Cubs: David Ross wants stars to be more ‘selfish’ this season
By Martin Fenn
Chicago Cubs manager David Ross has a message for his star players: get yours.
Baseball might be a team sport, but it is one defined by individual matchups. The pitcher-hitter dynamic is at the heart of the game. The Cubs skipper acknowledges that aspect, which is why he is encouraging his core guys to chase their individual numbers.
Ross told reporters – including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian - Tuesday he is fine with his star players being “a little selfish” in looking after themselves this season.
The second-year manager noted improved production from the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras should result in more wins for the team.
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For his part, Bryant suggested finding an individual identity will ultimately serve to benefit the team in the long run. It is a mindset he should absolutely look to embrace.
The 2016 National League MVP admitted in January there have been times where trade rumors distracted from the fun of the game. But Bryant embracing his status as an elite talent and showing a little arrogance could be good for him.
Sure, we harp on this all the time. But Bryant really was one of the best players in the majors for a five-year stretch from 2015 to 2019. He barreled up opposing pitchers and had a good command of the strike zone. Not to mention, Bryant has been an elite base runner for most of his career.
Bryant has already hinted at renewed focus. He said he is not thinking about the possibility these are his final games in a Cubs uniform.
That’s a good thing. Bryant should go out and dominate and force ownership to open their wallets. He should practically think of it as sticking it to management. Alternatively, Bryant can convince contending teams he is still a top third baseman ahead of the trade deadline.
Frankly, both Baez and Rizzo should carry the same attitude and look to bolster their individual markets ahead of free agency. That should really be priority No. 1.
As Cubs transition, Kris Bryant and the core remain critical
The Cubs already signaled they are in a transitory period. None of the above three have signed a contract extension, and it is mostly unknown whether there are even real offers being thrown around.
Why shouldn’t the stars chase numbers? If the Cubs are winners, then they will have incentive to buy at the trade deadline and try to keep the band together. But if the pitching staff struggles, at least Bryant, Rizzo and Baez can feel more comfortable knowing they did what they could to help the team while also having confidence they can each enjoy fruitful markets in free agency.
Chicago has asked each of its core guys to show more leadership in recent seasons, and Ross will probably still demand the intangibles from those players in 2021. Additionally, the Cubs are hoping hitters will embrace a bit more of a contact-oriented approach so as to achieve better offensive results.
But Ross is also encouraging his stars to look inwardly and focus on things within individual control. The rest, he likely hopes, will take care of itself.