Cubs manager David Ross' latest in-game decision is hot seat-worthy

Chicago Cubs v Oakland Athletics
Chicago Cubs v Oakland Athletics / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

David Ross has faced his fair share of criticism since succeeding Joe Maddon as Cubs manager following the 2019 season, but his first three years at the helm were anything but typical.

The 2020 season, as we all know, was shortened to 60 games, played in empty stadiums and was about as irregular as humanly possible. Still, Chicago got off to a hot start and did just enough to win the NL Central (only to be quickly bounced from the postseason by the Marlins). Then, coming off 'biblical losses', the front office jettisoned NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish that winter and by August, the entire core of the 2016 club was dismantled: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo - all gone.

Last year, ownership and the front office fielded what amounted to a Triple-A roster, and it's hard to judge Ross solely by wins and losses given the hand he was dealt. A strong second half performance gave fans hope heading into 2023 and, after a busy winter, expectations are certainly higher this year. With those heightened expectations, though, comes more criticism of in-game decisions on a nightly basis.

From his bullpen usage to how he's utilized guys like Edwin Rios and Eric Hosmer, Ross is facing a much higher level of scrutiny this year: the team's 2-6 record in one-runs games, largely decided by last weekend's three-game sweep at the hands of Miami - all of which were one-run losses, isn't doing him any favors, either.

We're one month in. There's a lot of baseball left to be played. With the third-best run differential in the National League (and best in the division ), a 15-15 record entering action Thursday feels like this team has left a lot of wins on the table early this season. Ross' late-game decision on Wednesday in Washington just rubs salt in that wound, with Chicago dropping - you guessed it - another one-run game.

Cubs: David Ross calls for an ill-fated bunt from Eric Hosmer, whose spot on the roster needs to be seriously questioned at this point

With the Cubs trailing 2-1 in the top of the ninth, Seiya Suzuki and Trey Mancini got things started with back-to-back singles to open the frame. Then, the team's designated hitter came up - a pretty great scenario, right? Well, not so much because that DH was Eric Hosmer who, at best, is a league-average bat with pretty much no power.

Ross then decided that the best possible outcome in this matchup would be if Hosmer could move the runners up via a sacrifice bunt. This isn't the first time Ross has called for a bunt in a critical spot this year, but the result was the same.

Hosmer nearly bunted into a double play - and who could blame the guy? He was asked to do something he's only been successful in doing three times in his nearly 7,000 career plate appearances. The result was exactly what you'd expect - and the fact he was asked to bunt lays bare the shortcomings of how this roster is currently constructed.

Patrick Wisdom followed him, hitting into a twin-killing to end the game and drop the Cubs back to .500 on the year and 4 1/2 games back of the first-place Pirates. Now, Chicago is simply looking to salvage a series split against the Nationals, a team that should be a punching bag for a team with postseason aspirations.

In an ideal world, slugging first base prospect Matt Mervis, who continues to torch Triple-A pitching, is on the roster and gets a chance to do damage in that spot. Ross has to work with the guys he has and I understand that. I fully grasp Hosmer's tendency to pound balls into the ground and the fact Ross wanted to stay out of a double play there, but asking a guy who has no business laying down a bunt to do so with the game on the line is hardly the solution.

Next. Joe Maddon just can't stay out of his own way with his comments. dark

This roster is wildly flawed and, for whatever reasons, the Cubs refuse to simply put their best foot forward at the big league level - both with Mervis and Christopher Morel, who has been the best hitter in all of baseball this year with Iowa. Those decisions lead to scenarios like this which put Ross in a less than ideal position to succeed. But he did himself no favors with the bunt call with Hosmer at a time when the team is tripping over its feet offensively.