By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs’ support system between players, coaches and management has been a key amid an uneven start to the 2017 season.
Seemingly half the Western world had been suggesting that outfielder Kyle Schwarber should be sent to the minor leagues amid a prolonged slump. For Schwarber and other underachieving Cubs, having an honest group of communicators to rely on has been crucial in navigating the first 55 games of the season.
Pressure isn’t always self-induced, as it comes externally as well. The Cubs faced are facing lofty expectations after a championship season, and sometimes a pat on the back, trust and words of wisdom can make a huge difference for struggling players like Schwarber and Addison Russell and even for more establish stars like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, who would both like to still do more.
“We are lucky to have Joe (Maddon), the coaches and the front office totally behind us,” Bryant said of the Cubs, who improved to 28-27 after a three-game sweep of the Cardinals over the weekend. “We know that if things are going poorly, they are there not only helping in their professional role but as friends.
“Don’t get me wrong: This is a business, and we must produce. In this clubhouse, you have support and an honest viewpoint from the organization all of the time.”
Bryant had a strong, consistent first six weeks of the season but has seen his average fall from .303 to .268 since May 21. Bryant was 1-of-11 in the series against the Cardinals but was plenty happy to watch Schwarber hit a go-ahead grand slam Saturday and continue to fight through an ugly first two months of his season.
“We all try to be there for each other,” Bryant said. “Kyle, regardless of how he is going, is there to pick his teammates up when they are down. We do that around here. It starts with Joe and goes up as far as Theo (Epstein) and Jed (Hoyer). We always feel that support.”
Schwarber could have easily been demoted amid a start in which he’s hitting .165. Instead, the Cubs made other adjustments for him, dropping him to ninth in the order and getting a few more days off.
Saturday’s grand slam — and the opportunity to work through his struggles — helps foster trust and development for Schwarber. The same can happen for others as well.
“It has ben big for me,” Schwarber said. “It would be easy to kick a guy to the curb when you see the numbers like mine. You start with the fans, the players, coaching staff and front office. It has been really big for me. You could definitely go home feeling worse if they weren’t so supportive. Around here, we pick each other up.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.