Cubs

'F--k Retirement!': Cubs rallying behind David Ross in final season

'F--k Retirement!': Cubs rallying behind David Ross in final season

"What a player! Extension! F--k retirement!"

"What does Posey make?!"

Cubs players are having a lot of fun ribbing David Ross right now and let him have it as the media huddled around his locker after Friday's win, jokingly comparing "Grandpa Rossy" to former MVP Buster Posey.

The 39-year-old veteran catcher is set to retire at the end of the season, but he collected three more hits Friday, including a three-run homer.

"We're gonna start having to talk Theo [Epstein] into trying to grab another year out of him," said Cubs starting pitcher and Friday's winner Jason Hammel. "If he continues to do what he's doing right now, he can only help us. He can't get too old for the game."

It was the first time Ross had three hits in a game since July 2014 and his first three RBI game since September 2012.

The fifth-inning blast was also Ross' 99th career home run, so naturally the Cubs had to celebrate it.

Cubs players have been counting down to Ross' 100th career homer, holding up numbers with their fingers after each shot.

Ross hit only one homer last season in 72 games, but already has three this season in just 18 contests.

"They had to hold up [4] for a long time last year," Ross said. "They're rooting for me to get 100. It's all in good fun.

"One hundred home runs in 'The Show' is kinda special to me. It'd be nice to have it. But again, it's all about the W's. I think everybody understands the personal goals and all that stuff is secondary to the team."

What if he ends his career stuck on 99 home runs?

"If I don't get 100, it's not like I've had a terrible career," Ross said. "I am who I am. These guys are rooting for me to get 100 because I told them last year it was something that I would like to get a nice, even number. 

"It ain't like I'm gonna go home and sulk. How about I hit 99 and we win a World Series?"

This Cubs team celebrates everything, but Grandpa Rossy hitting the century mark would be a special party.

"Party favors, fireworks," Hammel joked. "It's gonna be one heck of a celebration."

Ross was quick to remind reporters he hadn't gotten a hit in a while before Friday (he was hitless in his last 10 at-bats entering play), but still had no issue playing around when asked why he's hitting so well this year:

"Because I'm awesome," he said to laughs.

Ross also credited Joe Maddon and the Cubs coaching staff with helping to adjust his approach at the plate.

His .801 OPS would represent his best season since 2010, but Ross isn't necessarily ready to re-think retirement, brushing off notions that he should return another season at age 40.

"That's part of the reason why I'm having so much fun," he said. "I'm older and can appreciate some things. When you have a group like this and you're a part of it, when you've been around a little while and you see a special group, you should enjoy it.

"I'm trying not to take that for granted."

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

cubs_podcast_offense_slid.jpg
USA TODAY

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Luke Stuckmeyer and Tony Andracki discuss the comments Chili Davis made after being fired as Cubs hitting coach, ask if the Cubs struggles on offense were Davis' fault or the players and what Anthony Iapoce will be walking into as he tries to gets the team back on track a the plate.

 

Listen to the entire podcast here, or in the embedded player below: