Cubs look to improve upon sluggish starts in 2020

#1
Javier Baez has emerged as one of the most dominant forces in the National League during the last three seasons, and the dazzling shortstop is adamant about helping set a tone to prevent more lapses that led to the Cubs’ disappointing 2019 season and Joe Maddon’s departure.

Baez admitted Sunday he was part of a group that took advantage of individual pregame work that led to sluggish starts and uncharacteristic errors that were common in the 2019 season.

And after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014, Baez has completely bought into President Theo Epstein’s mission for the players to work together before each game.

“I’d get to the (stadium) and instead of going outside and hitting batting practice, I would do everything inside, which is not the same,” Baez said. “Once I’d go out to the field before the game, I felt I wasn’t ready. I felt like I was getting loose during the first four innings.

“I promise you guys this year it’s going to be like that.”


The Cubs committed 117 errors in 2019, the second highest in the league. And Epstein is out to change his team’s preparation.

Maddon’s method of letting players take optional batting practice — often indoors — initially was welcomed by players who preferred to preserve their energy for games. New manager David Ross plans to conduct live batting practice with umpires and without a cage to increase the intensity.

“We had a lot of optional things, not mandatory,” Baez said. “And everybody kind of sat back on that — including me. I wasn’t really going out there and preparing (before) the game. I was getting ready during the game, which is not good.

“This year, before the games, we got to be out there as a team — stretch as a team and be together as a team so we can play together.”


Baez said there are enough leaders to police teammates.

“You can lose the game in the first inning,” Baez said. “When you’re not ready and the other team scores by something simple, I feel like it’s because of that.

“We weren’t ready. We weren’t ready to throw the first pitch because nobody was loose. We’re going to make sure everybody is outside, everybody is doing their routine and getting ready for the game.”

And Ross is please Baez is taking that approach.

“The fact that he’s saying it publicly, and holding himself accountable to you guys and the fans, is a strong message that I’m really happy that he’s sending,” he said.

Ross on Baez holding himself accountable: pic.twitter.com/jkMaorVZlf
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 16, 2020


Baez, who has yet to take live batting practice, said his left hand feels fine after missing the final four weeks of the 2019 season with a hairline fracture. He still managed to hit 29 home runs and 85 RBIs last season.​



“We haven’t been where we want to be,” Baez said. “We’ve been up and down, more down than up. We got to keep that level in-between. We got to fight, compete and beat those (teams) that are getting better.”

He remains hopeful about his future with the Cubs, who control his rights as an arbitration-eligible player through 2021.

“If (an extension) happens, I’ll be grateful,” said Baez, who will earn $10 million this season. “I want to be here my whole career. If not, I got to be focused on baseball. I got to see the business side.”

Baez said negotiations, based on chats with his agency, have been “up and down.”

“It’s business. It’s very tough. I’ll let them work it out. If it works, great. If not, we got another year.”

Baez prefers the Cubs keep their core, including Kris Bryant, who has been the center of trade speculation with two years to go before free agency.

“Everyone is close to the same age,” Baez said. “It’s the business side, and obviously not every year we’re going to have the same players.”

Baez has all but given up on winning an NL Gold Glove award, but seems even more motivated for this Cubs season.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “I don’t like talking much. But I let my talents show up.

“I want to be one of the top three players out there. I’m working for that. Hopefully at the end of the season you can see it.”
 

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
#2
Sounds like put-up-or-shut-up time for both the Cubs and Bears this upcoming season.

Cubs RSW total is 86.5.

Bears RSW total is 8.
 
#3
Ross is in for a surprise....I think he is good for the Cubs but I believe that he is in over his head....Maybe the Cubs fans here can set me straight...
 

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
#4
Heard an interview where new Cub manager David Ross wants his players and former teammates to call him "Rossy," not "Grandpa Rossy."

Made me chuckle.
 

