The Cubs’ potential – both in the present and for the future – is being revealed
Before the Cubs played through that hopeful month of April, their disappointing May and this resurgent run in June, manager David Ross held a firm belief in the potential for his team.
“I hope the fan base relates to these players, how they go about their business, how they play, how they go about at-bats, how they compete,” Ross said in March prior to Opening Day at Wrigley Field. “I don’t think there’s a bigger compliment you can get from your fan base than just: I love watching your team play.
“I want that to be said when we’re in first place and making the playoffs. Winning is what we’re all going to relate to and enjoy. But I want the fan base to see the character of this group and how much they care about representing this uniform and each other in a positive way.”
Ross’ hope has revealed itself over the last two weeks, as the Cubs have won 10 of their last 12 games entering this two-game weekend tilt with the Cardinals in London. The Cubs (36-38) can head back stateside at .500 with a pair of wins and move closer to the top of the NL Central, which remains a wide-open division.
The Cubs are playing a style that reflects the construction by president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer. They lead by a starting staff with a National League-best 3.77 ERA, backed by a defensive lineup that’s eighth in team outs above average, and manufacturing runs offensively with a batting order that has found its form. The bullpen is becoming a strength after settling in from early-season struggles.
The Cubs are only 3.5 games back of the upstart Reds for first place – and this struggling division still offers a reason to make a run this season.
Two years ago Sunday, the Cubs lost a game in Los Angeles that marked their first of 11 straight defeats. They went from nine games over .500 and tied for the division lead to 42-44 and preparing to sell off the core of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. Hoyer elected to start anew with hopes of building “the next great Cubs team,” as he has termed it.
Hoyer and general manager Carter Hawkins have set the Cubs with a foundation since, with a budding farm system that ranks in the top half of baseball and a core in the majors led by Dansby Swanson, Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ and more. Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele could be the 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation for years to come (and give it time before panicking about Stroman’s contract future). The pitching infrastructure led by Craig Breslow has reshaped the careers of several Cubs pitchers and now serves as the backbone of the organization.
For the first time in several years, there’s hope for the Cubs’ future. No, this isn’t Hoyer’s Next Great Cubs team, but that could be arriving soon enough.
The Cubs as an organization have flipped the switch from rebuilding and selling to this present place where buying makes sense. Hoyer certainly shouldn’t mortgage the farm but he can seek to make calculated moves that bolster this team’s chances of winning the division in 2023 – or perhaps acquire a new core piece.
The Cubs are projected with a 20.2% chance at winning the NL Central, according to Fangraphs. That’s equal with the first-place Reds (40-35) and trailing the Brewers (38-36). The Cardinals (31-44) are being given just an 11.8% chance and would be better served selling at the trade deadline.
After two years of rebuilding mode, the Cubs can turn their focus on winning this season and striving for a place back atop the NL Central once again. Ross’ ballclub has shown its character and deserves the investment to fight for the division crown. With a firm foundation now under this organization, the Cubs’ goal should be as a legitimate contender.
The potential with these Cubs, both in the present and for the future, is being revealed.