The Cubs are hiring former major-league catcher David Ross, who had most recently served as a special assistant to baseball operations in Chicago’s front office and an analyst for ESPN, as their new manager. ESPN 1000’s David Kaplan, ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand were among the first to report the news on Wednesday morning:
While managers with no professional coaching experience were all the rage for a while — Brad Ausmus, Mike Matheny, Robin Ventura, A.J. Hinch, Craig Counsell, and Aaron Boone are among the men who came into their first major-league managerial jobs this way — that trend seemed to have gone away in recent years, with teams beginning to look more towards second and third-chance hires as well as veteran coaches. Ross, who has not done any formal coaching since retiring after the 2016 season, is at least one more former player who will be asked to lead a big-league team without climbing the ladder the traditional way.
Ross had been widely discussed as the likely successor to Joe Maddon dating back to last offseason, and that possibility actually had been discussed on some level dating back to his playing days. The fact that they’re hiring Ross — a veteran mentor on the 2016 World Series-winning club who was affectionately known as “Grandpa Rossy” to the team’s youthful core — likely means that the Cubs will try to keep the majority of that now-more-experienced core: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Kyle Schwarber, and Willson Contreras, among others. But as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal pointed out on Twitter Monday morning, those existing relationships could lead to an awkward dynamic:
Dynamic with Ross managing former #Cubs teammates will be fascinating. Ross is affable, but also can be brutally honest. Cubs thought Maddon shied away from tough conversations. By taking job, Ross is making a choice, knowing he might damage existing relationships in new role.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 23, 2019
Though they ultimately went with the candidate that most expected them to hire when they fired Maddon last month, the Cubs did throw some people off the scent for a while, conducting multiple interviews with Astros bench coach Joe Espada — who is seemingly better-trained to integrate best analytical practices into the game for a data-driven front office than Ross will be — as well as singular interviews with longtime major-league manager Joe Girardi, former Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler, and Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta (the latter two of whom played for the Red Sox while Theo Epstein was the GM). All four of those individuals have more coaching experience than Ross, with Girardi and Kapler having previous knowledge of how to lead a team at the highest level, but the Cubs obviously see enough in Ross to overlook the much more qualified candidates and rely on him to take them back to the World Series.