The Chicago Cubs and the David Ross impact
Can one Chicago Cub, David Ross, impact the team like this? Apparently so.
Can one person impact an entire baseball club, especially the Chicago Cubs? Apparently, yes. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein thought so when he selected David Ross as the Cubs new manager this year. Ross always seemed to be the missing piece that has kept the Cubs from returning to their 2016 championship form.
The roster from 2016 isn’t the same as it is today, but pretty close. There have been underlying issues that have plagued the Cubs during the past three seasons, which has prevented them from going deep into October. It’s unclear how the first-year manager will do, but it is clear he’s proactive in addressing these issues early in spring training.
Attention to detail
During the last few seasons, there has been a lack of urgency and focus on the Cubs. Many mental lapses crept up last year as the Cubs made more outs on the basepaths than any other MLB team. GM Jed Hoyer described their baserunning in 2019 as “a massive failure.” They ranked 22nd in fielding as they made several errors.
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There is no doubt that many of the players from the 2016 team have been coasting. Can you blame them? They are Chicago baseball legends. They accomplished the ultimate goal so early in their careers that they have nowhere else to go.
Kris Bryant won Rookie of the Year, NL MVP and a World Series Championship all by the age of 24. How do you top that? Joe Maddon also coasted a bit during the past few seasons, which contributed to some complacency and lack of focus. However, he certainly does not deserve all the blame he’s been receiving. This is on the players too.
Ross has already sent a message on prioritizing baserunning by naming Bryant as the Cubs leadoff hitter. The team has struggled to find a consistent leadoff man since Dexter Fowler left after 2016. They’ve tried Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ, but haven’t found any viable consistency at the top of the lineup.
In addition to Bryant’s career .385 OBP, Ross knows how important it is to start fast and put pressure on the opposing starter from the first pitch. Ross’ decision on having consistent daily lineups vs. having to platoon players around the diamond is setting the tone for the upcoming season.
Javier Baez talked about last year’s team saying, “we weren’t prepared.” (Subscription Required) Ross will not allow that to happen this year. He’s competed alongside many of the Cub players and knows what it takes for them to win.
Being a former catcher, he knows preparation better than anybody because the position demands it. Scouting reports, bunt defenses and calling a game are just a few things a catcher has to prepare for. Not to mention hitting and fielding as well. Ross prioritizes the little things that help win ballgames. Like backing up a base, in spring training, in February.
The post-2016 Chicago Cubs have been synonymous with talent and potential. Unfortunately, many of the players haven’t lived up to their potential. Ross’ leadership and guidance will help bridge that gap because he understands that talent wins games, but not ultimately championships. He can build confidence in younger players, but also connect with veterans.
He can communicate with a member of the R&D team just as effectively as with an area scout. His attention to detail, accountability and serious commitment to winning is why the Cubs will win the NL Central and head back to the postseason in 2020.
Ironically, baseball teams are now built on quantitative data, yet it takes something unquantifiable to win the World Series. Enter Ross.