Just weeks ago, it looked like David Ross was a legit NL Manager of the Year candidate. With the recent downfall of the team, could it be time for the Cubs to move on from him this offseason if they fail to make the playoffs?
The job of managing an MLB team is certainly a fickle one. When the team is playing well, all is great. The fans will praise the manager for making all the right moves. Maybe, he picked the right pinch hitter who got a big hit. Maybe, he chose the right time to take out a starter, and the reliever was shut down. Or maybe he switched up the lineup construction and the team got hot with the bats.
On the other hand, when things aren’t going well everyone calls for his head. The pinch hitter struck out with runners on, the reliever gave up a hit when the starter looked to be cruising, or the lineup change doesn’t work and the cold streak continues. But when is the right time to move on? Sometimes it is obvious other times it isn’t. Could David Ross’ time be up if the Cubs don’t come back to earn a playoff berth? Let’s explore it.
David Ross is nearly through four years as the Cubs skipper. To this point, he has accrued a record of 257-277, won one division title and is 0-2 in the playoffs. The division win and playoff losses came in the 2020 Covid season so take those for what you will. The 2021 started off strong but they fell off and traded away everyone. The 2022 season was expected to be rough but they showed promise late. For the most part, those season were what they were. The results don’t really move the needle either way for David Ross. It’s really all about what he’s done this year.
Biggest Areas where David Ross has Excelled in 2023
Developing clubhouse culture: For most, it is debateable about whether the culture of the clubhouse matters. There have been great teams that don’t like each other and succeed. There have also been trams who get along and are bad. However, you can tell with this team how important that is. The guys have said countless times how much they love the guys and the locker room environment. The building of this culture comes from the manager. Back during his playing days, it was always said how great David Ross was for a team’s clubhouse, and that has held true as a manager.
Never letting the team give up: When the team went to LA and got swept by the Angels to drop 10 under .500, or when they lost four in a row after getting within .500 in London, or when Marcus Stroman went down at the deadline it would’ve been easy to lay down and pack it up for 2024. David Ross has never allowed his team to do that. He has kept them positive and kept them motivated and never let them lose the fight all season. No matter the adversity, Ross has had this team persevering through it.
Biggest Areas where David Ross has Failed in 2023
Dispersion of at-bats: Yes, Ross is not in charge of acquiring and building up the roster, but he is in charge of who gets to play. And for some reason, David Ross chose to give the likes of Trey Mancini, Tucker Barnhart, Eric Hosmer, Edwin Rios, and Miles Mastrobouni nearly 700 plate appearances this season. While the likes of Matt Mervis, Alexander Canario, Pete Crow Armstrong, and Nelson Velasquez not even 150 combined.
I think we could all see early on all those veterans weren’t going to be the answer. Still, Ross chose to play them instead of finding out if the younger guys could really help. Just look at how Velazquez is playing now in KC. This is especially frustrating as the regulars continue to look tired and could use a jolt, but Ross never gives them a shot.
Feel for ‘pen and rotation: This is something you could nitpick about every manager, but there have been some glaring moments for Ross this year. I’d say the biggest was the continual use of Drew Smyly as a starter. From May 17th to August 7th, Smyly made 14 appearances (12 starts and 2 bulk appearances) and his ERA went from 2.50 to 5.05 before Ross finally pulled the plug on him starting. They had options like Wicks and Assad that weren’t used earlier.
There have also been some bullpen calls along the way that make you scratch your head. His early season stubbornness to use Michael Fulmer when he wasn’t right, and not using Alzolay as the closer earlier on. Basically every MLB site that tracks stats and records does an expected win-loss and they all have the Cubs as a team who should have 6-8 more wins. Some of that is luck, but also some of them can be traced back to David Ross.
When all is said and done, do I think David Ross will lose his job if the Cubs don’t make the playoffs? No, he probably won’t. This season was supposed to be an improvement from the last couple of down years, but not a season with high expectations. I’d say this season qualifies as that. Also, Jed and the front office obviously love him if they got rid of World Series-winning manager, Joe Maddon, for him. I do believe that the 2024 season should be make-or-break for him. They should be spending more money and acquiring more talent this offseason to make a serious playoff run next season. If they don’t, the Northsiders need to send Ross packing.
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