Epstein Credits Ross For Creating Energy, Harmony

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- When Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein parted ways with manager Joe Maddon at the conclusion of the 2019 season and replaced him with David Ross, he did so with the vision of Ross having a transformative effect on a club that had just disappointed.

While he's wary of too much praise for his National League-leading Cubs' 8-2 mark entering play Tuesday, Epstein is quick to credit Ross for creating energy and harmony on the team.

"We have made an effort over the past couple of years to change the environment," Epstein said. "Any time you bring in a new leader, by definition, there is a significant change in the environment. Joe had that effect when he got here in 2015. That was transformative for our young players at the time who could be themselves and develop more quickly than anyone had anticipated. I give Joe all the credit in the world for that. With David Ross in place as the new leader, its been equally transformative in a different way."

And how's that?

"His way has brought guys together and helped them rally around a common cause," Epstein said. "I think that the feeling is they all feel lucky to be here and want to make their mark playing together as a group and for Rossy. I will give the players and Rossy credit for making a new environment that has brought out the best in all of us and in our identity.

"He creates energy all by himself. He creates accountability. The players have so much respect for him. I think they want to do well for him. For a first-year manager, he has been incredibly aware of keeping all the little things to keep a major league team functioning, anticipating problems before they happen."

Epstein understands much can happen over the final 50 games and chaos could await in a 16-team playoff structure should the MLB season last amid the pandemic, but what he likes is the development that he's seen from a handful of players, including outfielder Ian Happ and infielder David Bote.

"The organization succeeds and fails with our players," Epstein said. "This is not a credit game or a blame game. It gave none of us any joy sending Ian Happ back to Triple-A last year. When he was not in a position to help us at the big league level, that was all of us not being ready together. We were at the moment all failing together. We believe in Ian Happ. We believed then and we believe now that he would be a really good player. To his credit, he took personal responsibility and made the absolute most out of the opportunity. In the arch of a player's career, you don't jump on and off the bandwagon. We praise the people who work together and accomplish things in good moments. In bad moments, leaders stand up and take responsibility."

Epstein spent much of his long media session Tuesday discussing the COVID-19 concerns across MLB and the league's handling of the situation. The Cardinals are the most recent team to suffer a virus outbreak, with seven players and six staffers testing positive. The Cardinals haven't played since last Wednesday due to their health situation.

The Cubs are scheduled to start a three-game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday. Epstein wasn't certain that series will be played, but the Cubs are preparing and expecting as if it will happen.

"I am sure adjustments will be made," Epstein said about MLB taking a harder line on medical and safety protocols. "I think there will be different enforcement mechanisms that hold everyone accountable that include anyone who wasn't able to hold themselves accountable. In the end, no matter what measures you take, when a country is in the middle of a global pandemic, it ultimately comes down to personal responsibility."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.