The Cubs are Dansby Swanson’s team — and he’s aiming to make sure of it

There are do’s and don’ts in the big leagues, he says, and the biggest “do” of them all: The best players must play every day.

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Team president Jed Hoyer greets Dansby Swanson at the Cubs spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona.

Team president Jed Hoyer greets Dansby Swanson at the Cubs spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona.

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — Back in Atlanta, where 22-year-old shortstop Vaughn Grissom is viewed as a burgeoning star, Dansby Swanson sometimes would be asked whether he was concerned Grissom eventually might take a run at his starting job.

The question rubbed Swanson wrong more than it resonated with him.

‘‘I’ve never been one to not share with my teammates,’’ he said Tuesday at Cubs camp. ‘‘Some people say: ‘I don’t want to teach him because I don’t want him to take my job.’ I said: ‘We need him up here to play well because we need to win games. If that’s what happens, that’s what happens.’ If I could teach him, I was going to teach him.’’

There was one final lesson after Swanson, 29, signed a seven-year, $177 million free-agent deal with the Cubs. One of the first people Swanson reached out to was Grissom via text.

‘‘I basically told him to get his crap together and keep it together and challenge himself,’’ Swanson said.

Consider that a window into how the Cubs view Swanson and why they feel as good as they do about hitching their wagon to the leadership he already is providing at all levels of the organization. He came not only to be the man, to be the new face of the franchise, but to embody a standard he damn sure expects other players to recognize and embrace.

Is this Swanson’s team? He very much thinks so. After signing that contract, anything less would be disappointing. But Swanson doesn’t see embracing that status as a next step in his career. He says the Braves were his team, too — and not just after superstar Freddie Freeman left following the team’s World Series triumph in 2021.

‘‘I felt that was probably for the last five years of my career,’’ he said. ‘‘I just never felt as if I was getting that credit [from outside the team]. I didn’t care if I got it or not, but if you were to ask anybody during my time in Atlanta, I think people would overwhelmingly say that it was always my team, essentially.’’

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game One

Swanson played in all 162 games for the Braves in 2022.

Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images

Swanson has been spinning like a top in an effort to get to know everybody from returning veterans and newcomers to the big-league club to all the prospects kicking around Sloan Park and its surrounding fields. The most serious of those prospects, he knows, are like sponges.

‘‘I should do it and I have to do it because that’s just part of the gig,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve got to know everyone, got to be familiar with everyone, so when those kids have a chance to make an impact, they’ll be able to have an impact and be comfortable doing it.

‘‘I’ve never been a guy who looks down on kids because they’re younger, like: ‘You’re in High-A? I’m in the big leagues. Who are you?’ That’s not me. I’m here to help you learn to be the best. But with that love also comes the respect factor, understanding there are certain dos and don’ts as a young kid and helping guide him and teach him how to be a professional.’’

There are dos and don’ts for big-leaguers, too, and these are the ones Swanson gets most fired up about. The biggest ‘‘do’’ of them all: answering the bell.

‘‘That means playing, and it means playing every day,’’ he said. ‘‘I never want to make anything about Atlanta because I’m not there — I’m in Chicago, I’m a Cub — but the one thing that was the expectation there was that you play every day, plain and simple.

‘‘If we want to win, the best players have to play. In order for the best players to play, you have to take care of yourself. In order to take care of yourself, you’ve got to care and care about your teammates. That same mentality is now going to be brought here. It has to.’’

As Swanson met with Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer, general manager Carter Hawkins and manager David Ross during the courting stage, they asked him how often he ideally would like to play. They knew, of course, that Swanson and Braves teammate Matt Olson had been the only major-leaguers to play in all 162 games last season, that Swanson and teammate Austin Riley had topped the National League at 160 in 2021 and that Swanson had gone the full 60 in the abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Two games off in three years? Maybe Swanson was ready to rein it in a little?

No shot.

‘‘I told them 162,’’ he said, ‘‘and they started laughing.’’

He must have missed the funny part.

‘‘I get paid to play baseball, right?’’ he said. ‘‘My job is not to sit on the bench; my job is to play. So I take that very seriously.’’

Very, indeed. This guy isn’t playing around. Better get that crap together.

There’s a new sheriff in Cubdom.

That might be a very good thing.

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