How Patrick Wisdom keeps finding ways to impact the Chicago Cubs: ‘I still feel like the new guy’

Patrick Wisdom pauses, thinking back to his first start with the Chicago Cubs.

Only one of his current teammates, Ian Happ, was in the lineup on May 27, 2021, in Pittsburgh when Wisdom’s name was put seventh in the order as their right fielder. Kris Bryant manned first base, Javier Báez was at shortstop and Anthony Rizzo was out of the lineup with lower back tightness.

Wisdom slugged his first home run as a Cub that day, beginning a stretch of eight home runs in 10 starts. Three years later, Wisdom is the third-longest-tenured position player on the Cubs behind Happ and second baseman Nico Hoerner.

“That’s baffling to me because I still feel like the new guy,” Wisdom told the Tribune.

Wisdom still doesn’t park his car under the covered spots in the Cubs players’ lot, and he won’t sit in the front of the team bus despite how long he has been on the big-league squad. Even when current teammates tell him he’s earned the right to those perks, he thinks back to how he used to see Bryant, Rizzo and Báez enjoy those benefits.

“I just don’t feel like that’s where I should be right now,” Wisdom said.

And yet Wisdom’s journey over the last three years is a testament to his perseverance and adaptability. It can be challenging for a non-established big leaguer to get a shot during a transitory phase for an organization, such as the Cubs experienced from 2021-22, and still have a role when the team enters its win-now phase. Through the Frank Schwindels and Rafael Ortegas and Alfonso Rivases the Cubs have cycled through, Wisdom remains.

“He’s been asked to do a lot of different things and embraced every role and been a great teammate the whole time,” Happ said to the Tribune. “Just all around what he brings to the clubhouse, the positivity and not asking questions or demanding things, but just doing whatever is asked of him is super valuable. He’s really humble, and he’s done a lot of very, very impressive things in his time here that we as teammates really recognize.”

Wisdom’s prodigious power while making the most of his opportunities against lefties has helped him forge a path to contributing to the Cubs’ success.

“A lot of it probably has to do with him being a first-rounder out of college and then not making the big leagues probably as quick as he thought or what some other people probably thought,” hitting coach Dustin Kelly told the Tribune. “But just the way that he was able to grind through and know that as he started making these little swing adjustments and getting a little bit more on plane and doing all of this damage but with a lower ball flight at times, it just shows to his work ethic and how resilient he is.

“Knowing that this is his calling is to come up here and put the ball in the seats and put some really good at-bats together.”

The Cubs represent Wisdom’s fourth organization after beginning his professional career as a first-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. He signed with the Cubs in August 2020 during the pandemic-shortened season shortly after he was released by the Seattle Mariners. Wisdom logged two hitless pinch-hit at-bats during the final days of the regular season and re-signed on a minor-league deal in February 2021.

Wisdom is one of the last remaining links on the current roster to the 2016 World Series championship team. Playing alongside Rizzo, Bryant and Báez for those 2 1/2 months leading up to the 2021 trade deadline, and learning about mentality and attitude from Jason Heyward during the two seasons Wisdom’s home locker stall was next to the veteran outfielder, all provided valuable insight.

“It feels long ago but it doesn’t at the same time,” Wisdom said. “I took away how to be a pro, how to be a Cub and the work and the process behind what it took to be a World Series champion. That’s a special group to be included in for that little bit of time. It meant a lot for sure.”

When Wisdom looks back on the last three years, two words come to mind: whirlwind and gratefulness.

“Just to be thankful to have a job and coming into this organization with that mindset really helped me, and I’m super appreciative of that,” Wisdom said.

Wisdom, 32, traces the success he has experienced with his current fit on the 2024 roster as a platoon starter against left-handed pitchers to the same niche role he had when he first was called up to the Cubs until he earned more playing time with an everyday spot. That opportunity coincided with the Cubs’ massive sell-off at the 2021 trade deadline, leaving a clear path to starting most games.

In the process, Wisdom’s 28 home runs set the franchise’s rookie record, breaking Bryant’s mark.

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“That rookie home run thing was huge for me because it was like, ‘oh dang, he can actually play here every day,’” Wisdom said. “Putting up the homers and the damage each year after that has helped me stick around for sure.”

Instead of being a footnote in Cubs history as part of the “Schwisdom” era, Wisdom entered 2024 coming off three consecutive seasons with at least 23 home runs. His 78 career home runs as a Cub entering Monday put him 38th in franchise history.

Wisdom was shifted into more of a lefty platoon player during the second half of last year, which is how manager Craig Counsell has largely continued to utilize him. He’s relied on what he learned when the Cubs first called him up in 2021 with how to handle a reduced role. Wisdom is giving the Cubs exactly what they need. In 19 games, Wisdom has collected 12 hits — seven for extra bases — with a .346 on-base percentage, .522 slugging percentage and 144 OPS+.

“What makes him impressive is the consistency of his at-bat regardless of how often he’s getting them, it just speaks to his level of preparation,” Hoerner told the Tribune. “Him not coming up as a young prospect with us, I think that’s a big part of why he’s able to handle it well. All of that and each step of his career with different organizations is a part of why he’s able to handle some things that some guys wouldn’t be able to.”

Sometimes it’s the little moments that hit Wisdom the hardest. There are times he spots an old teammate, like Rizzo or Bryant, on second base while watching video of an old at-bat he had against that day’s starting pitcher. He might catch a highlight from 2021 that brings back memories. And then, as he did on the field before Tuesday’s game at Wrigley Field, he spots a kid wearing his No. 16 jersey.

“It’s kind of come full circle,” Wisdom said, “and it’s nice to have that perspective.”