This Cubs team looks hungrier, scrappier under David Ross

Cubs manager David Ross looks on from the dugout. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Cubs manager David Ross looks on from the dugout. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Has David Ross breathed new life into this group of Cubs players?

Javier Baez spoke out right as camps opened in February before the world got crazy, essentially saying Baez the Cubs weren’t prepared last year and had to “get ready” during the games.

"“I just feel like a lot of the players were doing the same as me,” he told Patrick Mooney. “They were getting loose during the game. You can lose the game in the first inning. Sometimes when you’re not ready – and the other team scores by something simple – it’s because of that. We weren’t ready.”"

This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of how Maddon ran the Cubs near the end. He doesn’t make his teams take batting practice, leaving it up to the players. It’s hard to say how much BP really matters in the long run, but it helps players get loose and work out all the kinks before the game. The little things that Maddon didn’t do led to the Cubs having a lack of focus at times, which Baez also alluded to.

With David Ross, Baez indicates it’s been different, and that the Cubs have been more of a team under his guidance.

The training and stretching Baez is talking about has carried over to games so far. The Cubs are 4-2 after six games against two teams they struggled with in 2019 in the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds.

The offense has smelled blood and pounced, as evidenced by the Reds series and the last game of the Brewers matchup. The Sunday game of the Milwaukee series, the Cubs just strung some hits together to put the game away early. Against the Reds, the team had Wade Miley on the ropes early, and they put up six runs in just over an inning. The next night they scored in seven consecutive innings and never really let the Reds back in the game.

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The first game against the Reds, the bullpen nearly blew a seven-run lead in three innings, but Jeremy Jeffress somehow slammed the door. Given how that game was going, a 2018 or 2019 Maddon-led Cubs team likely lets that lead get away. On Wednesday, they got down big and fought back to make the score look more competitive than it was. That was very key when the Cubs won the World Series, they never felt like they were out of a game, and that fight has been missing for some time.

It’s not just offensively either, the Cubs’ rotation just did something not seen in over 100 years. A perceived weakness of the team has actually done a nice job of carrying them in the early going.

The early returns on manager Ross have been positive, which is rough for those who thought Chicago was just hiring a “friend.” The power is showing through, as the club ranks second in the National League with 11 home runs through six games. The attitude of the team seems different, like they are ready to get down to business and have fun playing baseball again. Notorious Cubs hater Thom Brennaman even noted how much fun it looks like the Cubs are having in the dugout again on the Reds broadcast.

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Now, it’s a small sample, and who knows if the team will continue to score eight runs a game. Conventional wisdom says no, but the early returns are what you like to see from a team wanting to get back to the pinnacle. The attitude is encouraging, and you hope the intensity continues for the rest of the season and through a potential playoff run.