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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Column: Jade Hoyer still optimistic that Chicago Cubs are on the right track – despite evidence to the contrary

Jade Hoyer knows the drill.

When the Chicago Cubs hit a new low, the team president gathers journalists together to defend the manager, his game plan, and the entire organization.

Theo Epstein did it more than a decade ago, praising manager Dale Swim, rebuilding and rickets during the 2012 and ’13 seasons, before killing Swem after two years on the job.

It was Hoyer’s turn on Thursday to defend manager David Ross’ work performance, praising the rebuilding that cannot be called rebuilding and ensuring the Cubs remain on the right track. He did so for more than half an hour in the home dugout at Wrigley Field before a game against the San Diego Padres that the Cubs lost, extending their 10-game losing streak.

It was a difficult task for Hoyer. Eleven months after selling off their biggest stars and embarking on a new and less expensive path, the Cubs are worse off than they were before the 2021 trade deadline. He started the day only a half-game ahead of the lowly Cincinnati Reds, and was going through one of the worst nine-game stretches in franchise history, being outscored 61-15 in the last five losses.

But after hearing Hoyer’s suggestion that things were going well before the losing streak, I could only nod my head. How can one buy that narrative after what they have seen in 2022?

“I didn’t say I understood (for how long),” he said of the timetable for the competition. “I have an understanding of how to build the next great team and where we want to go. I didn’t give you any sense of time. I have no idea about it.”

Sorry, but haven’t the Cubs turned back from last season when it comes to seeing the “next great Cubs team” come to fruition?

“It’s a depressing moment in time,” Hoyer said. “Whether we feel like this in a month or two, I don’t know. Right now, of course… Listen, the disappointment in your voice is probably the disappointment that everyone has about the way we play. It’s in the voice. I’ll say frankly, I felt like we were battling and really competing since (June 10). Our record in a single run game was definitely well below average, and our run gap -10, which is really competitive.

“Obviously the last five days have really changed. I’m trying mentally, obviously what we’ve seen since Saturday (the 8-0 loss to the New York Yankees) has been a real struggle and Really disappointing that our bullpen which was really good is struggling, and we haven’t managed to stop any runs. But try to remember, before that we were struggling.”

Fighting is fine when you’re a small market team with low ticket prices. It doesn’t cut it when you are a big market team that is still charging among the highest ticket prices in the game. If I sounded “disappointed”, my apologies to Hoyer. I meant to sound disgusting.

When asked by another reporter whether the Cubs timeline felt more distant than when the season began, Hoyer said he would “have a better answer for it later in the season”, citing injuries.

“Even from a record standpoint, before this stretch, we weren’t where we wanted to be,” he said. “You’re asking me to make some pretty global statements based on that.”

With the Cubs falling so far and so fast, most fans agree Wilson Contreras is as good as he went. Being so distant from the competition means the Cubs no longer have a choice but to trade him in to get something of value before he goes as a free agent.

“That’s not something I’m going to answer,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer also declined to discuss whether he has talked about his future with Contreras. Contreras and Kyle Hendrix are the only players who can bring in some real value in return, especially with Marcus Strowman’s swollen right shoulder.

Hoyer said Strowman would be back “quite soon.” But Strowman hasn’t even started playing the catch yet, so how soon can it be?

“We’ll know more when he throws,” Hoyer said.

Week? month?

“I don’t know,” Hoyer said. “Hopefully that week.”

As for Ross’s position, Hoyer said the third-year manager has done a “great job” and he “sees no problem with[Ross].”

Epstein said the same thing about Swayum in 2013. The difference is Hoyer’s close relationship with Ross, whom he signed for an extension prior to the season.

Hoyer’s most prominent moves since the summer sell-off have yet to work. Strowman and Seiya Suzuki, two of his biggest free-agent signings, are on the injured list and were inconsolable while recovering. Nick Madrigal, obtained from the White Sox in a Craig Kimbrel deal, is out again with a groin injury and has not hit while recovering. Wade Miley has pitched well but has made only four starts and has bowled 19 innings between stints on IL.

The season of Contreras, the emergence of Christopher Morrell and the performance of Keegan Thompson before going into the rotation have been the biggest positives.

“I have full faith in the world that we will get there,” Hoyer said. “But sometimes things go fast, and sometimes things go slow. I’m not smart enough to know when something’s going to happen, but I know, and I’m sure we’ll succeed.” going to happen. I knew the same thing last time as well.”

Hoyer quotes Epstein’s clichéd comment that “things are not linear,” implying that every plan goes through ups and downs rather than slow, steady progress. He said he speaks with chairman Tom Ricketts about the state of the team “all the time”, and everyone has “questions” about why the Cubs are struggling as much as they are.

“Those are the questions I wake up late at night asking as well,” he said.

He who is listening must be shaking his head.

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World Nation News Desk
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