by Mohammad Samra / Staff Reporter
The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals took baseball’s center stage for the 115th World Series late last month. While the Nationals completed the incredible journey to their first title in franchise history, the Chicago Cubs made headlines around the league by signing former catcher David Ross as the team’s next head coach.
The move has been met with mixed reactions. One pressing concern is Ross’ lack of managerial experience. He has 14 years of playing time under his belt, but coaching from the bench as a manager is vastly different from being a veteran player who keeps the team in check.
Ross will also undoubtedly face criticism as he grows into his role as manager. Previous skipper Joe Maddon was hired as the Cubs were preparing to make the leap from lovable losers to legitimate championship contenders.
Four winning seasons and a curse-busting championship later, Ross inherits a team nearing the end of its championship window — a stark contrast to the roster Maddon started with.
If the team gets off to a slow start, fans will already be calling for Ross’ job, causing further off-the-field chaos for a team that already has enough to worry about on the field itself, like the absence of a legitimate leadoff hitter, or the lack of depth in the bullpen.
The familiarity between Ross and most players on this Chicago roster provides reasons to be optimistic about his potential to lead this team back to a championship before it’s too late. He played an essential role as a veteran leader during the Cubs’ 2016 heart-racing Game 7 World Series matchup against the Cleveland Indians. FOX captured an exchange between Ross, who was wearing a mic, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. “I can’t control myself right now, I’m trying my best,” Rizzo said as he placed his arm around Ross, “Just continue to breathe, that’s all you can do buddy,” Ross replied, as he remained expressionless.
Ross’ ability to keep his emotions in check during the most stressful of moments can be one of his biggest strengths heading into next season. One of the things that hindered Maddon as manager was his tendency to over-coach in high-pressure situations. If the Cubs lost Game 7 against the Indians, he would’ve received nearly all of the blame because of his questionable decision making — like pulling starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks after only four innings.
The success of the Cubs over Ross’ three-year contract hinges on what the front office manages to do during this upcoming offseason. History has proven that teams don’t need the largest payroll to be perennial winners (although the Cubs will have one of, if not the highest payrolls in all of baseball next season), but if Chicago fails to make the right moves to fill their needs, it’ll make the transition for Ross much more difficult than necessary.
Many championship-caliber teams find themselves unsure of what to do heading into next season. The Los Angeles Dodgers have dominated the regular season, but only have two World Series appearances and a shocking first round exit to show for it. The New York Yankees sought redemption against the Astros after Houston eliminated them in 2015 and 2017, but found themselves outmatched again in the American League Championship Series once again.
The Cubs are in the same boat of slowly declining teams who had hopes of becoming a dynasty. The group of players they have at the moment are talented enough to make a playoff run, but they are not yet ready to be considered as favorites to win a second World Series in four years.
Maybe David Ross is the fresh, yet familiar face that Chicago needs to contend for what looks to be a wide open National League pennant, or maybe he’ll helplessly watch the team sink even further over the next few seasons — only time will tell.