Chicago Cubs face impossible task in evaluating David Ross as manager

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Holding a big league managerial gig is quite the accomplishment. After all, just 30 such roles exist throughout Major League Baseball. But the position also comes with plenty of uncertainty and the potential to become a scapegoat – something Chicago Cubs fans have seen many times over in the past.

Sometimes, even when you’re doing a fine job, you still end up on the chopping block, as was the case when Joe Maddon became available following the 2014 season thanks to an obscure clause in his contract that allowed him to leave Tampa Bay upon the departure of Andrew Friedman. Chicago jumped at the chance to add Maddon, jettisoning Rick Renteria in the process.

Of course, Renteria got a similar treatment on the South Side, enduring a lengthy rebuild only to have ownership lure Hall of Famer Tony LaRussa out of retirement as the team turned the corner and became a contender here in 2021. Now, with the Cubs embarking on a rebuild or re-tooling (whatever you want to call it) of their own, the team’s current manager, David Ross, will no doubt be re-evaluated, as well.

It’s hard to think of a time in the history of the game where a manager has dealt with so much in his first two seasons at the helm. Last year, baseball – and the entire world – was ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a shortened 60-game season being played in empty stadiums with teams handcuffed by an array of health and safety restrictions and guidelines.

"“I can’t think of a more challenging first two years as a manager than what he’s had on his plate, between last year — whatever that was — and then obviously the changes that have Happened this year as well,” infielder Nico Hoerner told NBC Chicago. “If there’s learning by experience, he’s definitely gotten every experience so far.”"

Then, in year two as Cubs skipper, Ross lost almost every valuable piece on his roster – watching Jed Hoyer send Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Joc Pederson packing at the trade deadline. Of course, last winter, Chicago traded the 2020 NL Cy Young runner-up, Yu Darvish, and Victor Caratini to San Diego in a salary dump, too – subtracting a major piece from the starting rotation.

Chicago Cubs: Next year, you can expect David Ross to be under the microscope

2022 will mark the third and final season of Ross’ initial three-year contract to manage the team. We have no idea what next year’s Cubs team will look like. Yes, the front office has slashed payroll in a dramatic fashion, but it remains to be seen if Hoyer will go big in free agency or if he’ll instead add guys on one-year deals in hopes of selling again next July.

If that’s the case – and Ross is dealt yet another sub-par hand as manager – evaluating him will prove difficult. Even though he knows it’s about wins and losses, there’s only so much you can do with a roster that’s obviously deeply flawed.

To this point, Hoyer and Ross haven’t talked about his role with the team long-term. And that’s not  coincidence. The future is murky – but for his part, the 2020 NL Manager of the Year finalist wants to lead the next great Cubs team from the top step of the dugout.

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"“I talk to Jed daily about baseball stuff. We have a really good rapport, and we think a lot alike in terms of where we want to go and do things. If he thinks I’m the right man for the job, and everybody likes what I’m doing, great. If they don’t, that’s the position I’m in. … Some day we’ll find out.”"