Remember back when the Cubs were interviewing potential managers and there was this idea that David Ross couldn’t do the job because he was friends with all the players? It was a silly concept at the time, but it’s been completely put to bed now that those former bosom buddies are all gone as Ross winds down his second season as skipper.
That means we’ve got to come up with a new conspiracy theory or narrative or whatever you want to call it, like the notion that Jed Hoyer and Tom Ricketts will scapegoat Ross as they look to deflect blame for the awful season. Except you can’t really do that with much credence when a roster that was already deeply flawed to begin with was blown up at the trade deadline.
Besides, if Ross is supposed to bear the blame for this year, what happens if the Cubs suck again in ’22? The real scapegoat move would be to Renteria him by keeping him around until they plan to compete again, though by that time it’s possible Ross will really know what he’s doing. Unless, of course, the Cubs do fully intend to go big this winter and would prefer a more seasoned leader.
That seems unlikely for a number of reasons, though there is actually a pretty clear and affordable path to at least moderate success, and Hoyer gave Ross a vote of confidence prior to Friday’s doubleheader.
“I think he’s already an excellent manager and he has a chance to be really special at this job,” the team president told Tony Andracki of Marquee Sports Network.
With full understanding that Hoyer could just be blowing smoke since that’s what people in his position do, it really doesn’t make any sense to move on from Ross at this point. In addition to the aforementioned logic, the manager hasn’t really had a chance to put his stamp on this Cubs team yet. That probably sounds a little silly when we’re talking about someone with two years on the job, but hear me out.
Last year was just a 60-game season in which spring training was cut short and subsequent communication took place over Zoom. Though Ross knew many of his players, he didn’t have much time to establish rapport with the new guys. Between that and trying to learn the job on the fly, 2020 was just a matter of trying to hang on for dear life.
This season brought new challenges of its own as players went through the first half with clouds of speculation hanging over their heads. It appeared as though things had really come together with a hot month of May that had the Cubs looking like contenders, but then it all fell apart and the season was effectively over a week into July.
Once Hoyer admitted they’d be sellers, Ross had even less of an impact than managers normally do. But if you’re looking for an example of his aptitude for the job, you might what to look at what’s happened since the 12-game losing streak that began shortly after the fire sale. The Cubs have gone 15-16 over their last 31 games with a seven-game win streak in there, and they did it with very few household names.
Look, I know a lot of people want to blame Ross or maybe just think he’s not the right man for the job, but no one is going to be able to do better if they aren’t given a roster that can win. Getting to the playoffs last year was actually pretty impressive all things considered, and just keeping the Cubs from losing 100 games this year could be considered a feat.
If things keep sliding despite meaningful attempts to improve the club this winter, however, that’s when you can start putting together wish lists for a new manager.