‘We don’t do losing’: How Dansby Swanson plans to help the Cubs return to winning ways
“Winning” was the word of the day Wednesday in Wrigleyville.
Tucked into the second floor conference room overlooking Winterland in Gallagher Way, Dansby Swanson made it abundantly clear what his goal is here in Chicago:
It was a common theme throughout Swanson’s 35-minute introductory press conference, as the new Cubs shortstop uttered a variation of the word more than 30 times.
In fact, it was one of the first questions he asked Jed Hoyer and the Cubs front office throughout the free agency process.
“The thing that really stood out to me was that it felt like he was interviewing us,” Hoyer said. “‘How are you guys gonna win? What’s your plan? What’s your philosophy? What players are you going to surround me with? Who are the prospects that are coming?
“It was very clear winning was the priority.”
Swanson even said those exact words.
“At the end of the day, the vision and the goal is to win,” Swanson said. “Winning is the priority. And when that is the vision and that’s what you want to do, you make everything about winning.”
And Swanson knows a thing or two about what winning looks like.
In college at Vanderbilt, he helped the Commodores post a .742 winning percentage over 3 seasons, including a national championship in 2014 (and a runner-up finish in 2015).
In the majors, Swanson helped lead the Atlanta Braves to 5 straight division titles from 2018-2022 and a World Series championship in 2021.
How can Swanson carry that knowledge and experience over to the North Side to help the Cubs regain their winning ways?
“Winning starts with the mentality,” he said. “It starts with the belief each and every day that you’re not showing up wanting to win, you’re showing up that you’re going to win. It’s never a matter of ‘if.’ It’s just a matter of ‘when.’
“And then when you start to win, it really starts to build confidence in the organization; it starts to build confidence within your teammates. Winning baseball is really just about playing the game to win. I know it sounds super cliché, but there are so many times and examples where you can tell like, ‘Oh, this guy is doing this for himself.’ Or, ‘He was wanting to do this to get the RBI instead of moving the runner or whatever.’
“There are so many instances where there are teaching moments. Where instead of me saying, ‘I’m gonna go out and strike out 6 guys today,’ it’s like, ‘No, I’m gonna pitch to win today.’ Sometimes it might be 8 strikeouts, 9 strikeouts. With the mentality of pitching to win, hitting to win, playing defense to win — you just have to have more runs on the board than they do at the end of the game.”
Shortly before he signed his 7-year deal with the Cubs, Swanson got married to professional soccer player — Chicago Red Stars and U.S. Women’s National Team forward — Mallory Pugh.
Swanson and Pugh each play at the highest level of their respective sports and push each other to strive for excellence even when they’re away from the field.
As Swanson talked about what winning means to him, he nodded toward Pugh in the front row.
“If I go 4-for-4 and we lose, I’m not a happy camper. You can ask my wife,” Swanson said. “Like, we don’t do losing. That’s not something we like.
“The important goal is winning. That’s the only stat that matters. Bringing that sort of philosophy is really, really important. It’s important to get all the guys to buy into, which they will. That’s just who we are at our core. And who I believe that we will be moving forward.”
Swanson has been heralded as a leader throughout his career, from Vanderbilt to Atlanta.
He’s coming to Chicago with some leadership already in place in the clubhouse with Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner. But Swanson brings a unique perspective from Happ and Hoerner, who both came up to the big leagues after the 2016 championship run.
When Swanson was asked about how the Cubs franchise is in a different place now than that magical 2016 fall, he immediately brought it back to the same theme.
“It just shows you how hard winning is,” Swanson said. “And that’s why I’ve become obsessed with the journey of winning.”
Sounds exactly like the type of player the Cubs need as they enter a new age in 2023.