The question was becoming as tiring as the subject: was it important for the Cubs to avoid losing 100 games?
“It’s important,” rookie first baseman Anthony Rizzo said before Monday’s meeting with the Houston Astros–who already had lost 106. “It’s something everyone wants to shy away from. I don’t know how many teams lose 100 games in baseball. You don’t want to be part of it.”
But Rizzo and his teammates are now, members of only the third Cubs team to lose 100 after falling 3-0 Monday to the Astros.
Only the 1962 and 1966 Cubs were in the category before Monday, each with 103 losses.
The Cubs had only two hits in the game, one a double by Rizzo, the other a leadoff single by David DeJesus.
Even a first year player understands the distaste of triple digit losses.
But the 2012 season will be more about a positive beginning to a promising career for Rizzo after a stumble out of the gate last season.
Rizzo was 21 when he made his major league debut with the San Diego Padres last season with the requisite fanfare that went with coming from the Boston Red Sox as a can’t-miss prospect.
In 49 games he hit only .141 with eight doubles, one triple, one homer and nine RBI. He was sent down to lick his wounds, but his mentors Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer didn’t lose faith. They moved to acquire him quickly after coming to the Cubs, sending pitcher Andrew Cashner and minor league pitcher Zach Cates to the Padres in January.
Rizzo had to wait until June 26 for his next major league appearance, but the second time around has been permanent.
He won rookie of the month honors in July, and after tailing off for a time in August, he rebounded in September with 21 RBI in his last 32 games while vying for rookie of the month honors again.
“It’s definitely been a good year,” he said. “After last year, bouncing back and proving a lot of doubters wrong–I’m sure there were people when I got here who said they didn’t like the trade.
“It was good for me to have a good rookie season here for the guys who traded for me a couple times, and good for me, too.”
Rizzo doubled leading the fourth, his 15th of the season to go with 15 homers and 48 RBI while hitting .289.
Joining second baseman Darwin Barney and shortstop Starlin Castro, Rizzo will be part of an infield core the team considers a foundation for the future.
“And Wellington [Castillo] behind the plate,” Rizzo added. “We need guys to have big years next year and beyond that.
“We have this core of players. That’s what [management] talks about, that core of players, and then bring in others. It’s about coming together.
“Every year, everyone has a goal to get better and play better. We’re young and have to get better every year and every day.”
The woes of this season aside, Rizzo is confident about the Cubs’ future.
“I know the guys in the front office–Theo, Jed, Jason [McLeod, vice president of scouting], Mr. Ricketts–are dedicated to winning. They’ve had enough of this losing stuff.”
He also likes the field boss who will direct things, manager Dale Sveum.
“Dale is the best manager I’ve ever played for,” he said. “He treats everyone the same. He talks to you about whatever. You play hard for him and he has your back all the time.”