Home Sports As the Chicago Cubs move past the quarter-mark of the season, many big-picture questions remain: ‘Got to let guys continue to develop’

As the Chicago Cubs move past the quarter-mark of the season, many big-picture questions remain: ‘Got to let guys continue to develop’

by staff

CINCINNATI — It took a moment for third baseman Patrick Wisdom to register how much of the Chicago Cubs schedule has been completed.

“Man, we’re already a quarter of the way through?”


This postgame question prompted his realization Monday night at Great American Ball Park: How would you assess the first quarter of the season and within the context of where this organization is trying to go?

“I think we’re trending in the right direction,” Wisdom said. “I love this team. I think we have a great clubhouse. It’s been a lot of fun to play with these guys, and I look forward to many more wins and many more games.”


Wisdom paused a few seconds.

“I mean, that’s pretty much all I’ve got on that,” he continued. “It’s hard for me to kind of say more since I’m still a new guy here, and I’m still just trying to get my feet wet with the team as well.”

He is not wrong, and that itself speaks magnitudes of the Cubs’ short-term and big-picture position.

Wisdom is just shy of the one-year anniversary of his 2021 call-up that turned into a fourth-place finish for National League Rookie of the Year and the franchise’s rookie home run record holder. But only one of the 15 players to appear in Monday’s 7-4 win against the Cincinnati Reds has spent more big-league time on the Cubs than Wisdom.

Expanding the scope of the Cubs roster, 10 players — including those on the injured list — are longer tenured than Wisdom, who first appeared for the organization in September 2020 in two games as a pinch hitter. One is an impending free agent (Willson Contreras), one will hit free agency after next season (Ian Happ), two have guaranteed contracts that end after 2023 (Kyle Hendricks and Jason Heyward), two will reach arbitration in the offseason for the first time (Nico Hoerner and Rowan Wick) and four are on the 60-day IL (David Bote, Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay and Brad Wieck).

In theory, the Cubs’ main offensive producers in Monday’s victory are mainstays, to varying degrees, on future teams. Wisdom homered in his fourth consecutive game, the first Cub to accomplish the feat since Anthony Rizzo in 2015. Happ’s torrid career numbers in the city he played college baseball continued with an RBI double, three-run homer and nearly another extra-base hit that was robbed at the wall. Seiya Suzuki doubled, scored two runs and walked twice.

However, the Cubs (17-24) still need clarity and answers on numerous roster spots. This is part of the rebuilding process, but not an enviable position. For a second consecutive year, the Cubs are positioning to be major trade deadline sellers. Count Happ, though, among those who have no interest in entertaining any speculation of how different this roster could again look post-trade deadline.

“We’ve all seen it happen every year, something that starts way too early and it makes no sense,” Happ said of trade deadline speculation after Monday’s win.


Whether he would be shocked to see another Cubs sell off, Happ replied: “That’s not a question I want to answer.”

Generally, the Cubs have been competitive in the first two months with more than one-third of their games decided by one run. But they are 4-10 in those situations; only four teams have played more one-run games.

In assessing his team’s first-quarter performance, manager David Ross believes he’s seen the Cubs consistently getting better every day. When stating “a lot of good progress has been made,” Ross specifically mentioned Happ, Hoerner’s performance at shortstop and Wisdom implementing offseason adjustments. He’s also pleased with the Cubs’ base-running improvement and getting more consistency from the rotation.

In a long season, Ross doesn’t want to judge the first 41 games without examining it within the full season. Although it was a very different roster, Ross pointed to last year’s 19-8 May as an example of what happens when a team gets written off too soon. The early 2021 performance had the Cubs trending toward buyers before an 11-game losing streak at the end of June into July cemented their seller status at the trade deadline.

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Ross is staying focused on evaluating the daily process, explaining “I don’t go there too often” with big-picture timelines.

“I think it’s hard to talk big picture without knowing what holes you need to fill,” Ross said Monday. “You’ve got to let guys have their season and continue to develop into being major-league players. Are they a fit on our roster, and then where those holes are to fill on a championship-caliber team.


“We’re working toward that every day and every day trying to get better. The only way to know that is for those guys continue to work to get better and look up at the end of the season and see where we’re at.”

Ross called it a growth season for the Cubs. He noted how the roster features a mix of guys getting their first opportunities, veterans and older inexperienced players trying to make big-league careers for themselves like Wisdom, Rafael Ortega and Frank Schwindel. None of this is reassuring to Cubs fans who expect more wins than losses after a stretch of five postseason appearances in six years on the heels of a rebuild that was supposed to ensure sustained success.

A promising farm system is just that: merely potential until it yields results. The seemingly lack of cornerstone players on the Cubs’ big-league roster is concerning — it’s part of the reason they face another painful summer.

“I don’t want to be repetitive, but I think it’s about trying to get better every single day,” Ross said. “What’s important for us is to stay focused on the daily grind of the season and try to continue to get better and evaluate things as they come.

“I don’t think anybody’s punting — I haven’t in any way to give up on a team that I have a ton of confidence in, is going to come work hard every single day and give me their best. That’s all I can ask for as a manager.”

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