‘The winning stat is the most important stat’: Dansby Swanson has a clear vision for Cubs in 2023
Twenty-four hours before his first Opening Day at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform, Dansby Swanson had to take it all in.
Ahead of the Cubs’ workout at “The Friendly Confines” Wednesday, Swanson trotted out to the shortstop position on the diamond to take a moment for himself.
“It’s just such a beautiful place,” Swanson said. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be. I think I’ve made that pretty clear throughout the last few months. Just so blessed to be here and can’t wait to see what’s in store.”
While Swanson doesn’t know what’s coming for the Cubs in 2023, he has a clear vision of what he hopes to see.
It all starts with his favorite word — winning.
“At the end of the day, the winning stat is the most important stat,” Swanson said as he sat on the top bench in the third base dugout at Wrigley Field. “However we get there is however we get there.
“We have a lot of guys that are really out to prove the narrative that we’re a winning team, that we have a bunch of good pieces, a bunch of good players and get this organization back to where everyone wants it to be.”
Winning has been a part of Swanson’s identity for nearly his entire baseball career.
In college, he helped lead Vanderbilt to a national championship in 2014 and a runner-up finish in 2015.
In Atlanta, Swanson helped the Braves to four straight playoff appearances from 2019-22, including a World Series championship in 2021.
“He’s definitely pretty close to the top — if not the the top — of guys that are known for being winners,” teammate Nick Madrigal said. “He makes a huge impact on the team.”
When Cubs teammates are asked about Swanson, the same buzzwords keep coming up:
And much of the focus is on the “little things.”
“When one of your stars and the leaders in your group — the guy’s been around a long time, won a World Series — pays attention to detail, those are the things that are winning ways,” David Ross said. “He holds guys accountable to that standard. That’s the difference.
“The details are what matter. We all try to get fundamentally sound and big picture stuff that we’re trying to work on and be good at the simple things but the details are the things that make the difference in winning and losing.”
Swanson understands that and wants to impact every part of the game. He’s not a player who will get too caught up in his batting average because he knows he can help the team win with his baserunning, defense or leadership.
He takes so much ownership in the team that during the first week of Cactus League games this spring, he was already trying to call the game along with the Cubs pitchers and catchers.
During the Cubs’ first-ever spring no-hitter on March 3, Swanson was chatting with Justin Steele in between innings. He has the PitchCom system in his hat at shortstop, so he was hearing how the Cubs were attacking hitters.
“I feel like as an infielder, I see certain things and I kinda call my own game in my head at shortstop and pick their brains on why they do certain things and give my input on what I believe and what I think and things to watch out for,” Swanson said.
“I’m a believer of, if it’s gonna help us win, I need to know about it and need to be able to help others with it, too. I just kinda feel like that’s part of my duty and I enjoy it.”
Swanson admitted this Spring Training was a new challenge for him, as he has pretty much only known one team in the big leagues. He was the 1st overall pick in 2015 by the Diamondbacks but played only 22 games in that organization before he was traded to the Braves six months after the Draft.
Swanson grew up in the Atlanta area, so it was a homecoming for him. He made his debut the following season (2016) and after some ups and downs, he transformed into a star, earning MVP votes in the 2020 and 2022 seasons and notching a Gold Glove and an All-Star appearance last year.
Even though he was getting acclimated to a new team and new environment, Swanson knew the most important thing wasn’t how he performed in exhibition games. It was helping to cultivate a culture in the clubhouse to get everybody to pull in the same direction.
Early in camp, Ross raved about Swanson’s routine, confidence and understanding of what he needs to do individually to get himself ready for the season. The Cubs’ manager saw Swanson setting an example for some of the younger players in camp.
But Swanson isn’t just a leader by example. He’s also vocal when he needs to be.
“He’s very outspoken in some of the opinions he has and things he believes in and winning,” Ross said. “It’s right in line with guys that are in here that have won. It’s about the little details and he voices that, which is really important.”
So when it comes to putting his fingerprints on his new team and helping lead the Cubs back to the promised land, Swanson keeps it very simple.
“My expectation is always to win,” he said. “That’s the only goal. There’s no other reason to play this game other than to win.
“Realistically when you look at it that way, that’s why I came — is to be a part of something bigger than myself — to be part of a team that could bring a fourth World Series for this great organization.”