I hope everyone had a safe and pleasant holiday, and though there’s really no Cubs news to report, I’ll soldier ahead with a column today and we can just cross our fingers that some news will eventually be forthcoming.
For all the predictions of a busy post-Winter Meetings market, there haven’t been any trades of real significance. Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, and of course, Kris Bryant, remain with the same teams despite all kinds of speculation. Though I hardly think that Josh Donaldson is the real holdup here, I suppose enough teams are interested in the third baseman that his status is choking the market to a degree.
Turning our focus to the Cubs, and regardless of any moves the front office may or may not make, there hasn’t been a lot of buzz surrounding David Ross since he was announced as the team’s new skipper. The lack of headlines speaks loudly enough that we can already surmise he is the polar opposite of his predecessor. From the moment Joe Maddon was hired in 2015, it seemed that not a day passed that he wasn’t quoted or front and center of all Chicago sports media.
In the last three years, Aaron Boone, Alex Cora, David Ross, and Joe Girardi have all moved from the television set to the manager's office.@jareddiamond explains why MLB teams are hiring broadcasters to be their new skippers.https://t.co/4UJmr71Mgr pic.twitter.com/VwBMA1Pvgb
— This Morning (@ThisMorningShow) December 23, 2019
The biggest change Ross brings, then, is likely a return to the players becoming the primary focus of the team. If Maddon wasn’t blatantly making excuses over the last two seasons, he certainly came pretty close and almost always shielded his charges from the media. That may have stunted their overall maturation process somewhat, as some of the now seasoned veterans have failed to maintain the consistency expected of players entering their arbitration seasons and beyond.
In one of the few times since being hired that he’s spoken with the press, Ross even said as much. The 42-year-old first time manager admitted he’s already chatted with several players about the need for leadership and accountability inside the clubhouse.
“I just want to create a little structure from the top… and get these guys back to what I know they’re capable of doing,” Ross said. “And again, what winning looks like and holding them accountable, when you see it maybe going the other way.”
Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein were believers, which is what sold them on Ross, who despite being the clear favorite from the get go, fought off a bit of a challenge from Astros’ bench coach Joe Espada.
“Sometimes that change may be shocking a little bit.” Hoyer said a few weeks ago. “Maybe it creates different awareness. When you go through the same routine over and over, sometimes there can be a sense of staleness. I think the fact that he’s going to do things differently is great. He gets a chance to be the manager of the Cubs. He’d be crazy just to do the same thing [as Maddon].”
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs are betting that Ross will not only succeed, but will become the game’s next great manager (subscription to The Athletic required).
- Whether or not the Cubs keep Bryant, the decision will be based almost wholly on the team’s current financial situation.
- That said, the Cubs can go about trimming payroll with options that allow the team to keep their all-star third baseman. And though Bryant tops the list of players most likely to be traded, our own Evan Altman looks at some possible alternatives, too.
- That bat slam by Nicholas Castellanos is probably the most memorable moment of 2019, but don’t forget Kyle Schwarber had a two-homer, seven-RBI game against the Brewers last year, and Bryant had a three-homer game against the Nationals in May with all three dingers coming in the last three innings of the game. I would be remiss not to include Yu Darvish, who probably would have been the top story of the second half were it not for Castellanos.
- The best baseball story of the decade, and it’s not even close, was the Cubs breaking their 108-year championship drought by winning the 2016 World Series.
- Brett Jackson was the Cubs’ biggest prospect disappointment of the decade.
Edwin Encarnación is heading to the White Sox on a one-year deal that will pay the slugging DH $12 million. Look for the ChiSox to turn their attention to signing Castellanos next, or they may try to swing a deal for Red Sox starter David Price, possibly netting Andrew Benintendi in the process.
The Dodgers may decide to wait until next July’s trade deadline to add any roster reinforcements.
J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles Daily News takes a tongue-in-cheek look at how baseball might look during the next decade.
Apropos of Nothing
I watched Die Hard, Die Hard 2, A Christmas Story, and Elf yesterday. All four qualify as seasonally-themed movies, right? As far as I’m concerned, it’s just not Christmas until someone welcomes me to the party.
Many media outlets are using the slow news period attached to the holidays to name their all-decade best-of moments. In my mind, nothing tops 2016, so there isn’t any point in talking about anything that happened before or after, except maybe the home run Schwarber hit against the Cardinals that nested nicely atop the right field scoreboard.
That said, I present to you the most-forgotten Cubs’ players of the decade, at least as I see it.
- Xavier Nady
- Ramón Ortiz
- Jaime García
- Nate Schierholtz
- Kevin Gregg
- Taylor Teagarden
- Jason Motte
- Brian Matusz
- Paul Maholm
- Jacob Turner
They Said It
- “[David Ross] has great contacts in the game. Great relationships, I think, is a better word because he’s a terrific relationship-builder. He’s got the type of personality where people feel connected to him. They trust him. They like being around him and they’re quick to open up with him.” – Theo Epstein
Thursday Walk Up Song
Wonderland by Night by Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra. You can’t see it, but right now I am raising my mug of Warsteiner to all of our readers, and a German orchestral number — Billboard Magazine’s Top Single of 1961 — seems more than appropriate given the spirit of the season.