David Ross was an unexpectedly great addition to the 2015 Chicago Cubs. Backup catchers have always had something of a cult following, but the Rossy Horror Picture Show was a smash hit in Chicago despite him not having too many smash hits in Chicago. Well, there was that one home run in Game 7 of the World Series off of Andrew Miller.
But I guess that one was in Cleveland.
In the complex and evolving experiment that is team chemistry, Ross was the unlikely catalyst. His ability to serve as a bridge between veterans and young players, and between Joe Maddon and the entire roster, was invaluable to the Cubs’ success in 2016. Which is why some fans were still hoping he’d return to active duty at various points throughout this past season.
Those calls for a return grew louder recently, though they’d taken on a different tone. Fans wanted Ross back in a Cubs uniform to replace Dave Martinez, who was recently named the Nationals’ manager. Not only is Ross familiar with Joe Maddon and the core players, but his first name provides an extra level of continuity for Maddon. Win-win, right?
Sure, except that you’ve got to look at what Ross has been doing and why he’s been doing it. Part of the reason he wanted to get away from baseball was physical, avoiding the beatings he took as a backstop. More than that was a strong desire to spend more time with his young family. When I’m 40, my daughter will be 13 and my son 11; that’s not something I’d be excited about having summers off to deal with.
Ross got a little later start than me, so he had a 7-year-old daughter, 6-year-old son, and baby daughter to think about when he hung ’em up. And it’s not as though a single season is enough to make up for the past several years, particularly when you consider that Papa Rossy wasn’t necessarily taking it easy after walking away from the game. Between Dancing With the Stars and his duties for ESPN, he was still traveling all over the place and being pretty much un-retired.
Why, then, would he want to get back into the daily grind of a 162-season right now? It just doesn’t make any sense. Ross said as much in a text message to the Tribune’s Mark Gonzales.
“Hard to see me jumping back in,” Ross said. “Was a little busy this year and never got real time off.”
More than just Ross’s desire to maintain a little distance for a while longer, he isn’t necessarily a great fit for the Cubs at this point anyway. Like, it’s cool that fans would get all the feels, but it’s not as though you plug in this former player as coach and get the same results. First off, he’s never served in a coaching capacity and his duties would be entirely different from anything he’s done before.
Besides — and Gonzales notes this as well — the Cubs already have a catching instructor, and a damn good one, in Mike Borzello. Would Rossy just be there to yuk it up with Bryzzo and try to further his internship? I’m sure he could grow into the role, but this isn’t really a time for that. Maddon needs a proven lieutenant who can step into a position Martinez held for the last decade or so.
That’s why it makes a little more sense for Brandon Hyde to move from first base coach to bench coach. He had actually held that role under Ricky Renteria and was displaced by Martinez when Maddon was hired. Though he’s not necessarily a Maddon guy, he’d provide a measure of continuity that is lacking in the wake of all the other coaching changes.
In an odd wrinkle, Hyde taking over for Martinez could mean Doug Dascenzo potentially returning as first base coach. He’d been hired for that position but was shuffled to a minor league coaching position after the aforementioned moves.
So while it’s entirely possible ol’ Rossy gets the itch to return to the Cubs — or *gasp* another team — in the future, it’s probably not happening this winter.