Players, coaches refusing to turn negative after rough first half
ATLANTA – After finishing the first half of their schedule with a 31-50 record following Wednesday’s 5-1 victory over the Braves, the Cubs look forward to making improvements over the final 81 games.
So what are their goals for the second half?
“You’d like to have a goal of playing .500 baseball the second half with the team we have,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Just to get a respectable record, to play over .500 baseball, would be a nice goal to have.”
The Cubs entered the day tied with the Rockies for the worst record in baseball, and no one seems to have any illusions about the situation they’re in.
It was nearly a year ago in Washington that the Cubs were in denial after rebounding from an eight-run deficit to beat the Nationals. Matt Garza said the Cubs were “right where we need to be to make a good run,” while manager Mike Quade said, “I believe we can turn this thing around, and I think it can start today.”
That win left the Cubs 17 games under .500. They finished 20 under, and the new regime fired Quade after the season and hired Sveum.
Despite the poor first-half showing under Sveum, the clubhouse has been upbeat and the players all get along.
“It’s never gloom and doom,” Jeff Baker said. “I mean, you want to win every game, but at the same time, those people that come in here and shut it down and bag it and come in with a negative attitude, you don’t want to be around those guys.
“Fortunately for us we don’t have a lot of those guys. They’ve kind of been weeded out over the years. Wrigley Field is still a great place to play and a great place to work. When you win, things fall into place and it’s a lot more fun. But whether we get our brains beat in 10-0 or win a one-run game, I’m going to come in with a smile on my face.”
The Cubs fell out of contention quickly with a 12-game losing streak in May and were 14 games out of first place entering Wednesday.
But there are bright spots to look forward to in the second half, including the play of top prospect Anthony Rizzo, the progress of Starlin Castro, the rise of Bryan LaHair and the rebound of pitcher Travis Wood.
“We have fun every day,” LaHair said. “The only time we don’t have fun is if we walk off the field with a loss. Each day is a new day, and we know we have a chance that night. We’re going to have fun while we’re here.
“We don’t take [losses] into the next day. It’s very obvious this is a rebuilding period, and we’re all trying hard to get better as a team.”
The lowered expectations have reduced the pressure, and the youth factor helps keep the clubhouse positive despite the record.
“That’s what the game is about, having fun,” Wood said. “I know losing isn’t fun. We’re not here to lose. We’re trying every game and giving it everything we’ve got. We’re going to end up winning some ballgames.”
Record: 31-50 (.383, worst in MLB)
Home record: 19-20 (.487)
Away record: 12-30 (.286)
NL Central: Last place (14 games behind)
Longest winning streak: 4 (June 29-July 2)
Longest losing streak: 12 (May 15-27)
Runs scored: 298 (3.68 runs per game)
Runs allowed: 369 (4.56 runs per game)
Most runs scored: 12 (12-3 win over White Sox on June 18)
Most runs allowed: 17 (17-1 loss to Mets on June 27)