gone. I don't care who you are, it isn't fun."

After losing 101 games in 2012, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer set about improving the big-league roster with a big free agent deal in Edwin Jackson's four-year, $52 million contract and minor signings like Nate Schierholtz, Scott Hairston, Carlos Villanueva and Scott Feldman.

But the Cubs have started just 11-20 after being swept by the Reds over the weekend and sit in last place in the NL Central and just 3.5 games ahead of the Houston Astros for the worst record in baseball.

While the bullpen (4.71 ERA, 25th in MLB) has gotten much of the blame in the public eye, it hasn't been the sole culprit. The Cubs have made 25 errors and are hitting just .182 with runners in scoring position.

[RELATED: Cubs searching for answers with Marmol]

"Going into the season, we all said we were going to have a much more competitive team," Sveum said. "The back end of the bullpen has cost us and we've had some miscues on the field that cost some of our starters some really good outings as well. It's just a shame knowing if we played really clean baseball and had a dominating bullpen or something, this could really be flipped to a [20-11] record.

"Instead, we're on the back end of this. It's frustrating. But the good thing about it is knowing we've been in every single game we've played...We're putting ourselves in situations to win games. We just have to clean that up and somehow get those last three to six outs."

Of course, every losing team can play the "what if" game and point to a few areas of the game that would flip their records for the positive. Sveum and the Cubs may have a different case, though.

Through 31 games, the Cubs hold a -23 run differential. By comparison, the Marlins (10-22) have a -39 run differential and the Astros (8-24) have a -75 total. The 17-15 Nationals, a preseason World Series favorite, have a -12 run differential.

Sveum knows the power of the media in a big market town that hasn't seen a World Series championship in more than a century. He understands little mistakes are magnified in close games.

Social media explodes every time Carlos Marmol is brought into the game and the fans in the stands are quick to boo their home team. But the frustration isn't limited to just the fans.

"I won't lie; your patience can only take so much sometimes," Sveum said. "But obviously, you put your players out there to do a job and sometimes, it works out and sometimes it doesn't work out. The bottom line is production and getting jobs done."

Sveum, who has been in professional baseball since he was drafted in the first round of the 1982 MLB Draft, said he can't remember being on a team that has had so many tough losses so early in the season. But he was quick to defend the players on the roster.

"We've got a great bunch of guys," Sveum said. "There's no problem with any preparation or work ethic. There's nothing you can ever fault the way these guys work or prepare and care every day. That's probably why we've been in every single game all year long.

"We're putting ourselves in situations to break games open. We're putting ourselves in situations to win games. We're putting ourselves in situations to come back in games because we're keeping it close because our SP has been so good.

"Those are positive things. But we all know the bottom line is you gotta win games."