“Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about.” – John Sebastian, Welcome Back
If you still have yet to feel like David Ross being named the Cubs 55th manager wasn’t a foregone conclusion the minute Joe Maddon hopped into the Cousin Eddie and whisked off to the West Coast, yesterday’s presser to formally announce his hiring should leave little doubt. After watching the replay of the inauguration, I was left wondering why the team bothered to interview anybody else.
I was further perplexed by the great lengths to which Theo Epstein conducted those sessions. Joe Girardi met with the front office for eight hours and Joe Espada impressed the president of baseball operations so much he was called back a second time. But yesterday’s gathering certainly made it seem like Ross was the obvious choice all along. It also felt a lot like Epstein simply decided to just hire one of his best friends.
David Ross: “I’m going to be a manager that wants to watch the game and see how it plays out…I think managers that go in with a preset notion can sometimes get in trouble.”
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) October 28, 2019
And though one would hope that organizational nepotism wasn’t the sole qualification that put Ross in charge, nothing that was said yesterday revealed any real insight as to why the former catcher was chosen. At one point, Ross admitted that he may need more than a little help from his staff, at least at the onset of his managing career.
“The in-game stuff is going to take me a minute”, Ross confessed, “and it’ll be important that my bench coach is a step ahead of me.”
What? Though I appreciate the honesty, that’s the last thing I wanted to hear as part of his introductory statement. If needing to learn on the job was the difference maker in a second interview, one in which Epstein said that Ross “dominated,” it’s clear that no other candidate really had much of a chance. You’d expect that a new manager would have the loudest voice in the clubhouse. That may not be the case next season as Ross will apparently have to grow into the position.
And that’s not to say that a manager doesn’t truly rely on his bench coach.The fact of the matter is that Maddon was a lot more successful here in Chicago and in Tampa Bay with Davey Martinez by his side, and much has been made about the contributions of Espada during the Astros’ recent dominant run. But you have to at least consider that Ross may have been better groomed to take the reins had he served as second in charge previously.
So, after the love fest, I’ll reserve as much judgment as possible until Ross names his coaching staff. And though it seems we can expect that many of the faces that served under Maddon will remain in their positions next season, who Ross announces as his bench coach will be key to getting off on the right foot. If the new manager goes outside of the organization, one would hope he names somebody with clubhouse experience, a coaching lifer if you will, who can help co-lead the team the way Espada has in Houston.
Cubs News & Notes
- Ross has ties to this front office that go all the way back to his days with the Red Sox (subscription to The Athletic required).
- Despite earlier reports that the grievance Kris Bryant has filed against the Cubs may take months to settle, it’s being reported that a decision should come as early as the Winter Meetings. Those meetings take place December 8-12 in San Diego.
- Epstein addressed Maddon’s pipe dream of a 2020 World Series between the Angels and Cubs. “There’s a lot of work ahead on both sides before we can start talking that way. I look forward to the process of working and then playing our way into that conversation.”
In case you were wondering, free agency officially begins at 5pm ET on the fifth day after the conclusion of the Word Series. If the Astros win tonight, we can pop the champagne in celebration of this winter’s hot stove season on Sunday. The Cubs have two players with opt outs who must declare their intentions by that time, Yu Darvish and Jason Heyward, and both are said to be heavily leaning toward staying in Chicago.
On Monday, the Pirates announced the dismissal of general manager Neal Huntington. Kevan Graves will serve as interim general manager during the club’s search to fill the vacancy.
If you ask me, it was a bold and brazen way to promote breast cancer awaren…wait, this just in, apparently all that flashing behind home plate the other night was merely about promoting a cheeky internet site marketed to a specific demographic.
— New York Post (@nypost) October 28, 2019
New Music Tuesday
I haven’t been feeling well lately, but I had enough energy to head over to a record store sale over the weekend and it was well worth my effort. Nothing is more comforting when you are under the weather than new vinyl. I’m sure you’ll see my obvious ties to 1979 from Sunday’s column with my new selections.
- Fear of Music by Talking Heads – They seemed odd and far too motionless to have any chance at success, and then FM stations started playing Life During Wartime and suddenly David Byrne had a loud, musical pulse. I’m still shocked that John Hughes failed to recognize the Heads in any of his teenage-coming-of-age-in-the-80’s flicks. If you were a north suburban Chicagoan in 1979, this album was probably at the top of your playlists.
- Armed Forces by Elvis Costello & The Attractions – True story, my 15-year-old self believed that if I started digging alternative music, the girls at my high school would start digging me for my eclectic tastes. I’d have been better off sporting a Donna Summer t-shirt to class. The consolation prize was that I truly loved this album in ’79, and still do.
- London Calling by The Clash – Every collector has to have this LP if only for its cover’s reverent tribute to ‘56 by Elvis Presley. That said, there is not a bad song on this album, one which led to a two-year mini-explosion of Brit power pop punk fandom in the US. Train in Vain truly hasn’t aged.
They Said It
- “I think we’ve always felt, even going back to 2016, that David Ross has the potential to be a great manager. The charisma, the presence, the intelligence, the ability to hold guys accountable, all of those things are fantastic. I think we’ve always had him in mind.” – Jed Hoyer
- “Given the finalists we had, it presented a really difficult choice. But in the end, we came back to David’s special gifts as a leader. Things you just can’t teach, he excels at so much. He already has a head start on learning the things he needs to get up to speed on as a manager that we feel he’ll grow into being a special manager.” – Theo Epstein
- “It feels good to put [his Cubs number 3 jersey] back on.” – David Ross
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Accidents Will Happen by Elvis Costello & The Attractions – I’d be lying if I said I don’t have a bit of trepidation with Ross taking the reins during what is likely the last two seasons of the Cubs championship window.