PHOENIX – There’s a lot of things in store for the Cubs over the next 14 days and while the trade deadline line is going to be a major marker in the team’s second half, there is also a long time between now and the end of the season.
The Cubs have a veteran clubhouse, but it’s human nature to acknowledge what could lie ahead as a team or as an individual. After the trade of Joc Pederson, many on the outside have seen the next few weeks as the last days for the Cubs as currently assembled, but trying to keep his team’s focus on the present.
Before Friday’s game against the DBacks, manager David Ross’ message was a simple one and he believes his team still has a lot to play for, regardless of what the future might hold.
“We just got to focus on today,” Ross said. “I think that if we get outside of focusing on beating the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight, then we’re going to shortchange ourselves. The fact that you got contracts coming up or you might get traded in two weeks, or what might happen tomorrow or two weeks or at the end of this season doesn’t affect anything that we’re doing today and how we compete and bring our best today.
“That’s what I think we can control, is our today and competing and trying to win a baseball game and what we do in the box or on the mound today is what’s most important. I think that’s what good teams focus on.”
It’s no secret that the final three weeks of the first half weren’t kind to the Cubs as the team lost 13 of its last 16 games entering the break. However, even amid an uncertain future, Ross wants his team to have a clean slate. Before Friday’s game, he briefly met with the team to discuss the second half.
“There’s expectations here for this group,” Ross said. “I think there’s a real positive that can be taken from the core group here and what they created [with] that expectation. Willson, J-Hey, Javy, Rizz, KB, Kyle Hendricks. Those guys created championship expectations here. I think that’s a positive.
“That’s something that they can wear as a badge of honor and pride. The fact that there’s such high expectations here is from those guys and some guys that were teammates of theirs. But the core group has been together, winning championships, winning divisions, putting up big time numbers and championship, baseball, postseason baseball here for the time they’ve been here. I think that’s a huge positive.”
The first year and a half of Ross’ tenure as manager haven’t been the easiest for someone with no previous managerial experience. While having a steep learning curve, he managed a team to a division title through an unprecedented 60-game season in 2020. This season’s first-half rollercoaster in his first “full” season at the helm, which included an 11-game losing streak, hasn’t been a walk in the park either.
But the reassessment doesn’t stop with the players and throughout his brief time as Cubs’ skipper has often talked about always trying to improve as a manager and that won’t change in the second half.
“You reflect back on some of the things I [talked about earlier]. There’s this doom and gloom over the last two weeks that I don’t know really paints the picture of our first half,” Ross said. “We played our worst baseball when Milwaukee was playing their best and going through the toughest stretch of our schedule and they’re their easiest stretch, like there’s a lot to reflect off of.”
“One of the best communicators and connectors of people that I’ve been around,” Hoyer said last week. “I think David’s a star. He’s done a fantastic job. … Sometimes in these situations people look for blame. I wouldn’t point any in his direction.”