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It’s easy to pinpoint the main reasons the Chicago Cubs went from potential buyers at the trade deadline to imminent sellers.
Hoyer hasn’t waved the white flag, but he pulled it out of the closet and had it dry-cleaned. The long-threatened “reckoning” Theo Epstein spoke of in 2018 is seemingly around the corner, and soon the Cubs clubhouse will be populated by new players while familiar faces are dealt to contenders.
But one familiar face will remain in place.
Hoyer on Thursday lauded the performance of manager David Ross, whom he absolved of any blame for the Cubs’ recent collapse.
“I think David is a star, I think he’s fantastic,” Hoyer said. “I felt for him going through this, because there’s a hopeless sense from me to David to the players. At some point there’s always a sense of ‘Go say something,’ or ‘Go do something.’ That’s not really how baseball works. We’re a sport where that can be out of your control.”
Still, the buck stops at the manager’s office, and before Friday’s 10-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Ross admitted he has spent some restless nights after losses, wondering how he could’ve changed things.
“ ‘What could I have done better? Where did I have an impact? Where did I not have an impact? Where did I make a mistake?’ ” Ross said. “And then you lay down at night and those (thoughts) don’t go away. And finally you fall asleep and wake up the next day and try and tackle that same stuff.”
So what could Ross have done?
“I don’t have anything off the top of my head,” he said. “I haven’t been a yeller or a screamer through all of this. I don’t think that would’ve had an impact, but I don’t know, right?”
Cubs fans surely have some ideas, including removing Jake Arrieta from the rotation after he failed to last two innings despite being given a 7-0 lead in a 15-7 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on June 30. He followed that outing by allowing seven runs in 1⅔ innings in a 15-10 loss Tuesday to the Philadelphia Phillies.
But what’s done is done.
Now the Cubs only can try to win this series against their archrivals, get some rest and prepare for the changes in store after the All-Star break.
Kyle Hendricks did his job Friday, earning his 11th victory — tied for the major-league lead — before a crowd of 36,192 on a gorgeous day at Wrigley Field.
“The team winning is really all that matters,” Hendricks said, adding that individual wins are “overrated.”
While Hendricks is probably deserving of an All-Star nod, he said he was OK with the snub and is looking forward to enjoying the break.
Staked to a three-run lead in the first when Joc Pederson’s bases-loaded fly to short right went in and out of the glove of a diving Dylan Carlson, Hendricks was in control throughout, allowing two runs over 6⅓ innings.
With the Cubs leading 4-2 in the seventh, Kris Bryant came off the bench to stroke a three-run double off the ivy in left, and Patrick Wisdom followed with a two-run homer to break the game open.
The win was a relief to Ross, who has been in the middle of one of the strangest first halves in recent memory. Ross has been the same person from the start of the season, even as his team has gone from an ice-cold start in April to National League Central front-runner in May to trade deadline seller in July.
Asked if he ever gets mad at his team’s play, Ross said he tries to be consistent, and making a scene is not his thing. He has learned from some of the best managers during his playing career and hopes it has rubbed off.
“Bobby Cox gave us a stern talking to when we lost 11 in a row,” he said of the former Atlanta Braves manager. “That’s about how it went.”
And former Cubs manager Joe Maddon certainly wasn’t a screamer.
“No, Joe is like, low key,” Ross said. “Dusty (Baker) is the guy I pull from. Dusty is going to be himself on a daily basis and tell stories about past experiences. Joe would do that. Those guys were good storytellers. Bobby was the same person every day — in every case he had your back and was supporting you.
“ ‘Tito’ (Terry Francona) was the same way. I was on a winning team with him (in Boston), and he was very much one of the guys and just out enjoying the baseball game.”
Francona’s Cleveland Indians, coincidentally, lost nine straight games while the Cubs were losing 11 in a row.
“That’s comforting, that it happens to Hall of Fame managers too,” Ross said with a laugh.
No matter what happens to the makeup of his team, the Cubs still have 74 games remaining and plenty of things to prove to management, fans and themselves.
The show goes on.