The Cubs spent the early part of the offseason talking about climbing out the winner’s trap by letting go of the past and admitting that they needed to shake things up with a fresh perspective. Then they went out and hired David Ross, the very embodiment of that same nostalgia they were trying to distance themselves from, as the new manager. Hypocrisy or genius?
Skeptics will certainly go with the former, adding that the real idea was for Theo Epstein to install a puppet whose strings he could pull at will from the front office. But c’mon, that’s hardly what’s going on here. Rather than trying to reboot 2016 by bringing back one of its heroes, the Cubs looked at what aspects of that team have been missing since. Ross isn’t the only common denominator, but the edge he brought to the clubhouse is exactly what the team’s been looking for since he retired.
“I’ve just got a different job now,” Ross told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m the same dude, but I’ve got different priorities and I make different decisions. I see nothing but respect from these guys and good communication, and the relationships are all still there.”
Without further relitigating Joe Maddon‘s last season or two on the North Side, which includes wondering whether Maddon’s Post would still be open had he returned, it’s fair to believe Ross was largely responsible for the accountability that went missing. Javy Báez recently admitted to a lack of preparedness that may have been a symptom of the Cubs getting “fat and happy,” as another member of the organization observed.
Whatever label you prefer, it seemed obvious that the team was in need of an attitude adjustment. Even those players who distanced themselves from Javy’s description of pregame routines recognized the value of tightening a few things up here and there.
“I think the biggest change from Joe to David will be…I know Joe was super relaxed, very laid back, kinda let the players set their own way,” Kyle Schwarber told 670 The Score in January. “I think David’s gonna come in and he’s got it on his mind what he wants to do and I think things are gonna be a little more structured. He’s gonna demand a higher amount of respect.”
Between Schwarber’s assessment and Kris Bryant saying he wanted to run through a wall after hearing Ross address the team to open their first official workout, initial indications are that the change is working. Then again, camp has only been open for a few days and the Cactus League slate won’t open for another few, so maybe we should wait on any pronouncements about Ross being the second coming of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.
Nah, who am I kidding? It’s way more fun to fan the flames than to throw cold water on them.