FairWarning

Bells Beer Connoisseur
#5
Ross is in for a surprise....I think he is good for the Cubs but I believe that he is in over his head....Maybe the Cubs fans here can set me straight...
I don't think their season will be decided by anything Ross does. I definately agree with the OP that Madden ran the clubhouse like a country club and players took advantage. There is a time and a place for that treatment, but it wears after awile. I hate to say its on the players to show up ready to play, because it has been the last couple of years and they weren't ready.
 

kane

EOG master
#7
I didn't want Ross as a manager, thought he was too close to the situation still.
I don't know how he'll do as a manager, but the fact that he played with a lot of these guys and is so chummy with them might not be a good thing. At some point he might need to put his foot down, or discipline a player, that might not be easy if he's close friends with that player, just the whole dynamic might cause some issues
 

FairWarning

Bells Beer Connoisseur
#8
I don't know how he'll do as a manager, but the fact that he played with a lot of these guys and is so chummy with them might not be a good thing. At some point he might need to put his foot down, or discipline a player, that might not be easy if he's close friends with that player, just the whole dynamic might cause some issues
If it’s Madden 2.0, it won’t end well. Ownership is very good at making the fans warm and fuzzy by hiring a bunch of ex-cubs for the broadcasts. It makes my wonder about the coverage,will it be an extension of the Ricketts, or will they call out a player every now and then?
 

kane

EOG master
#9
If it’s Madden 2.0, it won’t end well. Ownership is very good at making the fans warm and fuzzy by hiring a bunch of ex-cubs for the broadcasts. It makes my wonder about the coverage,will it be an extension of the Ricketts, or will they call out a player every now and then?
Tommy Hutton was a long time TV analyst for the Marlins, he was very good and very popular, one of the things people liked about him was that he wasn't a homer, he wanted the Marlins to win, but wasn't afraid to criticize a player when it was called for. Some of the players complained to management over Hutton being critical of them, so they fired him, this was maybe 3-4 years ago, the guy who replaced him is the opposite of Hutton, very rarely will he ever say anything negative about a player, and he isn't anywhere close to the analyst Hutton was
 

Valuist

EOG Dedicated
#10
After the Sept 16 game, the Cubs were 82-68. Just going 6-6 in their last 12 would've given them an 88-74 record. Based on their win pct over their first 150, they could've been expected to go 7-5 over their last 12 to go 89-75. Instead they finished up 2-10 in their last 12 to limp home with only 84 wins. The point is, for 95% of the season, they were better than a team on pace for 84 wins. They just quit on Madden at the end. I do think catchers tend to make good managers. They are position players who understand the pitching staff. I don't know if Ross is too closely removed from the 2016 team but I will give him a chance.

I think this Astros thing may energize them a bit. Before the Nationals won, they were the last "non cheating team" to win a WS. Now, obviously the Dodgers surpassed them the past 3 years but teams like to latch onto something to motivate them. I got the feeling they were too comfortable the last few years under Madden. Maybe that won't change under Ross, but let's wait and see.
 
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#11
After the Sept 16 game, the Cubs were 82-68. Just going 6-6 in their last 12 would've given them an 88-74 record. Based on their win pct over their first 150, they could've been expected to go 7-5 over their last 12 to go 89-75. Instead they finished up 2-10 in their last 12 to limp home with only 84 wins. The point is, for 95% of the season, they were better than a team on pace for 84 wins. They just quit on Madden at the end. I do think catchers tend to make good managers. They are position players who understand the pitching staff. I don't know if Ross is too closely removed from the 2016 team but I will give him a chance.

I think this Astros thing may energize them a bit. Before the Nationals won, they were the last "non cheating team" to win a WS. Now, obviously the Dodgers surpassed them the past 3 years but teams like to latch onto something to motivate them. I got the feeling they were too comfortable the last few years under Madden. Maybe that won't change under Ross, but let's wait and see.

was't baez hurt at the end with his thumb ?
 

FairWarning

Bells Beer Connoisseur
#14
I look forward to pulling for this kid for quite awhike: http://www.espn.com/mlb/player/_/id/41219

He brings the energy like Mick Jagger. Wrigley Field needs more positive Ernie Banks/Ronnie Woo Woo-like energy.

It would be hard to sit next to Ronnie Woo Woo:

Feel sorry for the guy, but he’s really annoying. He was homeless, not sure if he still is. He even got a commercial a few years back for a dentist who gave him free dentures.
 
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