"There's going to be rumors flying everywhere," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said on the final day of the regular season. "There's going to be sources. There's going to be no sources that say they're sources. It's going to be a zoo -- rightfully so -- as far as who's getting the interview, who's in Chicago."
The Cubs turned some of the rumors into reality on Tuesday, when the team confirmed that Mark Loretta, David Ross and Will Venable represent the team's internal candidates. There will also be external contenders for the vacated manager's seat, but Chicago has not revealed any of those names in this early stage of the search.
Loretta served as Maddon's bench coach this past season, following nine seasons as a special assistant to baseball operations with the Padres. Venable has worked as the Cubs' first-base coach and outfield instructor for the past two years. Before that, Venable worked as a special assistant to Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, after a nine-year playing career.
Epstein said on Monday that he hopes to begin interviews for the managerial job next week.
Ross' name is the one that has gained the most momentum publicly, given the part he played in the 2015-16 seasons for the Cubs as a backup catcher and clubhouse leader. Ross is currently a special assistant to baseball operations for Chicago and an analyst for ESPN.
"I think it's one of the best jobs in baseball," Ross said during ESPN's Baseball Tonight on Sunday. "I've got a lot of close ties with those guys. I think the interest would be there. I think my heart is drawn to that dugout a little bit."
From Grandpa Rossy to Cubs manager David Ross?
"I've talked to him about it before," Rizzo said. "He's in a really good place right now at home with his family and what he's doing. He's happy. [There's] pros and cons. He's my biggest mentor in this game other than, really, Joe."
The 42-year-old Ross has won two World Series rings, and delivered one of the greatest home runs in Cubs history with his blast off Andrew Miller in Game 7 of the 2016 Fall Classic. Ross has 15 Major League seasons under his belt and no one to this day has been behind the plate for more of Jon Lester's career innings than Ross.
"I talk to him as a friend -- not as a potential boss," Lester said.
Lester was asked if having a friend as a manager could work.
"I think if that happens, that's something that you'd just have to learn as you go," Lester said. "I mean, I would like to think that Tito [manager Terry Francona] was a pretty good friend of mine, but still my manager [with the Red Sox] when it came down to it. Obviously, the dynamic's different. I didn't play with Tito, and that sort of thing.
"But when it came down to it, he was my boss. So, whoever that guy is, if it's Rossy, then I'm sure we'll butt heads just like I butted heads with Joe. But, at the same time, I would respect the hell out of him. He's my boss, so if he makes a decision he makes a decision and you have to respect that."
During his 81-minute discussion with reporters on Monday, Epstein said that Ross' connection to the players from the 2015-16 seasons would not be a driving factor in his candidacy. Epstein emphasized repeatedly that the Cubs need to focus on the future, rather than getting caught in the "winner's trap" of looking back at the methods that worked in the past.
"David Ross has a lot of great things going for him," Epstein said. "I would say his connection to the players on this team, and especially his connection to the 2016 team, are not necessarily assets that distinguish him. Those are not necessarily things that are going to be important to us. I think Rossy is a really attractive candidate.
"And he's going to be evaluated on the merits, what he can bring to the table as a Major League manager, given his skills, given his experiences, given his world view, given what he knows about winning, all those things, just as every other managerial candidate will be evaluated."