MILWAUKEE — Cubs manager David Ross’ future with the club looks pretty secure for at least the last guaranteed year of his contract.
“I think Rossy did a great job,” chairman Tom Ricketts said during the Cubs’ 4-0 loss Sunday. “He creates a great clubhouse culture, the players love playing for him. He keeps a steady, balanced approach game in and game out, that you need over the course of 162 games.”
Not that Ross’ job was ever truly in question. Often social media speculation and venting is nothing more than speculation and venting. The consistent praise Ricketts and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer offered this year in support of Ross, whose contract includes a 2025 team option, reveals something about the club’s internal projections for the season.
If they thought Ross was hindering the roster Hoyer and his team put together, they wouldn’t be so overtly positive after the team finished 83-79 and out of the playoffs.
“Sure, that feels good,” Ross said of Ricketts’ vote of confidence. “Making the playoffs would feel better. Winning the World Series is going to feel better. I appreciate that, but I know the expectation here, and hold myself to a higher standard than where we’re at.”
The Cubs didn’t hire Ross to be a strategic genius. He didn’t even have minor-league managerial experience when they brought him in ahead of the 2020 season. But they saw his potential for managing people.
The rest can be learned. And Ross has been an eager student, from running though simulated games with the Cubs’ research and development group during the 2020 COVID-19 shut down, to seeing his decisions play out in a playoff chase this year.
“The manager in every market in baseball – other than maybe [the Braves] – everyone’s going to face that when you lose close games,” Hoyer said in Atlanta last week when asked about the criticism the loudest Cubs fans on social media have been shouting across the internet. “And the nature of our team is, it feels like we played so many close games. I think that probably magnifies it. But I don’t read it. And hopefully he doesn’t read it.”
When asked to evaluate Ross’ season, Hoyer and Ricketts both pointed to the Cubs’ climb from 10 games under .500 after being swept by the Angels in early June, to 12 games over after sweeping the Giants in early September.
“It looked like the season was over,” Ricketts said. “He didn’t let it go. And he got the guys back and playing hard, and we got here.”
Don’t just take it from the chairman.
“He did a great job in the middle of the season, when we were not where we wanted to be, about coming to work the same way every day,” left fielder Ian Happ said. “Being able to have good energy, and have the coaching staff have good energy every day, to make sure that we still had the ability to get back into it. And that part of the job is not easy.”
Said shortstop Dansby Swanson: “We follow him. And a lot of our personality comes from him as a manager. He’ll probably be critical of himself. But that’s just something that’s going to help us continue to grow and get better, is his willingness to get better, which obviously bleeds over into the players and the rest of the organization.”
Of course, “here” — playing meaningful games in September but falling short of the playoffs — won’t be good enough for long. It shouldn’t be good enough next year.
Look no further than the South Side three years ago for an example of a team firing the manager of a rebuild before launching into what they expected to be a championship window.
When it’s time to make that final push, does Ricketts think Ross is the person for the job?
“I think Rossy had a great season,” Ricketts said, “and the players play hard for him, and he’s our guy.”