(670 The Score) For the first time in a half-decade, the Cubs are set to open a season without World Series expectations.
The prevailing belief is that the Cubs will take a step back in 2021 after trading ace Yu Darvish to the Padres and letting other key players exit in an offseason that featured more subtractions than additions. As pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Wednesday, the Cubs are expected to be in the mix in a projected weak NL Central but aren't pegged as the favorite by most.
So it begs the question: Could the Cubs play the "nobody believes in us" card to find extra motivation? That sounded like a good idea to right-hander Kyle Hendricks.
"It's an easy one to go to," Hendricks said on the Parkins & Spiegel Show on Thursday afternoon. "But it really can fuel a lot of guys. With all the things we've been through as a group, the things we've accomplished, now to be somewhat doubted, you could say in a way or not have expectations on us, yeah, there will definitely be a lot of guys with a chip on their shoulder. I think as a group in general, we will have that."
Though the Cubs did have several significant departures from a team that won the NL Central in 2020, they added outfielder Joc Pederson, right-hander Zach Davies and veteran right-hander Jake Arrieta in an attempt to contend this season.
And of course, they still have much of their core under contract for a final season together in first baseman Anthony Rizzo, third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Javier Baez, who have had great past success but struggled in 2020.
"We focus on the group we have in that clubhouse and stick to the positivity and we know where our end goal is," Hendricks said. "We have our end in sight. We know where we want to be. We focus on each other, building those relationships and put in the work every single day. We know where we can be."