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Some thoughts about Dansby Swanson’s leadership skills, from someone who knows him well

The GM of the Atlanta Braves praised Swanson in a recent interview.

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Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

As all of you know, the Cubs signed free agent shortstop Dansby Swanson to a seven-year, $177 million deal earlier this month, introducing him to media last week in a news conference during which Swanson hinted at the leadership skills he hopes to bring to the Cubs clubhouse:

Leadership, though, is important and Swanson gives the feeling that he is just that.

Swanson said, “Winning is a mentality. You have to show up every day thinking you’re going to win — not ‘if.’” This is something any sports team would love to have, and Hoyer added, “It felt like he was interviewing us — how are the Cubs going to win, what’s the plan, what players will you surround me with?”

This is a role that Swanson took on willingly with the Braves over the last several seasons. That shows in this quote from Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos which appeared in this article in The Athletic by Jeff Schultz:

Swanson exerted a lot of influence in the clubhouse, especially with younger players like Grissom and Michael Harris II, and that filled a void left by Freeman.

Anthopoulos acknowledged this: “It’s real, it’s authentic, it’s sincere. It just comes so naturally for him. Guys follow him, he leads; it’s not contrived. He lives his life that way each day. Look at the different places he hit in the lineup — eighth, seventh, second. Some guys are very particular about where they hit in the order, and sometimes it becomes a political thing. Not once in my five years with Dansby Swanson did I ever hear one gripe, one complaint, about where he hit in the lineup or what he was doing. He always had really thoughtful ideas, whether it was about our defensive positioning or the roster. It was never about himself.”

If you’ve been around here long enough, you know that I place quite a bit of value on such things. Sure, Swanson’s numbers (presuming he continues to hit the way he did in 2022) added to the Cubs offense will make it significantly better.

Some people are natural leaders; others are natural followers. Beyond the quotes I posted from Swanson’s news conference in my article linked above, just listening to the man speak shows an air of confidence that the Cubs absolutely need. I’ve written before about the void that was left in the clubhouse in 2021 when so many of the World Series core was traded away. It wasn’t just talent that departed; it was institutional memory, something I think is important for any organization, not just a sports team.

Now the Cubs have added a player with leadership skills who is also a talented player and has a World Series ring.

While the parallels aren’t exact, this feels similar to the signing of Jon Lester before the 2015 season. Lester, too, was a tremendously talented player, and he had two World Series rings prior to coming to the Cubs. Lester led by example, I think, as the Cubs already had a clubhouse leader in place in Anthony Rizzo.

Swanson will fill that leadership space in the clubhouse that I think has been vacant for the last year-plus. He’s a great addition to the team and team culture for that reason, beyond his obvious skills as a player.

Just thought it would be useful to share some comments from Anthopoulos, a man who knows Swanson well from being his boss for the last six years.