Cubs can only improve in 2013 (but don't bet on it)

SportsChicago CubsBaseballTheo EpsteinJosh VittersJeff SamardzijaJim Hendry

The Cubs were built to lose 100 games, so what was with the obsession to avoid it?

The actual issue is losing 100 games and still not getting the top pick in the draft. So Cub.

I can understand players not wanting to be a part of 100 losses. I understand that part of the obsession. Nobody wants to wear that ignominy.

Of course, racing out of the dugout Wednesday afternoon to celebrate a walkoff for win No. 61 as if they were the division-winning A’s might be even worse. It looked embarrassing. I would admonish them to act like they’ve been there before, but these are the Cubs, so, who’s zoomin’ who?

I don’t get it, but I suppose anytime you can avoid that critical 102nd loss, you’re popping champagne, baby. Wooo! Love you, brother!

Anyway, here’s the deal: Many of those players were called up and sent down, retained and traded, given playing time and shuffled around to reach that kind of 100-loss “goal.’’

The Cubs played hard all season, a credit to rookie manager Dale Sveum. The Cubs also played badly most of the time and stupidly at others, a tribute to Theo Epstein’s scorched Hendry policy.

I mean, the Cubs went through 30 pitchers this season. Thirty. Yeesh. Who knew that Epstein had that many pitchers he would dare bring to the majors?

He didn’t. That was the point. Pitching is the golden rule in baseball, and you don’t know what you have until you see how much you don’t.

No Cub won 10 games. Their two winningest pitchers were Paul Maholm and Jeff Samardzija. The former was traded, the latter was shut down early. Oh, and Joe Mather finished with the best ERA.

If you’re projecting next year’s rotation, you have Samardzija for sure, probably Travis Wood, maybe Matt Garza, and Your Name Here and Your Name Here.

That’s why items nos. 1-10 on the Cubs’ to-do list is pitching. See the seven straight pitchers the Cubs drafted in rounds 2-8 last June for details. And if you’re still uncertain, see the 13 pitchers they drafted in the first 19 rounds.

Item No. 11 might be why Josh Vitters is still so bad, and No. 12 might be Ditto, Brett Jackson.

At some point, the Cubs need to improve the offense beyond Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Vitters and Jackson were expected to be some of the answers, and they are, just as long as the question is, “Why was Jim Hendry fired?’’

Drafting and development take time for smart organizations. It takes forever when you swing and miss on the likes of a third baseman and supposed power source such as the strikeout-happy Vitters and a center fielder and alleged on-base threat such as the equally strikeout-happy Jackson.

Know what’s worse? Jackson might make the team out of spring training next year.

And Ian Stewart might be your starting third baseman. It just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?

Alfonso Soriano might not be here next season, but if he is, I’d bet against a repeat of his production. Maybe it’s me, but it looks like another season of the fourth-worst slugging percentage  and third-worst OPS in the majors.

Season ticket renewals are due Nov. 12.

“Not many people around here have been through this many losses,’’ Epstein said. “It serves as motivation. It’s a very stark baseline of where we are and how much improvement we need to make.’’

It’s as if Epstein ordered a living autopsy. Cut open the body, show everybody what’s wrong, and let it bleed out.

Thing is, the bleeding isn’t done. Next year might not be another 100 losses, but it figures to be close.

No, wait, immediately after that legendary 61st victory Wednesday, the 101-loss Cubs fired third-base coach Pat Listach. All better.

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