Manager David Ross disagreed with the comments catcher Willson Contreras made Saturday night about the Cubs’ effort. He also didn’t think Contreras should’ve shared those thoughts with reporters.
Addressing the media Sunday after the Cardinals-Cubs game was postponed and rescheduled as part of a split doubleheader Sept. 24, Ross said Contreras’ sentiments need to stay in-house and that good will come out of the lesson he has learned.
For the first time in his career, Contreras could be on a losing team, which might be further weakened by a possible sell-off.
“Effort is something that has been here,” Ross said. “He’s dealt with some frustration. It’s less [about] effort and ready to play. Talking to him, it’s about being a family and pulling for one another and supporting one another in times when we’re struggling.
“Losing in an atmosphere that’s been a part of winning, and guys in contract years, and playing for a city they love, an organization they have a lot of history with and a lot of teammates they have history with and they care a lot about, balancing that with some selfishness, at times, is probably where the balance has gotten off. And [that’s] where Willson sees a little bit of that and wants us to get back to supporting one another and being more [of a] family.”
Ross said there were conversations in the clubhouse but declined to divulge much. Late Saturday, Contreras said a lot after the 6-0 loss to the Cardinals that dropped the Cubs to 44-46 and assured them of their first losing record at the All-Star break since 2017.
This break is clearly well-timed for the Cubs. They’ve plummeted out of contention and into the seller category as the July 30 trade deadline approaches, and maybe a few days apart would be good for everybody with the season spinning out of control after a promising run.
“No message [to the players],” Ross said. “Just enjoy your break. The break’s coming at a really good time for us. Clear your head, be ready to play when you come back.”
When he was hired, part of Ross’ job was lighting a spark in the clubhouse. After the Cubs won the 2016 World Series under Joe Maddon, the story went like this: The team needed a new voice who could prod the players in a different way after three seasons of underachievement.
Ross said he wants to be accountable when things don’t work out and works to be better.
“Talking to Willson, it wasn’t pointed at me or the staff or anything like that,” Ross said. “The family atmosphere and knowing and being with these guys for a long time, he just has some frustrations that he wanted to get out. The wins and losses and having the right culture in there is definitely on me.”
The 2021 season has been a trying one for Contreras. With the Cubs’ revolving door of backup catchers, he has had to shoulder a heavy load behind the plate. Contreras has been catching a struggling pitching staff while trying to produce offensively.
“I try to empathize with him in taking all of that in,” Ross said, “but sometimes the main focus for him is just about making sure we’re all here supporting one another -together.”
NOTES: Ross clarified that injured infielders Matt Duffy (strained lower back) and David Bote (dislocated left shoulder) will start their minor-league rehab -assignments this week.
• Kyle Hendricks will start Friday against the Diamondbacks in Arizona, followed by Adbert Alzolay and Zach Davies.