If you completely missed the first half of the season and only watched the Chicago Cubs after the All-Star break, you’d get a completely different impression of who they are. While this team is still raw and far from complete, they’ve been winning many more games down the stretch than you’d expect, whether it be against good teams or bad teams. It’s all culminated in an impressive 38-31 record after the break, turning what looked to be one of the worst Cubs teams ever into one that doesn’t look that far from contention.
What’s been inspiring is seeing this happen even as the team has lost a number of its key contributors. Willson Contreras, Seiya Suzuki and Nico Hoerner have all missed significant time down the stretch and the pitching has been hampered by a lack of Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson for stretches.
Now, I’m not a huge believer in the impact of managers on their teams. A good manager can elevate their team slightly while a poor when can sink their chances with bad decisions in key moments, but generally, it’s up to the players to perform. With all that said, this second-half surge, even at such a tough time for the team, inspires a bit more confidence in David Ross’ abilities to lead the Cubs going forward.
The second half proves David Ross is the man to lead the Cubs
Admittedly, we’ve yet to have an extended look at Ross’ managerial abilities when the pressure’s on, but I do think it’s valuable that he’s been able to keep this team playing well even though they’ve been out of contention since May. Just a cursory glance at this team will see players still fighting for every game. The fact that Ross has been able to keep everyone locked in during a grueling year isn’t worthless for when in a tough stretch where morale is low in the playoff hunt.
I’m not inside that clubhouse every day, but it just seems like he’s a stabilizing presence. That tracks with who we expected him to be – a good mix of old school nature that can keep everyone in check with enough looseness to let players have fun with the game. He seems to have kept his mindset from his playing days in that regard and we’ve seen spirits stay high in the clubhouse because of it. Sure, he’s fortunate enough to have good clubhouse presences like Yan Gomes, Wade Miley and Christopher Morel around, but he’s still the one that lets them do their thing while trying to get the most out of them.
Moreover, I don’t think the managerial gaffes we saw throughout the year are fully indicative of his abilities. For example, the Cubs skipper has gotten his fair share of ire for the questionable deployment of bullpen arms, and, while I certainly don’t think he’s without fault, a lot of his issues seem tied to the quality of arms and the state the roster is in. Ross worked with a lot of young, unproven starters over the year and, while it could be maddening to see him pull starters early, it’s all ultimately worked out with the starters and relievers improving to a 2.93 ERA and 3.89 ERA in the second half, respectively.
A lot of those decisions down the stretch have been made with developmental purposes in mind, throwing relievers into the fire to see who sticks. He’s been willing to give guys like Sean Newcomb and Erich Uelmen chances to prove themselves with these opportunities to varying degrees of success. It all helps with Ross formulating a game plan for when they are playing meaningful games next year.
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No manager is without fault and the occasional questionable moment. When I look at the fire this team has played with down the stretch though, some of that credit has to go to Ross for getting the best out of a bad situation with this Cubs team. It gives me confidence that, in a tough stretch in a more competitive season, he’ll be able to keep things on course and elevate the team to greater heights.