Cubs’ David DeJesus knows the weight of a 100-loss season
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com September 24, 2012 8:34PM
Cubs batter David DeJesus returns to the dugout after fanning in the seventh inning of the Chicago Cubs 7-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants Sunday September 2, 2012 at Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: October 26, 2012 2:18PM
Nobody with the Cubs knows more about the pain and stain of 100 losses than David DeJesus.
And if the Cubs don’t win at least four times in the final nine games of the season, many will bear the 100-loss stigma on their big-league resumes for the first time.
As much as Theo Epstein’s front-office gang might shrug off the Cubs’ first 100-loss season in 56 years as they focus on rebuilding, the guys in the trenches feel the growing weight.
‘‘It was tough,’’ said DeJesus, who went through three consecutive 100-loss seasons with the Kansas City Royals from 2004 to ’06. ‘‘It’s just that number you don’t want to be a part of.
‘‘We tried to go young, then we brought in some [veteran] guys, then injuries came and took those guys, so we were back to bringing young guys up again. It was just one of those things where we couldn’t really get over the rebuilding stage.’’
DeJesus might want to keep his voice down around some of those people still holding the third-most-expensive tickets in baseball for the final few games of the season, not to mention those willing to renew season tickets.
It’s no accident the Cubs bear a lot of resemblance to those Royals teams DeJesus played on. The front office has made a conscious effort to trade veteran, short-term ‘‘commodities’’ for prospects while staying on the bargain-shelf end of the free-agent market until the farm-system overhaul is complete.
But the front office is one of the things that attracted DeJesus to the Cubs when he signed a two-year contract as a free agent last offseason. He was Epstein’s first free-agent signing as Cubs president.
‘‘I want to win,’’ said DeJesus, whose only winning season came in 2003, when he made a 12-game big-league debut for a Royals team that won 83 games and finished third in the American League Central. ‘‘I want to play meaningful baseball games during this time of year. I’ve talked to other guys on other teams that have been part of that, and they’re like, man, it’s one of those things that you never want to give up. You just want to play winning baseball all the time. I would like to play that here, especially in Chicago.’’
Barring a long-term extension, he might have to settle for trying to seek respectability in Chicago, if he’s not traded before the end of next season.
DeJesus sees similarities between some of those Royals teams he endured and this Cubs team. He did note one difference.
‘‘At first glance, I feel this team has more talent than those teams,’’ he said. ‘‘But it all depends on pitching. This game’s about pitching.
‘‘We have guys that are going out there, and time will tell if they’re going to be ready to play up to the [Cincinnati] Reds, the [St. Louis] Cardinals. This is a tough division. There’s some good pitching going on in this division.’’
The Cubs’ best pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Garza, are finishing the season on the bench. Among the current starters, only Travis Wood looks like a serious contender for the rotation next year.
‘‘It’s one of those situations where, do you go out and spend money on free-agent pitchers when you’re rebuilding? That’s the hardest part about it,’’ DeJesus said.
Despite the realistic perspective, one of the Cubs’ most upbeat, professional, consistent performers this season keeps the hope that the Cubs’ big-league recovery gets enough short-term support from the brass to have a chance to make waves soon.
‘‘I can’t wait to see it happen. I can’t wait to see it unfold,’’ DeJesus said. ‘‘Hopefully it’ll be an exciting offseason. We’re expecting some big things. We’re relying on Theo to build a champion here.’’