Cubs keeping focus on winning even at the end of down season

The players who are returning for the Cubs next season want to make sure winning remains at the forefront.

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ST. LOUIS — The Cubs have had a down season, though as they head into the last game of their season (and a fourth-place finish) on Sunday, winning is still on their minds. Even after the trade deadline that saw the team’s three biggest stars and several key contributors traded, manager David Ross has spoken about his desire to keep a winning culture in his clubhouse as the team tries to grow.

While the Cubs have brought in several new players over the last two months, many of whom won’t be returning, players such as Willson Contreras, Nico Hoerner and Kyle Hendricks, among others, will be coming back.

The Cubs have done a lot of winning over the last seven years, and as the team enters a rebuild, keeping the winning at the forefront is the focus. That was evident in the 6-5 come-from-behind victory Saturday against the Cardinals.

“I think everybody’s bringing it on a nightly basis,” Ross said recently. “That’s all you can ask for is the energy. The intensity. How they prepare. The mindset. It really has been very consistent. I think that’s what you want out of a big-league club, and these guys are doing a really nice job with that, for sure.

“I try to create a winning culture and to make that the priority around here no matter what. If we ever lose sight of that, then we’re not doing ourselves, the team or the organization justice. We’re trying to win baseball games. I think when you change some of the personnel, you understand maybe you’re going to take a step back. But maybe we took a step forward in some areas too.”

But it’s not just Ross who wants to make sure another down season doesn’t happen again. Players such as Hoerner and Contreras want to make sure that losing doesn’t become part of the Cubs’ DNA.

“I’m not sure how long [the rebuild] is gonna take,” Contreras said. “I wish I did. Like I said, I’m here to help this team to win in as many ways as I can.”

“We’re part of this organization, but we still have the winning culture that we’ve set in stone here,” Hendricks said this week. “That’s all we’re trying to continue to have. And again, I think you just got to focus on the positives and the bright spots. Those guys that really took advantage of their opportunities [this season] was super cool to watch, and hopefully there’ll be a part of it going into next year.”

Even young players like left-hander Justin Steele want to be part of the Cubs’ next playoff team. While his path could be as a starter or reliever, he says winning is the only thing on his mind.

“I’m going to leave that up to them,” Steele said. “I want to help this team win ballgames. That’s where I’m at. That’s my mentality. My eyes are on a World Series. I want to win a championship.

“If that’s in the bullpen, if that’s in the starting rotation, I’m gonna leave that up to the Cubs. They’re going to use me in the best way that they see fit.”

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