Nick Madrigal Turns Page with First Cubs HR, David Ross Explains Evolved Managerial Style

Nick Madrigal must read CI or follow me on Twitter with a burner, because it felt like he was out to prove me wrong on Friday afternoon. Or maybe he has no idea who the hell I am and was just motivated by a desire to make up for his ill-advised bunt attempt in Thursday’s loss to the Phillies. After singling and scoring to get the Cubs’ first rally started, Madrigal hit his first homer as a Cub to fan the flames of a much-needed blowout.

Though he wasn’t available for comment following Thursday’s mistake, the third baseman addressed the media in the wake of the Cubs’ first win since last Saturday in London.

“I made a mistake and tried to turn the page as quickly as you can,” Madrigal admitted. “There’s no time to be sulking about anything, especially in the position we are in the division. It’s going to take all hands on deck.

“I took accountability. I messed up and told [David Ross] that. Once I got to the field today, I was just focused on trying to help this team.”

Had I been managing the team, Madrigal would have been lifted from the game for not knowing how many outs there were. I likely would have benched him for the start of Friday’s game as well, if only for a mental reset. Ross, however, has a different way of looking at things after learning from the way he reacted to similar miscues from Kyle Schwarber and Javy Báez in the past.

“When the players mess up, there has to be a moment of learning and an expectation to be better,” Ross explained. “If the pattern continues, then you have to do something about it…

“Nick was probably embarrassed enough in his own right. Me compounding that doesn’t make any sense to me.”

I can definitely vibe with that because it’s really no different from making bullpen moves or other lineup decisions that seem questionable on the surface. He’s there in the clubhouse and understands much more than we ever will about his personnel. Sometimes it’s about not simply a matter of who provides the best matchup on paper.

Speaking of which, Madrigal has suddenly become a much tougher out for opposing pitchers. His improved hitting since being recalled from a blistering stint at Triple-A Iowa has gotten him almost up to league-average offensive production on the season and he’s collected his first two barrels as a Cub over the last week. For those who might not be up on the Statcast definitions, a barrel is “a batted ball with the perfect combination of exit velocity and launch angle.”

Madrigal had not barreled a single ball through his first 372 plate appearances in a Cubs uniform, which is pretty uncanny when you consider that his hit tool has always been his calling card. The primary reason for that is exit velocity, as he just doesn’t have much power. That has begun to change a bit over the last 10 days, however, with Madrigal popping four doubles and that 390-foot dong.

His leadoff two-bagger in the 9th inning against Jordan Hicks last Sunday was his first barrel since 2021 with the White Sox, a season that saw him collect two such hits out of 184 batted-ball events. Now he’s got two barrels in his last 14 BBEs, and his .132 ISO since returning from Iowa is nearly double his .070 career average. If this is the version of Madrigal the Cubs are going to get moving forward, he needs to be in the lineup every day.

As for being in there as the third baseman, I still feel the Cubs need to find a much better solution. If they’re able to add both pop and strong defense — hello, Matt Chapman — Madrigal can serve as the DH while spelling second and third from time to time. That’s not happening until the winter if it happens at all, so it looks like the hot corner is his for the time being.

Since that’s traditionally been a power position, Madrigal really needs to maintain his current level of production. Not by hitting more homers, mind you, just by driving the ball to the gaps and reaching base at a high clip. And, you know, remembering how many outs there are.

“We got some inside jokes in the clubhouse, but the main thing is we’re having fun out there and joking with each other,” Madrigal said Friday. “Pulling for each other at the end of the day. I think that’s what makes special teams — no matter who’s doing what, everyone’s excited on the bench.

“Watching the replay and just seeing my teammates’ reaction, that means a lot. I think that’s why this team is so special is we’re so close and just want the best for each other.”

Sounds good. Now just keep going out there and doing things that get people yelling at me in the mentions.

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