The Cubs and Dexter Fowler always will have their ‘‘You go, we go’’ magic of 2016.
Fowler couldn’t have given the Cubs much more than he did in the leadoff spot that season, when he got on base at a career-high .393 clip. It didn’t take hitting a home run on the fourth pitch of Game 7 of the World Series for Fowler to get the job done. He just needed to find his way to first base and let the bigger bats behind him go to work.
Yep, ‘‘You go, we go’’ — coined by then-manager Joe Maddon — sure had a nice, fun ring to it.
It beats the heck out of the Cubs’ leadoff slogan last season: ‘‘You stink, we sink.’’
Astute Cubs fans will remember a storyline that sprouted four months ago in Mesa, Arizona, about new manager David Ross’ leadoff plans for 2020. They can be summarized in two words: Kris Bryant. We might as well remind folks of the team’s new No. 2 hitter, too. He goes by Anthony Rizzo.
Perhaps you’ve heard of these guys.
Go ahead and lock them into the Nos. 1 and 2 spots for the entire 60-game season. Ross had them locked into those spots back when everyone thought there would be 162 games.
‘‘They go, we go’’ — Bryant and Rizzo working together to get the offense started — might be the biggest key of all to how the Cubs fare in the nothing-else-like-it season ahead.
‘‘Dynamic players at the top of the lineup — that’s no secret to anybody, I don’t think — and [important] to winning,’’ Ross said in February. ‘‘It just hits home with me.’’
Why the change? The Cubs’ fatal flaw last season, when they missed the playoffs for the only time in five seasons under Maddon, was their worst-in-baseball leadoff hitting. But ‘‘leadoff hitting’’ is an oxymoron when you bat .212 and have an on-base percentage of .294 from the top spot — comically low numbers that sunk any chance the Cubs had to be a true contender in the National League.
Why Bryant? Partly because the Cubs have used 17 leadoff hitters since Fowler left and still are looking for something — anything — that resembles a solution to the problem. But also because Bryant has skills that fit the bill and, equally important, because he wants to do it.
Critics will say Bryant’s power bat belongs lower in the lineup, but his career .385 OBP — easily the best of any Cubs regular — and his excellent baserunning are major assets. In 2017, Bryant’s OBP was .409. If he gets anywhere near the .400 mark, everyone will be happy.
‘‘Have you seen the back of his baseball card?’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘He’s consistent, he gets on base and he’s arguably the best baserunner we have.’’
And not to make too much of a four-month-old comment, but consider this from Ross: ‘‘I think that’s our best player, and I want to put him at the top.’’
There’s something to think about as the Cubs near their ‘‘spring’’ restart Wednesday: Is Bryant their best player? Many would say the list starts with Javy Baez, but now we’re off on a bit of a tangent.
Kyle Schwarber didn’t get it done leading off last season. Jason Heyward didn’t get it done. Albert Almora Jr. didn’t get it done. Daniel Descalso . . . you get it.
So the job falls to Bryant, who, in the first at-bat of his baseball life — in T-ball — swung, connected and did what any future NL MVP might do: He took off in the wrong direction and ran to third base.
It probably will go better on Opening Day.