I really don’t want to make this more than it is, and in the vacuum of Cubs games – let alone meaningful, competitive Cubs games – there sometimes is a tendency to get a little extra saucy. So, while I think this is worth sharing and discussing for FUTURE monitoring, I don’t know that this is (yet) a big deal.
Setting the stage, you had Willson Contreras’s comments after the Cubs’ wholly non-competitive 6-0 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday night. There, Contreras suggested the team’s effort and drive weren’t entirely there for the game, and even as guys are worn down, he wants to see them all there to win and compete every day.
I did not necessarily read the comments as throwing teammates under the bus. To me, the comments were primarily about the adjustment going on in the clubhouse by a whole lot of guys who’ve never played on a team that was losing this much and preparing for a sell-off. Of course there would be moments where distraction was impossible to avoid, and whether you want to frame that as an issue of focus or effort or attention or whatever, I give a little grace to Contreras in his attempt to articulate, for the first time, how he and the clubhouse were feeling.
To that end, David Ross was asked about Contreras’s comments, as well as the state of the clubhouse, and you can see his remarks here, here, here, and here, among other places. Much like with Contreras’s original comments, I’m really not sure there’s a lot of spicy action here in what Ross had to say, so I want to give the full context. Although it’s clear Ross would’ve preferred that Contreras kept the whole conversation in-house, it doesn’t seem like it was exposing some major rift.
Among Ross’s remarks:
⇒ “I think [Contreras] was frustrated. He’s been around here a long time and been a part of a lot of winning. And it’s the first time really he’s had to go through a little bit of this, different stuff going on. And I think he sees things from a different perspective with what he has to deal with behind the plate and playing both sides of that and making sure everybody’s on the same page with what they’re bringing every single day. And he was frustrated with some things. And he was kind of vocal with that to [media]. It was a lesson for him, [that he’ll] probably want to handle that more in-house.”
⇒ “I don’t know how the questions were framed and all those things, but I think the message was a little misinterpreted in the context of what I heard him talk about today. I don’t think it’s effort. I don’t think it’s focus. These guys are giving effort, there’s no doubt about that, and these guys work and prepare, I see it daily. There’s a sense that when things are going bad, coming together is really important.”
⇒ “I think losing in an atmosphere that’s been a part of winning and guys in contract years and playing for a city they love, an organization they have a lot of history with, a lot of teammates they have history with and care a lot about, balancing that with some selfishness at times is probably where the balance has gotten off. Willson sees a little bit of that and wants us to get back to supporting one another and being more family.”
⇒ “I think Willson is a big part of our team. What he said last night needs to be said in-house and not to the media. I think he understands that and that’s a good lesson. I think good is going to come of it, if that makes any sense. You get your feelings out there sometimes in frustration after a night like [Saturday] night and what we’re going through in general.”
⇒ “I definitely want to be accountable when it comes to leadership and when things don’t work out. I have to make sure I can be better. Talking to Willson, he said his comments were not pointed to me or the staff. He just had some frustrations he wanted to get out. Wins and losses and having the right culture in there is definitely on me.”
So, the background on Contreras’s comments: frustration with the situation, not being used to losing like this, feeling like not everything is pulling in the same direction at all times (that happens when you’re losing), and a guy answering the questions he was asked. Are we really gonna rip Contreras for any of that?
Ross would prefer anything remotely fractious would stay in the clubhouse, which I do get, because you don’t want things to bubble over into something much bigger and much more public (which makes it even bigger) than it needs to be. On the flip side, though, I do think fans want to know what the mood is in situations like this. I’m not a fan of discouraging players from speaking their minds, even if we don’t like what they say.
That is all to say, I think I get what Contreras was trying to say, and it just doesn’t leap out at me as being all that controversial. And I think I understand how Ross is trying to diffuse it, which also doesn’t really seem all that bad. They worked it out. Things are probably fine.
What I will point out here in the conclusion, though, is that sometimes these are just the cracks that start to show. Even as I say I don’t know that there’s really all that much going on here worth feverish dissection, I’m not naive enough to say there’s no chance there’s not a whole lot more bubbling up behind the scenes. Maybe, with trades and more losing on the way, things get much worse in the public eye.
After all, that’s not a typical – or enjoyable – situation for this group. Then you factor in the looming contract issues. All the losing. The pandemic. The vaccination disagreements. Yes, it absolutely could be bad among various players, and Contreras’s comments could run deeper than he was willing to say aloud. So you keep an eye on things, and you see how the next few weeks play out. But for today, it seems mild.