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Manager David Ross accepts blame for the Chicago Cubs’ fade down the stretch in the NL wild-card race – The Denver Post



The arc of the Chicago Cubs season has been amazing to watch unfold because no other season was quite like it.

The Cubs were 10 games under .500 on June 8, then got hot and played 22 games over .500 (50-28) from June 9 to Sept. 6, when they had a 92% chance of making the playoffs.

But just when it looked as if they could plan their postseason rotation, they faltered down the stretch, going 6-14 from Sept. 7 through Friday’s loss, putting them on the brink of elimination with a 4.7% chance of getting in.

“The odds of anything, I don’t kind of buy into that,” manager David Ross said.

No one has taken more blame than Ross, who was under fire at the start of the season, then briefly mentioned in manager of the year talk and currently is being raked over the coals for the team’s late-season fade.

Before Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Ross said he deserved his share of the blame.

“We’re in this together,” Ross said. “I wouldn’t separate myself from any player, front office, coach. If we don’t get to where we want to get to, I’m the manager of this team. The blame should come on me first.”

Some point to run differential as a reason Ross needs to go. The Pythagorean factor indicated their record Saturday should’ve been 89-71 instead of 82-78, while the Miami Marlins should have been 74-85 instead of 83-76. But the Cubs trailed the Marlins for the third wild-card spot by 1½ games instead of being ahead by 14½.

Ross said the Cubs still had a “mathematical chance” of making it to the wild-card series, declining to offer any big-picture perspective on what happened down the stretch.

Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich wasn’t surprised the Cubs refused to call it a day on the second-to-last day of the season.

“Baseball is hard,” Yelich said. “It’s hard to win a game every night. They’re obviously a very talented team, and we’ve had a lot of close battles over the years, especially this year. They’re going to fight until the end.”

If the Cubs don’t make it, many will call for Ross’s firing. But team President Jed Hoyer is the only one whose opinion matters, outside of the owners, and he defended Ross last week in Atlanta.

“People are going to ask you about your bad decisions 100 times more than they’re going to ask about your good decisions,” Hoyer said. “That is the job. That’s probably the way I look at my job too. I don’t spend a lot of time looking at the positives. I’m looking at ‘What can you do better and keep learning?’ ”

So it doesn’t sound as if Hoyer has any inclination to make a change in managers, and Ross will be in charge again for a fifth season in 2024. It figures to be with many young players who got a taste of the big leagues this year and some new additions.

Maybe it will be Ross’s last shot, but who knows?

“As an organization from the last few years I feel like we’re heading in the right direction for sure,” Marcus Stroman said after taking the loss Thursday in Atlanta. “And it’s exciting. But this is frustrating in the moment.”

But the Cubs could go backward if Cody Bellinger leaves via free agency, leaving a hole in the lineup that would be difficult to replace. Hoyer rolled the dice by keeping Bellinger at the trade deadline, and if the slugger doesn’t re-sign, it would be all for naught.

Ross called Bellinger a shoo-in for the Comeback Player of the Year award.

“I don’t know if there is anyone in the game that plays two positions as well as he does,” Ross said. “He brings defense every single day. His love for playing baseball, and trying to figure out a way to win is unique from the guys I’ve seen. He really likes being out there as much as anybody.” He’s wired the right way, and one thing I know is he’s been really important to our success, and we’re lucky to have had him and get back on track.”

But even Bellinger faltered down the stretch, hitting .230 (14-for-61) with one home run, seven RBIs and a .664 OPS in 16 games from Sept. 11 through Friday. He carried the Cubs so long this summer that Bellinger no doubt will escape the blame game, even though they needed him to do more in September.

But the future is brighter, according to Ross, and he compared this year’s Cubs to last year’s Baltimore Orioles, who went 83-79 in Year 4 of their rebuild. Under former Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde, they won the American League East this season and had 100 wins entering the final two games.

“We’re much better than we were last year,” Ross said. “And we put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs. Have we played our best baseball of late? No. That can come in different months, and (then) you’re not even in this race down the stretch. I don’t have any rhyme or reason for it.”

There might be no rhyme or reason the 2023 Cubs have gone through so many wild swings. But that won’t stop fans from giving their theories on the team, as they’ve done since the inaugural season in 1876.

It’s why the game is so great.

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