Watching how the Bulls' dynasty came to an end has offered perspective to the Cubs as they approach a pivotal 2020 season and an uncertain future with their core group that won a championship in 2016. For outfielder Jason Heyward, it offered an added appreciation to having former teammate David Ross as the Cubs' new manager.
"Playing for Rossy, it just gives me chills," Heyward said in an interview with Laurence Holmes that aired on 670 The Score on Wednesday afternoon. "It just gives a lot of us chills, because we know his intensity. We know he knows how to push our buttons. We know we want to run through a wall for him. And there's no question, we know we're going to get it straight from him -- the good, the bad and the ugly.
"A group like ours, we got some guys right now possibly going into free agency, some guys with contract talks, some guys -- (Jon) Lester -- pushing for the Hall of Fame. Everybody's kind of in a different spot right now. We talked about 'The Last Dance' kind of vibe. The front office is in a different spot.
"(Ross is) the perfect guy for right now. I got to once again say hat's off to the Cubs for doing that. Knowing when to pull the trigger and get Joe Maddon in here and also realizing, 'Hey, this is where our group is right now. They need to hear a different voice, they need to hear a different message, because this isn't the same group that walked in here in 2015.'"
The Cubs have a handful of key players whose contracts expire after the 2021 season, including third baseman Kris Bryant, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Javier Baez, outfielder Kyle Schwarber and left-hander Jon Lester. In particular, Bryant found himself amid constant trade speculation this past offseason.
Heyward is under contract through 2023 and hopes the team's core stays intact. He also believes the Cubs learned valuable lessons missing the playoffs in 2019, the first time they did so since 2014.
"I know what it's like to lose," Heyward said. "I know what it's like to not have a team that has everything we have. They had to learn it. I think that's what it was like this past year not making the postseason. Just watching these guys grow and mature into how the business is going to treat them, how the rest of the league is going to adjust to, 'All right, you're the big, bad Cubs, show us what you got.' I think they've done a great job handling it.
"It was a lot of responsibility on a lot of young guys that hadn't been in that position before."