Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney put together a MUST READ piece on how the Cubs have worked to make 2019 fundamentally different than 2018, with a more business-like approach to preparation, a greater urgency placed on winning every single game, and changing the mindset that set in after years of success.
Some of that is necessarily going to be fluffy and imprecise, but the organization has also imposed various concrete institutional changes, including more regular (and mandatory) batting practice, more time in the dugout during games, and this:
I would not necessarily presume this is a concession that the Cubs had their own chicken-and-beer problem last year, but, let’s be adults here: the change would not be directed if there wasn’t some kind of issue identified by the players, coaches, and front office. A laid back attitude can be a very, very good thing for high-level athletics (let the talent shine through without tightening up), and that has been something Joe Maddon’s teams have been known for. Mostly, it works! But perhaps, especially in the wake of a long-needed World Series win, the pendulum swung too far in the “let’s just chill, man” direction.
As Jon Lester put it to The Athletic: “We all need structure. You need to know what time you need to be places. You need to know: ‘Do I need to come out for the anthem? Do I not? If I’m running a little bit behind, do I need to skip this and make sure I’m out here for this?’ I think sometimes you allow things to get so loose that you forget that. You forget what you need to be doing: ‘Hey, the guys that are playing 160 games would love to see you on the line for the national anthem.’ You forget just how important showing up means. We need structure. We need to take batting practice more. We need to have team stretches more. We need to do the things that we got away from.”
That said, The Athletic piece is so much more than those small changes, and so much more wide-ranging. To really get a sense of just how seriously the Cubs have taken this opportunity – and that’s what getting your teeth knocked in is for a team like the Cubs – to work on the organization’s culture, you’ve gotta read the piece. It really sets the stage for the season ahead, and feels like a considerable chunk of the backbone against which how things go in 2019 will be evaluated.
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticCHI) March 25, 2019