Heading into Friday's opener against the Pirates, the Cubs need to finish 7-12 to steer clear of the century mark in losses for the first time since the 1966 team finished 59-103.
"No one wants to be associated with a 100-loss team," said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. "We're going to try to win every game. But if we can win enough to avoid 100, it would be a very, very small victory, but certainly better than losing 100."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said it's a matter of pride.
"It's a motivating thing and a pride thing to know you weren't part of one of those teams," Sveum said.
Sveum knew what he was getting into when he took the job.
"We told Dale in the interview, we told him that based on where we are as a franchise, we're going to try to win, but we're not even going to evaluate him on wins and losses in the first couple years, because it wouldn't be fair," Epstein said. "We knew we'd be putting out a team that had too much developing talent to evaluate him strictly on wins and losses. We'll evaluate him on a number of other criteria that we shared with him, and I think he's done a fantastic job, to be honest with you."
What Epstein and others have noticed is that the Cubs haven't quit.
"For a team that's where we are in the standings, it's been one of the best clubhouses I've been around," Epstein said. "They show up to play every day, they like each other, they prepare, they work hard. With a few very rare exceptions, we've played really hard for nine innings every game and left it all on the field. Usually, when you're losing on the field, it starts to seep into the clubhouse a little bit, but we haven't seen that happen. I've been proud of the way we've conducted ourselves."
Cubs fans will just have to be patient.
"We have a plan and a vision, and it's not going to happen overnight," Epstein said. "Given the way of things, I think this is the best way to go. We're not trying to hide the ball. We're being honest with them. There might be another Trade Deadline in our future where we trade away 40 percent of our rotation. You do that because there's going to be a day when you acquire two starting pitchers at the Deadline to cement your club.
"Our goal from the beginning is we're going to do what we need to do to put ourselves in a position to be a contending team year in and year out, and that means no shortcuts and taking the long approach," he said. "When you acquire young players and trade for prospects, it's pretty obvious it's not a quick road. I think it'll be a rewarding journey."