Another Farewell to former Chicago Cubs Manager David Ross

David Ross is once again saying goodbye to the Chicago Cubs after guiding them through a difficult period including a pandemic, a lockout, and another rebuild.
Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs
Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages
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The Chicago Cubs shocked the world with their signing of former Brewers manager Craig Counsell as their skipper for the next five years. It's the right move at the right time - one that proves Jed Hoyer is ready to take this team to the next level by snagging a best-in-slot baseball mind. Cubs fans have every right to be excited and Hoyer deserves all the praise in the world for pulling off such a brazen and impactful move.

Alas, there's the cold business side of making a move like this and it involves a beloved member of the Cubs organization. David Ross, through no real fault of his own, is without a job and, depending on what happens, may have managed his last game. Hoyer made it abundantly clear that the move was less about how Ross managed and more about jumping at the chance to bring in Counsell a la Rick Renteria and Joe Maddon in 2015. That doesn't take away the sting of such a sudden shake-up after both Hoyer and Tom Ricketts reaffirmed that he was the guy.

Cubs fans were certainly harsh on Ross for his managing skills. He made some controversial decisions in terms of who gets playing time, favoring veterans like Eric Hosmer and Jason Heyward over young and promising prospects, and his propensity for bunting at times was maddening. His in-game decision-making combined with certain softer factors like how he handled the media didn't sit well with a lot of people, to say the least.

When you look closer, however, it's clear that he was far from a poor skipper for this team given the circumstances. He was likely the right guy to handle such a transitory period. Ross came on to helm the Cubs through the 2020 season as Hoyer and Theo Epstein's choice to succeed Maddon. In that time, his record was 262-284 which is hardly terrible considering his tenure included a shortened pandemic season, two rebuilding years affected by COVID and a lockout, and a borderline competitive final season.

What made Ross a favorite of Hoyer and the front office was that however you felt about his management in the game or his lineups, he was beloved by his players and kept them together through some brutal stretches. In 2021, he coaxed a half-decent performance out of a Cubs team filled with replacements following a massive sell-off. He also deserves some credit for rallying the beleaguered 2022 team to a solid 39-31 run in the second half of the season that made their record not nearly as dreadful as it could have been. That performance gave hope that 2023 could be better than expected and it was exactly that.

At ten games below .500 during the lowest point of their season, the Cubs were able to rally back into playoff contention, avoiding another fire sale. Ross is at least partly responsible for the team even competing down the stretch by ensuring they continued to work hard when all hope for a competitive season seemed lost. Even though they ultimately suffered a collapse and lost out to the eventual National League champion Diamondbacks, they still beat projections with 83 wins.

The thing is, managers often get an unjust amount of flak for the work they do. It takes a truly dreadful manager to negatively impact a team. One of the most important things they can do is create a good environment for everyone to succeed. Ross did that. It's something he's been doing since 2015 when he joined the Cubs as they emerged from their lengthy rebuild. As the team's backup catcher, he acted as a sort of assistant manager for the team known for helping build a positive environment in the clubhouse focused on hard work.

Then, in 2016, thanks to Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, he became the Grandpa Rossy everyone knows and loves, posting a respectable .229/.338/.446 slash line in his final season. Capping off the year with a home run in the World Series off of Andrew Miller at the height of his powers, no less, he won a deserved spot in Cubs fans' hearts.

At the end of the day, it's important to remember the good that Ross accomplished in a Cubs uniform. He was a critical part of the 2016 World Series team, but even as a manager, he captured the respect of nearly every player who entered his dugout. Moreover, he did so while being forced to deal with unfathomably bad circumstances in his first three years with the team. He has more than earned his place in this organization's history. Hopefully, he gets another shot to coach somewhere in the league.

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