Ross likes chances to 'impact' brass to buy in July originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
SAN DIEGO — The Cubs on Wednesday come face-to-face not only with a past that has haunted them since January but also the specter of a future that looks just as potentially chilling depending on how they take care of business the next few weeks.
At the very least, their first look at former teammate Yu Darvish on the mound against them since the ownership-driven salary dump trade to the Padres is power-pitching, spin-doctor reminder of a guy they might now have to get through in October if they do this season what they plan.
“For sure,” Cubs manager David Ross said before Tuesday’s 7-1 Cubs victory that makes the Darvish-Jake Arrieta game the difference between salvaging a series win on a losing west coast road trip or sliding to 2-5 during a weeklong trip against two of the National League contenders the front office is measuring its roster against over the next month in making its buy-or-sell trade deadline decisions.
“I think in general this whole stretch,” Ross added. “This is a good litmus test.”
The Cubs have looked good so far against the Padres, Dodgers and NL East-leading Mets, not so good so far against the NL West-leading Giants and NL Central-leading Brewers.
“It’s a good test for us,” Ross said, “to continue to test where our weaknesses are and where we’ve got to get better. And it doesn’t let up.”
The rest of the month includes the Cardinals at home this weekend and series against the Dodgers and Brewers on the road.
It looks like a make-or-break stretch for team with clear weaknesses in its rotation but that otherwise has shown depth and resilience, Ross’s has a message for his front office and another one for anyone else making assumptions about what that front office will do.
For a front office led by Jed Hoyer since Theo Epstein’s longtime No. 2 replaced his boss as team president in November: “You try to make it as hard as possible on maybe the decisions they have to make.”
And for those who want to predict how Hoyer might read the record and the trend lines come decision day based on Epstein’s nine years with the organization?
Maybe the new boss ain’t the same as the old boss, Ross said.
Epstein said after the 2017 season that he was a week or two from selling short-term pieces at the trade deadline after his defending World Series champ reached the All-Star break two games under .500 and 5 1/2 games out of first.
“The one thing I would say about that is, ‘Guess who doesn’t work here anymore,’ all right?” Ross said. “Why don’t you give the front office a new chance with the new president. Give everybody a new shot. I’m new. Give me a new shot. Let’s give these guys a new shot under me [for] 162 [games], and under Jed.
“I’d like to think maybe we can impact things a different way,” Ross added. “I don’t know whether that can be true or not. But I think we should ask, when it comes to everybody who’s new and in a [new] role, to just give them a clean slate and see what happens.”
A 19-8 May and home sweep of the Padres last week already looks impactful — especially with a long list of regulars constantly rotating in and out of the lineup with back, hamstring, thumb and rib injuries.
They opened the West Coast trip with 11 players in the injured list, including eight who went on it in the previous three weeks. And then Joc Pederson (bruised back) and Javy Báez (thumb) exited games over the weekend with day-to-day injuries. And right-hander Adbert Alzolay — the club’s best starter — had a blister worsen during Monday’s start and landed on the IL Tuesday.
And the Cubs enter Wednesday a half-game out of first after spending the last nine games going 5-4 against two of the top three teams in the NL.
“There’s more depth here than I think we had [before this year],” said Ross, who has experience from recent seasons spent in the Cubs’ front office to draw on these days when he anticipates the deadline.
“We’re showing this could be a real team that could last the journey,” he said — whatever anybody else might see in specific and losses against specific opponents at different spots on the calendar, he said.
“If it paints that picture as you’re moving toward the end, then great,” he added. “And if [top executives] see that, then great. If not, then that’s what we’ve got to do. Our job here is to control what we can control.”
If the Cubs can stay this competitive into the middle of next month, even without necessarily a May-like surge in June, Ross seems to like his chances of keeping the group together and driving it toward the stretch run.
“I know we want to worry about that trade deadline” he said. “But I don’t think any of our guys are worried about that.
“I think these guys are in a good place.”