Column: Home cooking for Dansby Swanson and sleepless nights for David Ross as the Chicago Cubs enter the final week of the wild-card chase

David Ross participated in seven postseasons as a participant with 4 totally different groups, and one season on “Dancing With the Stars.”

But the stress Ross confronted earlier than is nothing like what he’s going by way of now managing the Chicago Cubs on this loopy National League wild-card chase.

The problem of getting this Cubs staff into the postseason has been one of many largest of his life, and is why Ross generally wakes up in the course of the evening.

“Way different as a manager than as a player,” Ross mentioned Tuesday earlier than the Cubs’ 7-6 loss to Atlanta Braves at Truist Park. “I don’t know how you can describe it. It’s enjoyable, and also you try to put together and hold all of it the identical, however inside you’re using it.

“But within that it’s fun. (Julian) Merryweather the other day walks the first two guys (in the ninth inning) and gets out of that. You’re carrying it. I don’t get that (feeling) golfing on the weekend. That’s what you sign up for — the nerves, the adrenaline, a little bit of anxiety. Shoot, that’s what fuels you in the morning and wakes you up in the middle of the night when things aren’t going well.”

Tuesday’s surprising loss was a kind of nights. The Cubs blew a 6-0 sixth-inning lead and watched the Braves rating the tying and go-ahead runs with two outs within the eighth on Sean Murphy’s fly ball that Seiya Suzuki misplayed.

It was shades of the 1998 wild-card race, when Cubs outfielder Brant Brown dropped a fly ball within the ninth to lose a recreation to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 23 at County Stadium. That play led to the notorious “Oh, no” name by Cubs broadcaster Ron Santo.

Ross isn’t the one one waking up in the course of the evening in a chilly sweat. Cubs followers have gone by way of the ringer all yr, questioning which staff will present up on any given day.

On Tuesday they noticed each.

With 5 video games remaining and the wild-card race heating up, they’re on the lookout for Ross to make all the precise strikes, and for the staff’s largest stars, together with Cody Bellinger, Dansby Swanson and Justin Steele, to come back by way of once they’re wanted essentially the most.

Swanson’s homecoming to Atlanta this week has been an opportunity for the Cubs shortstop to have a home-cooked meal from his mom, together with his favourite facet dishes, creamed corn and fried okra. He spent a lot of the pregame Tuesday speaking with outdated mates from the Braves, the Atlanta media and stadium staff he’s recognized through the years.

In Atlanta, Swanson was one star in a clubhouse filled with them. On the Cubs, he’s the centerpiece of the group, introduced in final winter with essentially the most profitable deal in staff historical past. Like Ross, the stress on Swanson within the last week is big. After hitting .184 in August with a .662 OPS, he was nearer to his norm in September with a .269 common and .778 OPS.

“It just kind of helps keep the juices flowing,” Swanson mentioned earlier than the sport of his household go to. “Especially at this point of the year. Everyone is banged up and tired. To be able to have some downtime and get recharged has been awesome.”

Swanson watched a tribute video of his Atlanta profession earlier than the sport and saluted the followers who supported him through the years. Then he obtained one other standing ovation in his first at-bat.

This may have been a lifelong relationship between a hometown participant and the staff he grew up rooting for. But the Braves had so many stars they didn’t make a lot of an effort to maintain Swanson. So he and his spouse, Mallory Pugh Swanson, the Chicago Red Stars ahead, determined Chicago was going to be their new dwelling for at the least the following seven years.

“I got the pretty clear sense that they were going to move on,” Swanson mentioned of the Braves at his introductory information convention in Chicago. “I don’t want to say things I don’t need to say. But it kind of solidified (my decision). It got to a point where, we’re on our honeymoon, that we felt like this is where we’re supposed to be regardless.”

The simple transfer when you’ve gotten success is staying in your consolation zone. Sometimes in life it’s a must to take a threat and see what’s on the opposite facet. Swanson determined to try to assist a rebuilding staff and have become an integral a part of one of many extra exceptional in-season turnarounds in Cubs’ historical past.

But for the Cubs to finish this story, they’ll want Swanson to be in the course of the motion, taking part in on the stage that made him an All-Star.

Ross additionally is aware of what it’s wish to put his popularity on the road. He may have stayed within the ESPN broadcast sales space and prevented all of the stress he’s endured as Cubs supervisor. His legacy in Chicago was already safe as lovable “Grandpa Rossy,” the man who hit a house run in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and was some of the widespread backup catchers ever.

His Q-rating in all probability would’ve stayed on the identical excessive plateau endlessly, however as quickly as he agreed to step into the supervisor’s function after the 2019 season, Ross knew he could be second-guessed over his lineup choices and bullpen maneuvering, that each quote could be parsed for a deeper that means, and that ultimately some would name for his firing.

He’s skilled all of that this season, even because the Cubs have climbed out of their early season rut to change into contenders once more. Now he’s attempting to get the Cubs previous the end line, realizing the finger shall be pointed squarely at him by some in the event that they don’t get the job performed.

It’s an occupational hazard, and one thing he’s discovered to dwell with.

“There are different areas of my job, things that come up,” he mentioned. “There are people that piss me off some days and it puts me in a bad mood, and people that make me happy some days.”

How the story ends for the Cubs stays to be seen.

But for some angst-ridden Cubs followers, they’ve seen this script earlier than.