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1st year of Epstein overhaul: 101 losses for Cubs

Associated Press Modified: October 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012
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CHICAGO (AP) — Theo Epstein made a lot of changes during his first season as the Chicago Cubs' president of baseball operations.

Players were traded, prospects were called up, star shortstop Starlin Castro got a big-time contract and front office personnel and coaches were fired.

The season ended this week after player gaffes, fundamental mistakes and losses — lots of them. The Cubs had 101 as the franchise reached 104 years without a World Series title. Now the overhaul continues and it appears to be a long road ahead.

The Cubs lost 100 games in a season for the first time since 1966 and just the third time in their history. They set a franchise record with 103 losses in 1962 and 1966.

"It was a very disappointing season in terms of wins and losses and ultimately that's what counts," Epstein said Thursday during a season-ending news conference. "It's not like we wake up and we lost 101 games, 'How did that happen?' ... we just didn't have quite enough talent on the field most of the time."

The Cubs traded veterans like Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Geovany Soto, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker for prospects they hope will bring brighter days. Oneri Fleita, the vice president of player personnel who had been with the team in some role since 1995, was fired. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo was let go in June and third base coach Pat Listach was fired Wednesday.

Fan favorite and reliever Kerry Wood retired and Matt Garza, expected to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, went on the disabled list in July with an elbow problem.

Calling up first baseman Anthony Rizzo was one the best moves of the season. He proved to be No. 3 hitter they'd been searching for, batting .285 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs in 87 games.

Castro, who had some mental gaffes like forgetting how many outs there were in an inning, got a seven-year, $60 million contract and batted .283 with 183 hits. Jeff Samardzija, the former Notre Dame wide receiver, became a starter for the future with a relatively strong season, going 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA before he was shut down to preserve his arm.

And Darwin Barney is another major piece for what's ahead after setting an NL record and tying a major league record with 141 straight errorless games at second base before a miscue on the final road series ended the streak.

Carlos Marmol rebounded from a shaky start that saw him lose the closer's role for a while and had 20 saves and a 3.42 ERA. Alfonso Soriano had a comeback season that few expected. The 36-year-old left fielder, who still has two years left on his eight-year, $136 million contract, responded from the cleanup spot with a .262 average, 32 homers and a career-best 108 RBIs.

Soriano said he is open to being traded in the offseason if the Cubs don't plan on contending the next two years. Chicago called up two of its top young players for the final two months and they both struggled —third baseman Josh Vitters and center fielder Brett Jackson had trouble with major league pitching.

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