David Ross hasn’t been able to coax many wins from his team lately, but maybe he can wrangle some help from third parties. By going 4-10 over their last 14 games, the Cubs have put themselves in a position where they don’t necessarily have full control over their path to the playoffs. As such, the enemies of their enemies are their friends for the next week and change.
One such enemy is the Pirates, who are taking on the Reds this weekend before facing the Marlins to close the season. You probably don’t need to be reminded that those are the two teams nipping at the Cubs’ heels for the final Wild Card spot. Pittsburgh just took two of three from Chicago at Wrigley following a 14-1 romp by the home team to open the series, after which Ross was understandably peeved.
“That’s not a good team that just took two out of three from us…or not our caliber team, I believe,” the manager told the media following Thursday’s sloppy effort.
Never mind that the Pirates started out hot and held the NL Central lead for much of the season’s first month. Or that they’re pretty much a .500 club if you remove their games against the Cubs. On the flip side, the Cubs wouldn’t be anywhere near the playoffs had they not beaten up on the Pirates. Wait, is this right? Yep, these two teams would have identical 70-71 marks if you removed the results from their 13 games.
Ross’s frustration isn’t so much about the Pirates actually being a bad team as it is the fact that the Cubs were 10-1 against them prior to those recent losses. Add in the crucial juncture in the schedule and you get an emotional environment that may have led to some ill-advised words. Or maybe, and this is stretching things a bit but let’s go with it for now, Ross intended to gas up the Jolly Roger.
“I guess he can say whatever he wants,” Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds said. “We can use it as motivation. At the end of the day, if we’re such a bad team, maybe he should have managed his team a little better and beat us.
“We went in there and outplayed them.”
While pissing off an up-and-coming group that has some serious talent matriculating through the pipeline — not to mention stud shortstop Oneil Cruz, who has missed most of the season with a broken ankle — Ross might not be around to have to deal with the long-term repercussions. In the meantime, he may have given the Pirates exactly the kind of bulletin-board material they need to run roughshod through the rest of their slate.
Like how they were able to put up three runs over the last three innings in Cincinnati to hand the Reds a loss Friday evening. Another win or two in the Queen City followed by a winning series against the Marlins in the Steel City would be just as valuable to the Cubs as actually winning their own games. Genius move by a guy people online keep saying is just bald and dumb.
Now, do I really believe Ross was thinking about motivating a rival to do his work for him? Hell no, but that might end up being exactly what happens. And if that’s the case, his loose lips might end up keeping his ship from sinking.