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David Ross gaining new perspective during difficult season as he prepares Cubs for future

“I’ve probably jotted down a lot more stuff that I will take [and] implement. Just long-term thoughts and goals,” Ross said. 

For manager David Ross and the Cubs, the emphasis for the remaining two months of the season has shifted from fighting for playoff position to teaching and culture-building.
For manager David Ross and the Cubs, the emphasis for the remaining two months of the season has shifted from fighting for playoff position to teaching and culture-building.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Expectations for the Cubs have dropped dramatically over the last few weeks after a string of huge deadline trades closed their championship window.

Outside of a few remaining veterans such as Jason Heyward, Kyle Hendricks, Willson Contreras and Alec Mills, their major-league experience has dropped dramatically, too.

In preparation for 2022 and beyond, the emphasis for the remaining two months of the season has shifted from fighting for playoff position to teaching and culture-building. Manager David Ross is leading the charge there, making sure new players who walk through the clubhouse door know there’s a different standard.

“The [trades] changed the team’s expectations about this organization,” Ross said after the deadline. “They changed the caliber of play that is expected. They changed expectations for our fan base, [which] is passionate.

“I think it’s time to get to work. . . . Change creates opportunity, and there’s a real opportunity here for new guys to prove they’re sustainable big-leaguers. . . . That’s really valuable the next two months, [where] we’re gonna have to continue to keep an eye on the guys that can go out and prove it every single day.”

Team president Jed Hoyer’s post-deadline remarks about not wanting the Cubs to “waste a crisis” have also been true for Ross, the former catcher whose expectations apply not just to his players but himself. As a manager, he has experienced both the high of a division title in his first season and the lows of 11- and 12-game losing streaks. During this difficult year, he has taken time to reflect on how he wants to run the team in years to come.

“I’ve probably jotted down a lot more stuff that I will take [and] implement,” he said. “Just long-term thoughts and goals. How do I get this message across? How do I get what I want in the style that I find important in certain moments — not verbalizing and showing frustration?

“Everybody gets frustrated, right? It’s not just managers but players, coaches, everybody. So not verbalizing those [frustrations] — you learn really quickly that everybody’s watching us. I think I learned that last year. You have to try to be the same person when I’m in the clubhouse [and] every day [from] when I walk into a meeting to when I’m on the top step.”

Ross’ recent changes include adding a group stretch before batting practice on the road and team film sessions before each homestand.

As the Cubs have transitioned, he and the rest of the coaching staff have found opportunities for teachable moments, especially as victories have eluded a largely inexperienced group.

“After a bad game for a player, you don’t want to pile on, right?” Ross said. “Take maybe two days. Let’s talk about it later or teach it the next series. We had a base-running thing we didn’t do great in Colorado that we showed in the next series at home. And then in the Miami series, that same player did the same exact thing, made a better read and ended up tagging up and scoring a tying run for us.

“We’re not singling out anybody. Everybody learned from it. The same player was in the same situation and learned from it. I think that’s a rewarding moment in a situation where we’re not winning baseball games.”