It looked like the Cubs were in for a long final two months after all their roster turnover at the trade deadline. Indeed, things started out rough and headed toward rock bottom — including a 12-game losing streak to go along with an 11-game skid earlier in the season.
But then something happened. A group heavy on unknowns and first-time major-leaguers began to show life and started playing good baseball.
The recent success of players such as first baseman Frank Schwindel, outfielder Rafael Ortega and infielder Patrick Wisdom isn’t just having a positive impact on the Cubs as a whole — it’s also establishing them individually as potential pieces for 2022.
“The best way to press forward is to continue to push guys who are playing really well, and [this is] not their ceiling,” said interim manager Andy Green, who’s filling in for skipper David Ross during his COVID-19 quarantine. “As long as the guys are climbing, they’re not trying to just hold their ground, and there’s a huge psychological advantage in that. So anybody that has accomplished what a few of our guys have accomplished in the last month or last week, there’s always more, and as long as you’re hungry for more and pushing for more, you’re more concerned about your trajectory than you are your legacy.
“There was a legacy for the group that came before, for [catcher] Willson [Contreras] and [right-hander] Kyle [Hendricks]. But these [newer] guys need to establish something, and so they’re just pushing forward. And that’s the healthiest way to go.”
The Cubs’ veterans also have noticed the newcomers’ success, and despite the team being far out of contention, the vibe in the clubhouse is not one of a beaten team.
“The way they’re playing right now is nothing but amazing,” Contreras said. “I haven’t felt this energy in a really long time.’’
The Cubs have been playing some of their best baseball since they were in first place in June. In fact, they’re one of MLB’s best offensive teams recently, scoring 4.9 runs per game and ranking fifth with 44 homers over the last month.
“From Day 1 with this group at the trade deadline, I feel like all of us kind of came into the same situation together,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “We were all kind of a bit of a whirlwind. The guys that have been here from the beginning to now and the guys that have come aboard, this has been awesome to watch their work, watch their preparation, watch us help each other grow.
“This is the first time in my career being in that position to play spoiler. And, it’s a lot of fun playing good baseball, of course, but we have some incentive to do it and go out there together. So it’s really nice to see results.”