After lying low since the end of the season, David Ross offered up his first significant public comments about his rookie managerial campaign and what he’s got in store for 2021. There’s still a good deal of concern over whether the season can start on time, with the owners reportedly wanting to shorten the schedule and the players preferring a full slate, though Ross said Wednesday that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told all 30 managers the plan is to start on time and play all 162 games.
That alone should make things easier for Ross, who had to learn on the fly without the benefit of experience. As he told 670 The Score’s Laurence Holmes, trying to balance his leadership style with the unique timing was less than ideal.
“I erred on the side of patience this year, which in 60 games is probably not the way to do it,” Ross admitted. “But I also in my first time going through it, I never want to create any kind of insecurities or distrust between me and a player where they ever think that I’m panicking or I don’t believe in them. And so you got to walk that line very carefully.”
Ross also discussed the importance of building relationships with other departments and members of his coaching staff, almost all of whom will be back in 2021. That continuity will be important as he embarks on his sophomore campaign, as will keeping the front office intact sans Theo Epstein. Though Jed Hoyer has a different personality, Ross is obviously very familiar with the new head of baseball operations.
As for the roster, well, that might be a different story. Gone are Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr., two of Ross’s former teammates and fellow World Series heroes, and there’s potential for even bigger turnover. Jesse Rogers boldly predicted Wednesday that Yu Darvish is more likely to be traded than Kris Bryant, though Ross would obviously love to keep both.
Ian Happ is almost certainly not being moved, which is good because he’s apparently being penciled in as the Cubs’ leadoff hitter again in 2021. That experiment didn’t work so well in 2018, when Happ struggled after starting off with a homer on the very first pitch of the season, but the outfielder posted a 119 wRC+ and .819 OPS in the top spot over the abbreviated 2020 campaign.
Those numbers were at 197 and 1.143 in 77 PAs before Happ took a foul ball to his right eye on September 3, so there’s reason to believe he can once again excel atop the order. Ross did add that Happ could move all around the order if the Cubs end up acquiring a more proven leadoff hitter, though that doesn’t feel like a strong possibility given what we think we know about their plans.
David Ross plans on Ian Happ beginning 2021 as Cubs' leadoff hitter, but comfortable hitting Happ wherever throughout the lineup if there's an acquisition this winter of a more proven leadoff guy.
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) December 16, 2020
Not exactly groundbreaking content here, but beggars can’t really be choosers these days. So if it’s a choice between Ross sharing pretty obvious thoughts on his managerial tenure and hearing the folks at ESPN 1000 drag Bryant, I’ll take the former all day.