MILWAUKEE — When Theo Epstein resigned as Chicago Cubs president in October, Jed Hoyer inherited the job and some of the same issues his longtime friend and mentor had to deal with the last couple of years.
Superstars who aren’t hitting.
Fans upset over another slow start.
And a pandemic that makes every day a potential crisis.
Forget about OPS, UZR, wRC+ and other analytics.
“Twice-daily testing has become the stats I’m looking at right now,” Hoyer said Wednesday in a pregame conference call from the Cubs clubhouse. “That’s not what you want to be doing. Last year obviously we were able to avoid this scenario. This year we’ve had a couple coaches (Chris Young and Craig Driver) test positive, and as a result we had to act with an abundance of caution.”
The Cubs had four players on the COVID-19-related injured list Wednesday morning after having no positive tests from players in 2020. But they were able to get reliever Jason Adam off the list for Wednesday’s game and called up veteran pitcher Shelby Miller from the South Bend alternate site.
Hoyer said the Cubs have gotten “a lot of negative tests back” but are remaining overly cautious because of the incubation period of the virus. It’s also difficult trying to determine whether someone’s sniffles are due to seasonal allergies and not a COVID-19 symptom.
“It feels like every day is sort of a new challenge with this,” Hoyer said. “We’re doing the best we can with it, honestly. It’s been like, every day, a lot of roster moves, trying to mix and match.”
Hoyer said starter Kyle Hendricks would’ve “gutted it out” and taken the mound Tuesday night if not for the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19. Hendricks was sent back to Chicago and was feeling better Wednesday, the Cubs said. He did not test positive for COVID-19, but there was no decision yet on whether he can start this weekend against the Atlanta Braves.
Hoyer and manager David Ross have repeatedly said they’re “encouraging” players to get vaccinated so the team can reach the 85% threshold of Tier 1 employees required by MLB to relax some COVID-19 protocols. Some Cubs players’ wives and girlfriends have started controversies on social media by posting their skepticism about the vaccine’s effectiveness or its long-term effects.
Hoyer said “there are a lot of different perspectives” among players.
“We’re driven by the science of it and we believe in it and think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Not everyone shares our beliefs. … Some people may take more convincing than others.”
Adding to the roster issues is the fact the Cubs are hitting .163 through the first 12 games, a historically bad stretch that brings reminders of recent offensive woes. Hoyer said some of it is a “carryover” from previous years, including the team’s contact rate and inability to consistently hit fastballs.
“Offensively we’ve been really struggling,” he said. “Not exactly a secret. I don’t think our offensive struggles have had anything to do with this COVID stuff we’ve been dealing with.
“This is sort of an added layer of complexity to it. … It’s something we have to get better.”