Was that Charlton Heston behind the plate for the Cubs Wednesday night? Maybe Clint Eastwood? No, the old man with the big gun was none other than David Ross, who appears to have found the fountain of youth as he plays out his final season.
In a game that will be remembered for all manner of Little League gimmickry, Ross’s throws kept the Cubs in the game. He picked a napping Jonathan Lucroy off second to end the 4th inning and caught Scooter Gennett and Jonathan Villar stealing to end the 6th and 8th innings, respectively.
Though it went down in a more round-about manner, Ross was also responsible for catching Alex Presley trying to steal third. Actually, it was more like Ross’s heads-up play forced Presley into a TOOTBLAN. Like Lucroy in the previous inning, the Brewer’s left fielder had drifted a bit too far from the base and Ross fired up out of his crouch to make a play. Rather than rush a throw, however, the catcher ran right at the runner. Textbook stuff, folks.
Ross continued to go at Presley until the runner finally broke for third. The toss went to third baseman Tommy La Stella, who then fired to Addison Russell to make the tag. Were it not for Travis Wood’s extra-inning heroics and the crazy defensive shifts, this game would have been remembered for Ross’s tosses. I’m pretty sure the ol’ graybeard is okay with someone else getting the spotlight.
I’m pretty sure the grumbling over the veteran’s roster spot has quieted, but I wanted to provide a little more evidence in his favor just in case. According to FanGraphs, Ross now has tallied 5 defensive runs saved, second only to the Royals’ Salvador Perez (8). Ross is also second in FanGraphs’ overall Def metric, boasting a 5.4 against a 6.7 for Perez. Third place: 3.7 for Kevin Plawecki. To add a bit more context to that, Ross has caught 28 fewer innings than Plawecki and 147 1/3 fewer than Perez.
Ross also ranks fifth in MLB in runners caught stealing (8), but has caught at least 25 fewer innings than anyone else in the top 15. He’s put up 0.9 WAR thus far on the young season and adds a little seasoning to a young team, the kind of contribution that can’t really be measured.
David Ross may not look like much, what with the perpetual salt and pepper 5 o’clock shadow and close-cropped, thinning hair. But the arm hasn’t aged a bit and the instincts are as sharp as ever, facts that opponents continue to learn the hard way. I almost feel bad shedding any more light on the topic because it’s fun to watch Ross completely punk all the runners who would dare to test him.
On a team with so much exciting young talent, it’s fun to see the gnarled vet leading the charge every now and again. Here’s to hoping Grandpa Rossy still has a few bullets left come October.