9/27/2013 8:55 P.M. ET
Epstein working to reward Cubs fans' support
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs wrapped up the home portion of their season on Wednesday, setting a franchise record for most losses at Wrigley Field in a single season. They also finished with the lowest attendance since 1998.
"You see the numbers and there's been a decrease [in attendance]," said president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, "but at the same time, this is a team that finished in last place. We traded 40 percent of our rotation two years in a row, and 2.6 million people showed up to watch us play.
"I don't doubt and will never doubt the dedication of our fans," Epstein said. "It's a huge asset that we have as an organization. We don't take it for granted. We're working our tails off to make the organization healthier, to reward them ultimately. The only thing you can reward fans with is winning clubs."
The Cubs have lost at least 90 games three straight seasons, the last two under Epstein's watch.
"I have no doubt that the minute we put a winning team on the field, we'll have a packed park, raucous crowds, and maybe borderline intimidating crowds, and up until that point, all we can ask of our fans is to trust us that we're working as hard as we can to make it happen," Epstein said. "I would never spend someone's money for them ... but I will say that I believe the experience will ultimately be more rewarding if they're around for the whole journey, which is why we appreciate so many of them coming out this year."
Wood hits 200 innings in abbreviated outing
ST. LOUIS -- Cubs starting pitcher Travis Wood picked up his 200th inning of the season, and had to work for it.
Manager Dale Sveum announced prior to Friday night's game that Wood would start the series opener against the Cardinals, pitch one inning, and then be done.
"It's just to protect him and get his milestone, the 200 innings," Sveum said. "We made that decision and he was OK with it. There's no need to push him any further."
It was a long first inning. Wood retired the first two batters, helping himself by catching Carlos Beltran's popup near the Cardinals' dugout for the second out. He then gave up three straight hits, including a two-run double by Yadier Molina. David Freese walked, and Jon Jay followed with an RBI single. Wood intentionally walked Pete Kozma and then struck out Lance Lynn.
Wood allowed three runs on four hits with two walks on 37 pitches.
The Cubs wanted Wood to reach 200 innings but didn't want him to overtax his arm, and decided before the game to shut him down after one inning.
This is the first time in Wood's career that he's reached 200 innings in a single season. He joins teammate Jeff Samardzija (207 2/3 innings) in reaching the milestone. Entering the game, only two other pairs of National League teammates had reached 200 innings this season: Philadelphia's Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and Cincinnati's Mat Latos and Homer Bailey. With 4 1/3 innings on Friday, the Cardinals' Lance Lynn would join teammate Adam Wainwright in the 200 club.
Wood and Samardzija will be the first pair of Cubs teammates to reach 200 innings since Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly did so in 2008.
Wood has had no problems with his arm or health, Sveum said.
"It's just a lot of innings, pitches," Sveum said. "He's thrown about 100 pitches every start. He can get that milestone out of the way and he doesn't have to prove anything else."
Epstein to finish staff evaluations by Monday
ST. LOUIS -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum will find out on Monday whether he'll be back at the helm for a third season. That's when president of baseball operations Theo Epstein will complete his evaluation of the manager and the coaching staff.
"It's pretty standard at this time of year to take your time to look back at the season and make decisions on what can put the organization in the best position going forward," Epstein said. "This is part of the process. At the same time, we owe it to everyone involved to get it done quickly and move forward. We'll finish up the process on Monday."
Epstein was in St. Louis to conduct end of the season meetings with most of the players along with general manager Jed Hoyer and Sveum.
Epstein first revealed the evaluation process regarding Sveum and his staff last week in Milwaukee. The lack of a definitive vote of confidence from Epstein prompted speculation regarding Sveum's status.
"It is what it is," Sveum said. "It's not like I have to deal with anything except the norm that comes along with this position and the situation the organization is in, the evaluation process of any team at the end of the year, especially a team that lost 90-plus games. It doesn't affect me and doesn't bother me like people might think it does. It's just part of the process."
The Cubs lost 101 games in Sveum's first season in 2012, and will finish last in the National League Central this year.
"If you go into something not expecting this [evaluation], then it might be different," Sveum said. "But when you go into any kind of job like this, you understand these things can happen at any given time. I've been around too long and have seen it on both ends. There's nothing you can do but keep doing the same things you do. It's not going to change you as a person or a baseball person."
During the Milwaukee series, Sveum was caught on camera arguing with pitcher Edwin Jackson in the dugout, and the next day, Jeff Samardzija yelled at third-base coach David Bell. Reliever Kevin Gregg also was upset at being told he would no longer be the closer, but the problem was miscommunication.
"I look at those three little minor brushfires as things that naturally occur at the end of a difficult season and frankly, I think it's been impressive that under Dale's leadership we got through 11 months of the regular season without something like that happening," Epstein said. "Those things are to be expected. If you don't want those things to happen, then don't trade 40 percent of your rotation every year. Those things are going to crop up.
"Frankly, the things behind the scenes are more important than some of the brushfires that sometimes become public. I don't think those are a pattern at all."
Epstein and Hoyer have repeatedly said they are not judging Sveum on the Cubs' record. But Starlin Castro has struggled this season. Could Sveum's status be based on the shortstop's performance?
"It has nothing to do with one player," Epstein said. "It doesn't have anything to do with one player or one small group of players."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.