Because of the timing of these changes, I expect folks will jump first to the conclusion that they are coming now because certain players are gone. So I’ll say up top that I suspect that isn’t actually the case, and instead it’s just that the HUGE changes to the Cubs roster simply offered an organic spot for David Ross to make some of the changes that he’s now had a year to consider, mull, and figure out how to best implement.
OK, caveat out of the way, and here’s the report from Patrick Mooney:
The biggest culture change the Cubs need to enact is getting better starting pitchers. But there are soft factors to consider, different ideas the organization would like to test out during the season’s final eight weeks and competitive elements that could transfer over to the next playoff team at Wrigley Field. In the wake of a seismic trade deadline that subtracted so many big-name players from the clubhouse, Cubs manager David Ross has implemented certain changes to the team’s game day routine.
Those adjustments include film sessions before the start of a homestand — to take a moment to teach the group instead of singling out a player for a mistake — as well as the expectation that position players will stretch together on the field before road games.
We’ve heard about these kinds of “soft factor” changes in the past, whether it was the way Joe Maddon conducted things, or the need to bring in certain redass veterans, or the lack of focus at times, or the need to be selfish sometimes, and on and on. I don’t know how much we, as outsiders, can actually glean from the substance of changes. More film sessions and stretching together? I mean, OK. Might be fine. Might help. Shrug.
Instead, to me, what’s notable about something like this is that it’s an opportunity for Ross and the still-kinda-new front office, training staff, and development staff (remember all those changes?) to put into practice some of whatever it is that they’ve gathered in data over the past couple years. And with so much roster turnover, it was naturally easier to do it now and get buy-in, especially as the roster is skewing younger/less experienced.
Everyone knows what these final two months are about: player development and information gathering. It doesn’t mean you don’t still compete to win the games (that, after all, is *part* of the development and information process!). But it does mean that your systems before and after the game are geared in a certain way.
For example, the stretching together. Here’s how Ross explained it: “There’s a sense of newness. I trust in their routine on the road and everything, but I thought (about it like setting) the same expectations in spring training of getting everybody together. Guys don’t need to come out here and stretch. That’s not the purpose. It’s getting everybody in one space at one time. It creates an environment for guys to have conversations. It creates an on-time, prepared mentality.”
And hey. If that helps the development process for the years ahead, then so be it. Read much more from Mooney here.