CHICAGO — Despite a September to forget, the 2023 season may have exceeded a number of expectations for fans and pundits, with some classfying it as a success.
You cannot count Jed Hoyer in that category.
“I guess I’ll start by saying no,” said the Cubs president when he began his season-ending news conference referencing the fact that so many in the organization have been asked it if this past season was a success.
An 83-79 record was probably above what some might have expected out of a group that came into the 2023 season with many questions to answer. They had an encouraging start, bottomed out at ten games under .500 on June 8 and were still seven games under on July 17.
Yet they rallied enough to prevent a selloff at the trade deadline, went 18-9 in August, and were in position to get a Wild Card until the final week. Yet a 7-14 finish left them on the outside of the postseason looking in, producing a bitter ending to what could be looked at as an encouraging campaign.
“We went from 10 under to 12 over, over a three month period, it was fun to watch,” said Hoyer. “We just didn’t finish the race, painfully, we did not finish the race. Certainally there’s positives to take from the season both organizationally and certainly positives to take as a major league team, but right now we’re sort of stuck thinking about what could have been and thinking about the painful last 2-to-3 weeks.
“You can’t call something that falls short of your goals a success, so ultimately we have to live with that. I know it will motivate me all winter and I know talking to our players and coaches and front office, I know it’s going to motivate them. You can define something as a success when you fall short.
“As Tom (Ricketts) said, those things are consolation prizes, and that’s not why we’re here.”
Indeed the club now heads to the offseason after missing the playoffs for a third-straight time, even though they were over .500 for the first time since 2020. Naturally, Hoyer was asked his thoughts on what it might take to push the Cubs over the top.
“The shell of a really good team is there, obviously, we have to make additions, and we have to find ways to improve,” said Hoyer, not offering specific exampls as he gets ready for the offseason. “But I feel really good, given where we were a year ago, the number of pieces we have that are contributing players on a really good team is there and we just need to supplement that.
“We play similar baseball to this year, we just have to find a way to avoid the ups and downs as much and finish the race a lot stronger.”
One of the ways to keep continuity would be to bring back Cody Bellinger, who hit .307 with 26 homers and 97 RBI in his best season since he own NL MVP with the Dodgers in 2009. Other decisions will have to be made as well, but Hoyer was encouraged with how the team in 2023 continue to believe in itself, which bodes well for the make-up of the club moving forward.
“When I think about our season, I’m really impressed that our guys set goals as high as they did,” said Hoyer. “Externally, we were not expected to be a playoff team, but the internal expectations were that we’re going to make the playoffs, and going back to spring training, that was the clear goal.
“When we were ten games under in the middle of June, these guys still believed, and it was a pretty amazing thing from my seat to listen to them talk about how good they thought the team was when they were when we were ten games under. In the middle of July, after the All-Star Break, we were still seven games under, and these guys are begging me not to break the team up and begging me not to make trades, which is really impressive.”
Even if the finish left something to be desired.