Patience over performance as Cubs brass awaits ‘catalytic’ conversion
Cubs manager Joe Maddon and president Theo Epstein don’t expect Kyle Schwarber to go anywhere.
Not down in the order anytime soon, and definitely not to Class AAA Iowa.
Whether that continues to include his infrequent visits to first base, the larger point is that patience has outperformed the players six weeks into the season, whether it’s about Schwarber or anyone else.
As the Cubs took a losing record into the opener of a 10-game homestand Tuesday, the starting rotation’s ERA and lineup’s average and OPS all ranked in the lower third in the majors. Only the Padres had allowed more unearned runs.
The Cubs, however, have no intention of becoming one of those “surprise sellers” early trade-market speculators are talking about, Epstein said.
Despite having the team’s lowest average and one of the lowest on-base percentages of any leadoff man in the game, Schwarber hit a home run in the second inning off Reds starter Bronson Arroyo in the Cubs’ 9-5 victory Tuesday.
“Anyone wants to sell their Kyle Schwarber stock, we’re buying,” Epstein said before the game. “Same applies to the team. If people want to sell low on the Cubs, sell their stock, we’ll buy.”
The front office continues to have faith in Schwarber and the rest of a young team that’s barely six months removed from a World Series championship.
“With this group it would take a lot [to start shuffling positions or lineup spots],” Maddon said, “because they’re so young. And this is our World Series group, and this is our future group. They have to feel confidence and consistency from me and the organization.”
On Tuesday, rookie switch hitters Ian Happ (in his third big-league game) and Jeimer Candelario
(in his 11th) were batting fourth and fifth, respectively. Kris Bryant was back after missing three games with a stomach bug. Jason Heyward (jammed finger) and Ben Zobrist (back) still were sidelined.
Epstein isn’t making excuses, but he is calling out anyone who wants to read potential staying power in the Cubs’ rough start, no matter how real the starting pitching and fielding issues have looked.
“Remember, right around this time last year we were 25-6, and I was getting asked non-sarcastic questions about how we were going to manage the push for the greatest record of all-time vs. resting our guys for the playoffs,” he said. “I called b.s. on that. And now I’m getting asked about if we’re going to send everyday guys down to AAA, and I was asked by someone else if we’re going to consider selling. I called b.s. on that, too.”
For now, patience.
“You don’t know when it’s going to happen,” Epstein said. “I hope it’s tonight, and we have a great home-stand and we get really hot. But you never quite know where the bottom is. You never quite know what catalytic event is going to turn things around. I don’t want to sound like I’m blind to what’s going on or sort of overly faithful in certain guys. But we make out evaluations. And you continue to keep your eyes open and make adjustments on individuals and teams, but you also have to trust what you believe about players and what you see.”
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