Following postseason berth, Cubs prepare to continue their vigilance, safety protocols
For the first time since 2017, the Cubs are guaranteed at least two postseason games this fall.
It’s been a long, tough road for the Cubs to get back to the MLB playoffs and they clinched a spot in the new-look Wild-Card round Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
They will wrap up the regular season and then play in that best-of-three Wild-Card Series and if they win that, advance to the National League playoff bubble in Texas.
The Cubs are happy where they’re at, but they still have their sights set on the NL Central title and they hope this fall ultimately ends with David Ross and Co. hoisting another World Series trophy.
Still, Tuesday night was a great opportunity for Ross to reflect on how the Cubs got to this point and the sacrifices they’ve made along the way.
“The attitude that they’ve brought every day in a really tough environment,” Ross said. “It would be easy to get discouraged and frustrated. There has been frustration, but they’ve never brought it in their attitude or their work. Overcoming that adversity with starting and stopping for such a long time and the work they put in in the downtime that nobody saw when you couldn’t interact with other people and you really had to have a lot of makeshift areas to work out and stay ready and their commitment when they’re not having anyone hold their hand or tell them what to do.
“They were professional in their work and how they prepared. They came in to summer camp ready and it showed the way we started, the preparation of our pitchers, staying ready. I was able to let Kyle Hendricks throw a complete game [on Opening Day] after all that time off. All that.
“And being away from their families and getting tested. When it would be really easy to get outside and kinda try to bend the rules, these guys stayed accountable to one another. There’s so much to be proud of and thankful for, from my seat.”
So what comes next for this group?
For starters, their quarantine environment on the road in Pittsburgh will remain until the Cubs either win the World Series or get bounced from the playoffs.
Even when they return back to Chicago for a series with the White Sox this weekend, the Cubs will be staying in a hotel — not their Windy City homes. That’s all part of the MLB playoff guidelines as they prepare for the bubble.
Some players have their families quarantining with them while others have not seen their wives or children or parents since June.
This isn’t just the 28-man roster, either. The Cubs submitted a 40-man player pool to the league and every guy in that group — plus the coaching staff — has to remain quarantined as MLB works to avoid any COVID outbreaks in the playoffs.
The Cubs’ alternate site in South Bend will be shutting down soon and the guys not on the active 28-man roster will be able to work out at Wrigley Field.
The hotel restrictions are more strict than they were during the season, too. Ian Happ — the Cubs Players Association representative — compared it to being an animal in a zoo, needing permission to leave the hotel even to go for a walk.
So as the players were wrapping up the final homestand of the regular season, they were also spending their free time packing up their home for potentially the next six weeks. Kyle Schwarber and his wife, Paige, were focusing on the essentials while also trying not to forget simple things like dog food.
“It’s a lot to try to figure that out,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said. “Players have gone through a lot over the course of this summer and this is one more thing.
“Obviously it’s one of those things — you go in, you hope you’re doing this for a long time. You’re hoping you’re in this quarantine or in this bubble for a long time. Of course it’s inconvenient, but it’s a worthwhile one.”
The Cubs and their families have been diligent and responsible all season. At the beginning of summer camp, the players got together as a group and laid out clear expectations about what was acceptable and what wasn’t away from the ballpark.
If the Cubs are able to put the finishing touches on the division title over the next couple days, they will play at least two more games at Wrigley Field next week. It will certainly be strange for this group to play and practice in Chicago for a week, but not be allowed to even enter their homes down the street.
But they know what the light at the end of the tunnel is.
This team has never wavered on their mission for the season and they’ve been pulling on the same rope since Ross began summer camp by telling the world that if they’re handing out a trophy, he wants it.
“The reward has always been winning the World Series, right?” Ross said. “Even if you start a regular season, the commitment that your family makes, the commitment that players make, the commitment that everyone associated with an organization that commits to a baseball season — there’s tons of sacrifices that go unnoticed from an outside perspective.
“There’s kids in school and wives and family members, moms and dads throughout the country that everybody misses. And you go through that during a regular season, but there’s times when you can maybe see them.
“This year has been really unique in that factor of not being able to be in touch with loved ones and having some of those extra distractions — no fans. But the payoff is a World Series ring and making history. I think in any successful venture that you may have in your life, there’s great sacrifices that come with it and this is no different.”