CHICAGO -- On the final day of the regular season, players inside the Cubs' clubhouse were still absorbing the news that Joe Maddon would not be back as the team's manager in 2020. It was natural, even as that reality sunk in, to ask their thoughts on the possibility of
CHICAGO -- On the final day of the regular season, players inside the Cubs' clubhouse were still absorbing the news that Joe Maddon would not be back as the team's manager in 2020. It was natural, even as that reality sunk in, to ask their thoughts on the possibility of David Ross landing the job.
"He's my biggest mentor in this game other than, really, Joe," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said.
Ross made a significant impact in his two-year stop with the Cubs as a player, and now he has a chance to make an even bigger mark on the franchise as its next manager.
On Thursday, the Cubs formally announced that Ross is Maddon’s successor via a three-year contract with a club option for 2023. The Cubs have scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. CT/noon ET on Monday to introduce Ross as the 55th manager in franchise history. It can be seen live on MLB.com and cubs.com.
“David is as gifted a leader as I’ve ever come across,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a release. “And I expect him to become a great manager. He is a natural connector with a high baseball IQ and a passion for winning.
“David has always stood out for his ability to cultivate the ingredients of a winning culture -- accountability, hard work, hustle, competitiveness, trust, togetherness, and team identity.”
The news first broke on Wednesday morning via several outlets, including MLB.com, with David Kaplan and Jesse Rogers of ESPN first reporting the expected hiring.
“He’s a proven winner and we look forward to him leading our team back to the postseason,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a release.
The 42-year-old Ross had been serving as a special assistant under Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, and as an analyst for ESPN. Ross not only has a strong rapport in place with the front office, but relationships already built with players from his time as a backup catcher for Chicago in the 2015-16 campaigns.
Behind the scenes, Ross earned a reputation as a leader in the clubhouse, especially when it came to offering the kind of veteran edge that held teammates accountable. The catcher also became a fan favorite as "Grandpa Rossy" before reaching cult hero status with his home run off Andrew Miller in Game 7 of the '16 World Series.
“My time with this organization has been special since the day I joined,” Ross said in a release. “So to continue with the club in this role is a blessing for which I’m so very thankful. We have accomplished so much together since 2015, and my desire to lead this organization to another World Series championship could not be any stronger.”
To this day, no one has caught more of Jon Lester's career innings than Ross. Like Rizzo, Lester still considers Ross a close friend, which will be a fascinating dynamic to follow as the former catcher transitions from teammate to manager. Lester was asked about that potential scenario on Sept. 29.
"That's something that you'd just have to learn as you go," Lester said. "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."
It is worth noting that there are only 10 players from that 2016 World Series team under club control for next season. That number might also decrease further this offseason, depending on what kinds of roster moves are made via trade or otherwise. It is not as though Ross is inheriting a full roster of former teammates and friends.
In the Cubs' initial statement about the hiring, Ross noted that “a lot has been made, and rightfully so,” of his connection to the ’16 team. He said that will not get in the way of him holding players accountable.
“Having those relationships going into this will be a bonus, no doubt about it,” Ross said. “But those guys know I’ll be the first to hold them accountable, the first to demand their best daily effort and the first to let them know about it if they give anything but their best.
“I never had a problem dishing out a lot of tough love as their teammate, and that won’t change as their manager."
One year ago, Ross was in the mix to serve as Maddon's bench coach after Brandon Hyde moved to the managerial role in Baltimore. With family in mind, Ross declined that job, which went to Mark Loretta. Still, as the year wore on and Epstein made it clear that Maddon's expiring contract would not be addressed until season's end, Ross' name persisted as a possible replacement.
Besides Ross, the Cubs interviewed Loretta and first-base coach Will Venable as internal options. Chicago brought former Yankees manager Joe Girardi and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler in for formal interviews as well. Astros bench coach Joe Espada was interviewed twice and emerged as a strong candidate, too.
Ross does not boast the managing experience of Girardi or Kapler, or the kind of resume that Espada has built as he worked his way up the Minor and Major League coaching ranks. They could not offer Ross' already-established relationship with much of the Cubs' front office and players, which should allow him to really hit the ground running.
“David’s connection to the organization and his relationships with his former teammates could be assets initially,” Epstein said. “But they were not factors in our decision nor will they be critical to his long-term success in the role. He earned the job on the merits, and he will move the team forward in a new and different direction.
“We are excited to have David as our manager and look forward to working together to foster a winning culture and build the next Cubs championship team.”
Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.