Cubs Yu Darvish will be a clubhouse leader in 2020
The Cubs continue to stress clubhouse leadership as they prepare to play their first spring training game on Saturday.
After multiple offseasons in which Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein stressed the need for more proactive leadership from top to bottom, various players have been vocal about readiness to play and holding one another accountable.
Javier Baez took ownership in saying there were days he did not feel ready to play, while Kris Bryant said he was prepared to “run through a wall” after hearing David Ross address the team for the first time:
Of course, these are also things that have been said in previous years without much substance in backing up such words. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to hear young guys like Baez and Bryant speak their mind.
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There are still questions as to who else will help carry the flag this season. Jon Lester and Jason Heyward figure to retain their roles as veteran leaders in the clubhouse, and Anthony Rizzo is still the heartbeat of the franchise.
But another guy continuing to find his voice at the right time is Yu Darvish.
Consider Darvish did not even know English a few years ago. Yet, he has become one of the most humorous and open Twitter users in baseball, and he has not backed down from criticism.
From sparring with David Kaplan to speaking about the Houston Astros and the 2017 World Series, Darvish is showing more of a willingness to engage and communicate. Those are both things the Cubs (as a team) need desperately.
The other qualities that make Darvish a perfect candidate for a leadership role? How about resilience.
Darvish’s playoff failures existed well before the 2017 World Series. He struggled with the Texas Rangers in the postseason while also dealing with the first of his elbow injuries.
The Chicago tenure did not get off to a good start, either. Darvish made just eight ugly starts in 2018 before he was shut down, and he struggled in the first few months of last season.
Not to be denied, Darvish put together one of the best stretches of his career after the All-Star break. He posted a 2.76 ERA and a ridiculous 16.86 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 second-half starts. Darvish also ranked third in skill-interactive earned run average (SIERA) behind just Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander during that stretch, according to FanGraphs.
After the season, Darvish declared his love for Chicago and said he had become enamored with the city and the franchise.
Does that not sound like someone brimming with confidence? It would be one thing for Darvish to revert to his shell. Instead, he has become more engaged and emboldened.
Darvish has had as many peaks and valleys as any star player in baseball. But he is taking ownership of his career and his narrative.
Not to mention, both he and the Cubs are out to prove they still belong among the elite in the National League. Expect Darvish to become a source of encouragement and motivation in the clubhouse.