Commentary: Lower expectations for 2020 Chicago Cubs might be a good thing


by - Staff Writer -
Rick Scuteri - USA Today Sports
Rick Scuteri - USA Today Sports

The Chicago Cubs come into the 2020 season with a hungry attitude, fueled by lack of expectations after a winter where the Cubs did virtually nothing.

The offseason was filled with news stories about the changing of the guard on the top step, rumors about which member of the core would be wearing a different uniform, the fact that Anthony Rizzo got a dog, Kris Bryant and his ongoing service agreement and of course, Marquee network’s birth. But as you notice, none of these ever-present storylines include high hopes for the 2020 season, rather most “experts” are predicting a step in the opposite direction as the Cubs attempt to retool for the future.

This lack of expectations is something that the Cubs have not experienced since before 2015. And you remember how that year went, right? Kris Bryant was brought up in April, along with Addison Russell, and he won the 2015 Rookie of the Year. Jake Arietta anchored a dominant rotation and was rewarded with the Cy Young. Joe Maddon, in his first year with the team, laid a foundation that took them to the NLCS and served as a precursor to the future breaking of the 100 plus year curse?

How could you forget?

The Cubs enter 2020 with a let’s prove them wrong attitude again, and in my personal opinion, that is scary for the National League.

Whether it be a lot of people making their pitches for which player should go, fans doubting David Ross’ ability to manage his friends, the Cubs being predicted to hover around .500 this season or Vegas setting the over-under at 85.5 — the Cubs have a lot of people to prove people wrong.

“We have a chance this year to — for the first time in a while — prove some people wrong,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said to The Athletic. “We’ve been the favorite. We’ve been the team that people were predicting to win. Now there are some naysayers. And I think that might be a good thing from a clubhouse standpoint, from a mentality standpoint.”

Hoyer hits the nail right on the head here. The Cubs have struggled the last few years to live up to expectations and return to the promised land. Now that they are not expected to win, and they have a new and more demanding voice in charge of them, the Cubs may unlock the formula to making the whole greater than the sum of the parts (something Theo Epstein has been clamoring for for years).

After a disappointing end to 2018, the Cubs have preached unity, accountability, and attention to detail but failed to act on it. Change was promised but was not delivered. One disappointing 84 win season later, one where the Cubs led the league in outs on the base paths and almost led the league in errors, the Cubs changed the voice in the clubhouse, and despite not shaking up the roster, it seems they are on to something.

Instead of just making a trade for the sake of making one, the Cubs have decided to keep the roster they had — which definitely holds a lot of talent. Rather than willingly taking a step back, the Cubs decided to change the voice. The Cubs have transitioned from a very loose, flexible, laid back manager in Joe Maddon (who was undoubtedly the right guy at the right time for the right team to break the curse and win a championship) to a much more focused, tough, no-nonsense manager in David Ross — which seems to have done the trick thus far.

There has been a noticed hunger in the Cubs thus far in spring training. There has been an emphasis on running hard out of the box, a proposed idea to install a kangaroo court in the clubhouse to hold each other accountable, a greater deal of focus on defensive fundamentals, and a commitment to stretching, preparing and learning as a team, which is not a knock on Maddon but rather a compliment to Ross’ methods for a team that has searched for a hunger that delivered them a World Series.

So far, it has translated to a team with a bit of swagger, and a lot to prove.

Don’t believe me? Take it from the usually reserved Kris Bryant.

“We know that we completely failed the last two years,” Bryant said. “There’s no-nonsense this year. We’re strapping it on, ready to go.”

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