baseball

“I Don’t Think Winning is Something That You Just Happen Upon”

It’s something he’s discussed before, but any time Nico Hoerner talks about what he sees for the future of the Chicago Cubs, I’m quite keen to listen. He’s going to be an important part of this team and this clubhouse for several more years, at least (extend him!!!), and his perspective carries some weight. Even if not in pushing things in a given direction, but in describing accurately for we outsiders how things are going behind the scenes, so to speak.

Hoerner’s latest comments to The Athletic about the importance of winning throughout the organization, and how things can get good quickly for the big league team.

For example, Hoerner was aware that the South Bend Cubs just won the Midwest League championship, and he can see the value there.

“I don’t think winning is something that you just happen upon,” Hoerner said. “It is something that you’ve done before in big situations, dealing with other people and building relationships with other people and then knowing that it’s possible. They won, they celebrated, they did the champagne, if that’s allowed. I was super-aware of that. I know we’ve got a lot of talent, especially at that level. It’s awesome to see and good for the organization. You’re going to have the data, exit velocity, spin axis, whatever, going on. All that stuff’s important, just as long as that’s still going towards winning.”

Any time you hear Hoerner talking like that, you’re reminded: if the Cubs want to add a top shortstop in free agency this offseason, Hoerner is not going to put up a fight about – for example – moving to second base. He’ll just go there, excel defensively, and do everything he can to help the Cubs win.

To that end, as for seeing the bones of a winning team – something we already know Jed Hoyer, David Ross, and Marcus Stroman have all suggested they can see – Hoerner points to the pitching, in particular.

“Seeing some of the pitching we’ve had this year from the minor-league side is really exciting and promising,” Hoerner said. “If you look around the league — I don’t know if it’s a formula — but teams that are consistently winning often have a stable of arms that they can just call on, whether it’s in the bullpen or spot starts. We saw this year the importance of starting-rotation depth throughout the league. We had a lot of starters, but unfortunately we had a lot of injuries, too. If the minor-league system can help hold (things together) instead of the big dips during a season, there’s a lot of value there.”

To put that another way, and to extrapolate it across the roster more generally: the Cubs have a ton of quality depth. Big leagues. Upper minor leagues. Pitching. Positional. They really do have so many guys who are capable of covering innings or at bats if necessary, and/or contributing in a complementary role. And that matters a lot.

What the Cubs need, however, is more impact. More everyday stars. Guys who not only contribute significantly, but whose very presence pushes other players into depth roles (where, again, they have so much value). Like Marcus Stroman suggested, if the Cubs add a few impact pieces this offseason, it’s not hard to see a competitive team in 2023.

Meanwhile, hopefully Hoerner can return health from his triceps injury and get in a few more games before the end of the season. Mostly just for the fun of it. And the winning, of course.

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