David Ross Focusing on the Positives Instantly Made Me Think About a Decade Ago

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David Ross Focusing on the Positives Instantly Made Me Think About a Decade Ago

Chicago Cubs

I’m not trying to start your week off on a sour note, but hey, the Cubs did what they did and they’ve done what they’ve done. I am but a humble scribe, not a magician.

And what they’ve done is lose five in a row, and FOURTEEN of seventeen, already burying themselves nine games back in the NL Central. That’s tough to pull off just a month into the season! At a team result level, this season could not be going much worse. Back in March I did not expect, by the second week of May, to be thinking any hopes whatsoever of competing were toast, though I suppose I knew it was possible. I just would’ve said at the time that it would take things going really bad. Like, bottom 10th percentile outcome. Ta-da! Here we are!

This got me thinking about the last time we all knew in relatively early May that competing for a playoff spot was almost certainly not on the menu – it was the 2012-14 rebuild window. It’s been a long time. Even still, there’s something David Ross said after the latest loss that sent me back to that period of time:

That way of talking about a period like this, where the losing seems inevitable and the manager is desperately trying to keep things as positive and productive as possible, instantly struck me as extremely familiar. I can’t say I found the exact quote I was thinking of – or if there was any exact quote at all, rather than just a memory sense – but it sure fits.

A decade ago – in late April and May of 2012 – the Cubs were constantly mired in losing streaks during the start of a season in which no one expected them to compete. Manager Dale Sveum had been brought into steward a team in transition, and while no one on the outside expected the Cubs to win that year, you can understand that he certainly wanted to believe. So he, too, was riding the positivity train as best he could.

“We’re losing ballgames, but we’re not losing because of effort and we’re not losing because of preparation,” Sveum said in late April. “The guys are busting their butts. As a coaching staff, the one thing that is noticed is us. If we’re hanging our heads and we’re losing our enthusiasm, then the whole team sees that and starts following suit sometimes. It’s very important for us to be upbeat all the time and understand that these guys are busting their butts every day and we’re going to get out of this. The guys have been very upbeat. As a clubhouse, they’ve been great. It’s just a matter of putting some wins together.”

The wins – they were not put together.

“The atmosphere in the clubhouse is great,” Sveum said in May. “Nobody’s really hanging their head or pouting or anything like that. I think they’re doing a great job of keeping their head up and going about their business. The preparation and the work ethic are outstanding. Theres nothing you can gripe about there. We’re just not getting it done in the nine innings. We have to go out there and perform.”

The performing – that did not happen.

None of this is a word-for-word overlay with Ross’s comments last night, of course, but the mood it evokes reads spot on to me. I don’t say it in order to compare this year’s Cubs team to the one from a decade ago. It’s just that what Ross said, in this particular moment for this particular team, immediately made me think of Sveum in those first few months of the rebuild. I didn’t even know I *would* find Sveum quotes like these, so clearly there was something about this whole scenario that connected those threads in the back of my mind.

This is also not a criticism of Ross for trying to find the positives. He’s the one who has to work with those guys every day, and it’s only going to get harder as the losses mount and the specter of another selloff – and maybe 100 losses – looms. There are still long-term developments happening on the big league roster that matter, regardless of what happens in the standings this season. Ross needs to make sure he, his coaches, and the players are all on the same page about that stuff, and you can’t let the constant losing become a reason you also fail to develop.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.