"We have three or four areas where we need to improve," Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta said on Inside the Clubhouse on 670 The Score on Saturday. "We certainly had trouble in the bullpen early and late in the season. The defense, for sure, I think it could have been much better. On the offensive side, we struck out way too much.
"So those three areas for me are big concerns. I don't think it's an edge or concentration issue. I think we should look at how we practiced, check what our game planning was and things like that. We maybe need to make adjustments in those areas. I don't think it's about concentration or having an edge. This is not like football or basketball where you say you are going to get emotional and use that as an edge. It's a fine line and hard to define."
Loretta, 48, interviewed with the Cubs on Thursday, four days after the team announced it would part ways with Joe Maddon. He just completed his first season as the Cubs' bench coach after previously working in the Padres' front office. He has what he called "a strong desire to manage."
"You do need your infielders out there as a group," Loretta said. "Not every day but maybe a few times a week with four or five guys working together as a unit. We have had a lot of optional hitting practice and fielding practice. That's something we should take a look at as well to see if that actually makes sense. There are certain training times when players need to be on their own. Team concept and team-building exercises and getting together in practice more often are very valid."
The Cubs will interview two more internal candidates next week in front office special assistant David Ross and first-base coach Will Venable. They will also interview former Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Many across the MLB landscape believe Ross is the front-runner.
Loretta has come to understand that connecting with millennial players who are accomplished but have struggled lately can be complicated.
"I have young children at home who fall into that description and age grade in communication," he said. "I think coaching in this day and age is a lot like parenting. I think kids and millennials need a certain amount of structure. They need a schedule. They are so used to that. Driven around here, travel ball games, showcase events over here, all this stuff. They crave a schedule. There may be some initial pushback, but they like to have it. If you give them too much free time, that can go haywire.
"We are not saying it should be a military-style. I don't think that's the way to go. I do believe that structure and accountability mixed with relationships, love and fun. We want to have fun in this game. Our trainer Tim Buss is just fantastic in team-building and getting guys together to work and have a good time. We are still professionals, and the bottom line is we have to execute. The team that executes the most usually comes out on top."