After the highs and lows of success, staying hungry is the Cubs’ top priority

“I think we need to prove to ourselves that we can get where we want to be,” right fielder Jason Heyward said.

SHARE After the highs and lows of success, staying hungry is the Cubs’ top priority
“I’ve seen them at their best. I know who these guys are when they’re at their best,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I don’t feel like they have to prove anything to me. I think they have to continue to believe in themselves.”

“I’ve seen them at their best. I know who these guys are when they’re at their best,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I don’t feel like they have to prove anything to me. I think they have to continue to believe in themselves.”

John Antonoff/Chicago Sun-Times

GLENDALE, Ariz. — When the Cubs started their run of success in 2015, there was no denying how bad they wanted to win. Back then, the Cubs had nothing to lose and everything to gain, and a year later they did. But after winning the World Series in 2016, the years that followed haven’t gone exactly as planned.

There’s no denying the Cubs have been successful since they burst onto the scene in 2015, with playoff appearances in five of the last six years.

But with disappointing finishes the last three seasons and a core that was expected to do more, the last few years have felt underwhelming.

The talk among players throughout the first three weeks of camp has focused on their belief in each other as a group and that they still have what it takes to deliver on those expectations.

“I think we need to prove to ourselves that we can get where we want to be,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. That’s most important. I think that’s every single year. Hopefully guys are healthy. Hopefully guys are able to settle in a little bit more knowing that we do have a 162-game season. I think that last year was a tough reality that you don’t have much time to gain timing or gain comfort or go through ups and downs. It’s either up or down. And I feel like not too far in-between that.

“I think that’s just something we all want to see is us come together as a group. We have new faces, but we have hunger, we have attitude, we have experience. Again, I feel like it’s gonna be a big thing that we all realize and talk about, like we have championships here. We have champions on this team.”

If you ask what’s been the difference between the Cubs team that reached the mountain top in 2016 and the one that faces an unknown future, you will get a variety of answers. While some answers will be pointed toward their offensive struggles, a change in mentality could have unknowingly caused a shift in their team psyche.

After achieving so much success early in many of their respective careers, going from being the hunter to the hunted adds a different perspective.

“We already won. We didn’t sleep on that, but our [hunger] kind of slowed down,” shortstop Javy Baez said. “And I can feel it coming back up with everybody [wanting] to do good and get whoever’s right next to you better.”

“I think we’re good to go after [2016]. There’s other teams also getting ready for that [chance],” reliever Pedro Strop said. “Everybody wants to win and when they watched us, they saw what we did to get to that point. They are gonna do the same thing to get to a point, too. The competition just became stronger, not that we were weaker. It’s just like we have to adjust now that, ‘Okay, we won but we want to do it again.’ ”

The Cubs are talking the talk of a team that knows what’s at stake, both this season and their collective future, and with so much on the line, they’ll have to walk the walk with their play on the field.

“I’ve seen them at their best. I know who these guys are when they’re at their best,” manager David Ross said. “I don’t feel like they have to prove anything to me. I think they have to continue to believe in themselves.

“There’s a lot of hardware, a lot of rings, a lot of awards out there floating around on that field. That speaks volumes to me. So it’s just continuing to prove who they are. I already feel like I believe in them as much as anybody.”

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