Rafael Ortega, Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel have been bright spots in a down season for the Cubs.
The second half of the Cubs season has been a whirlwind and after the trade deadline brought a significant amount of roster turnover, it looked like the Cubs would be in for a long final two months. Things started out rough and headed toward rock bottom, including the team’s second 11-game losing streak of the season.
But after the long losing streak ended, something happened. The Cubs’ group of unknowns and first-time major leaguers began to show life and started playing good baseball in the process.
Guys like Frank Schwindel, Rafael Ortega and Patrick Wisdom had never had success in the big leagues before this season. The success they are having is not only having a positive impact on the team, but as individuals who want to continue to make a name for themselves and potentially be part of the team’s plans in 2022.
“The best way to press forward is to continue to push guys who are playing really well and that’s not their ceiling,” interim manager Andy Green said. “As long as the guys are climbing, they’re not trying to just hold their ground and there’s a huge psychological advantage in that. So anybody that has accomplished what a few of our guys have accomplished in the last month or last week, there’s always more and as long as you’re hungry for more and pushing for more, you’re more concerned about your trajectory than you are your legacy.
“These guys, like there is no legacy here. So they’ve got a long way to go. You know, there was a legacy for the group that came before for Willson [Contreras] and Kyle [Hendricks]. But other than those few guys, these guys need to establish something and so they’re just pushing forward. And that’s the healthiest way to go.”
The success of guys like Wisdom, Ortega and the latest offensive outburst from Schwindel hasn’t just affected the Cubs’ win total. But it’s been getting the attention of the team’s veteran players and despite being out of contention for the first time in a long time, the vibe in the clubhouse hasn’t been one of a beaten team.
‘‘I know I said in an earlier interview that we have really good talent because I see that,” catcher Willson Contreras said. “And the way they’re playing right now is nothing but amazing. . . . I haven’t felt this energy in a really long time.’’
It would have been easy for the players who remained after the deadline to do their own thing. But once the dust cleared from the team’s trades, the Cubs have played some of their best baseball since they were back in first place in June.
They’ve also been one of the league’s best offensive teams recently, scoring 4.9 runs per game and ranking fifth in MLB with 44 homers over the last month.
“From day one with this group at the trade deadline, I feel like all of us kind of came into the same situation together,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “We were all kind of a bit of a whirlwind. The guys that have been here from the beginning to now and the guys that have come aboard, this has been awesome to watch their work, watch their preparation, watch us help each other grow.
“This is the first time in my career being in that position to play spoiler. And, it’s a lot of fun playing good baseball, of course, but we have some incentive to do it and go out there together. So it’s really nice to see results.”