Are you as encouraged as I am that the Cubs have almost their entire team in camp already, even though the official reporting date for position players is still four days away? Let me quote my dear old dad for you all once again.
“Shortcuts are a path to last place. If you had started your journey a week ago you would already be one week ahead of everybody else.”
— Matt Zahn (@mattzahnsports) February 10, 2020
Look, he was no Socrates, just a dude in a white collar job with a blue collar mentality. When I think about it, that’s a pretty apt description of David Ross and a few of his charges, mainly Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Steven Souza Jr., Kyle Schwarber, and Jason Kipnis. Maybe that’s the type of attitude Theo Epstein decided works best when completing a roster with a very limited budget. It certainly can’t hurt, especially since the team’s new strategy is geared more toward out-developing their opponents.
Older players willing to accept one-year deals work as an excellent stopgap when you are counting on pitching and hitting labs to churn out waves of major league-ready players from within the lower levels of your system. Having a coaching staff with one of the better combined pedigrees in all of baseball doesn’t hurt, either.
Signing veterans whose sole desire is to hang on to their careers keeps the team’s competitive window open, saves money, and might be a way to catch lightning in a bottle with a player or two that has had a string of successful seasons in his past. Kipnis, 33, and Souza, 30, are great examples. If fans want to write off either or both as washed up, fine, let the veterans prove to us that they’re not. I think both will surprise a lot of Cubs fans this year. At the very least, they might be excellent trade candidates at the deadline if the team is not competitive.
However, I think the Cubs will be competitive this year. If you remove your blinders of disappointment from the last two seasons and look at the team’s lineup, it potentially rates among the best in baseball. And that’s where improvements in the coaching ranks throughout the organization should help. If there has been a more glaring problem than the inability to further develop players at the major league level, I’d like to know what that is. After winning the World Series in 2016, the Cubs flatlined as a whole. Are we really to believe that all of these players peaked as 22-26-year-olds in their first and second major league seasons?
Yes, something has been missing, and maybe bringing in a few guys whose collective work ethic has been historically off the charts was a smart move. Adding a manager whose entire career was based on outworking his opponents might be considered likewise brilliant. Like Joe Maddon, Ross has had success at every stop in his career. The difference is Ross fought for it a little more, so he’s less likely to accept the laissez faire attitude that has permeated the organization since he retired as a player.
Cubs News & Notes
- The fact that the Cubs didn’t shake up their roster this winter could be interpreted as Theo Epstein retaining strong faith in his core players. It might also mean that the market is much softer than he and his front office entourage thought. Either way, it looks like Ross will get to go to battle with the team he wanted when he agreed to manage the Cubs.
- Schwarber and Rizzo are confident that the Cubs will return to the playoffs this season.
- Rizzo is ready for Chicago’s “Rossy era.”
- In fact, the organization as a whole is eagerly looking forward to a fresh start with Ross.
- The day before the Alabama football team started practice for the 2019 NCAA season in August, Ross spoke to the Crimson Tide about something he was noted for — being a good teammate. But he also used the visit to Tuscaloosa to learn from coach Nick Saban.
- It looks like Ben Zobrist has retired, though nothing is official at this point. I am of the opinion BenZo would be an excellent addition to the organization as a coach or front office executive.
- Epstein reiterated that Kris Bryant has no ill will toward the organization, and vice versa.
- As Evan Altman alluded to in my stead yesterday, though, Epstein more or less took the high road with Maddon’s assertion that he and his former boss didn’t always see eye-to-eye.
- Maddon, of course, opened up about his final two seasons in Chicago and his ensuing departure from the organization in an interview with ESPN writer Alden Gonzalez.
MLB Spring Training Notes
In an effort to acquire Mookie Betts, the Mets reportedly offered packages centered around Brandon Nimmo or J.D. Davis and one of their top infield prospects, Andres Gimenez or Ronny Mauricio, but would not part with Jeff McNeill.
The White Sox have massive expectations for this season.
The MLB Tonight crew breaks down the new rules changes for the 2020 season (video).
Just asking: How do you feel about sign stealing vs. rampant PED use during the 2000’s? Which do you think is worse? Let’s discuss.
Thank you for everything, Mr. Zobrist.
Given the news that he may not play in 2020 as he contemplates retirement, I wanted to share my favorite Ben Zobrist GIF.
This is after he drives in the go-ahead run in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
To clear things up: The Chicago Cubs won Game 7, and thus the World Series pic.twitter.com/7Z6PmByz3X
— Corey Freedman (@corey_cubs) February 12, 2020
They Said It
- “Chip on our shoulder? I don’t see why we even deserve a chip on our shoulder. We didn’t make the playoffs this year. We got to go out and earn it. I think it’s on us to be the best team this year. We got the talent, but to be the best team will take us to new levels.” – Anthony Rizzo
- “You see what everyone’s done in this room, what they’re capable of. You’ve got World Series champions in here. That doesn’t change. We all know what to do and how to get it done. It’s just being able to have a good solid foundation, which is what camp’s for.” – Kyle Schwarber
- “I’ve had a good text exchange with KB, checking in here recently, and whether it’s the trade rumors or the grievance matter, there are no hard feelings on either side. He’s excited to report to camp later this week. He’s excited for the 2020 season… He’s looking forward to getting started and continue what’s been a great relationship.” – Theo Epstein
- “When I speak freely, I bounce all over the place. There’s definitely an order I try to keep. I’m finding when I start, there’s a lot that comes out that I’m passionate about and start speaking to. It’s things I’ve written, and it’s on my heart, and they’ve come up in a meeting.” – David Ross
Thursday Walk Up Song
Build by The Housemartins. “It’s build a house where we can stay, add a new bit everyday.” Welcome to the David Ross era of Chicago Cubs baseball.
Oh, One Last Thing
After discussing it with family, friends, coworkers & a thx to tweets from @DEvanAltman & @infieldflygrl – I’ve decided I’ll go on the organ donor list. @ScottWGoCubs also scared me when he referred to not going on the list as passive suicide. pic.twitter.com/Cew4VmLkLi
— Michael Canter of Cubs Insider ✨ (@MEdwardCanter) February 13, 2020