Ross, 42, had been working in the Cubs’ front office and will replace Joe Maddon, who recently agreed to manage the Angels. Astros bench coach Joe Espada had also been a finalist for the Cubs’ job, but the Cubs reportedly will go with the familiar hand in Ross, who’s been long rumored to be Maddon’s replacement. Former Yankees and Marlins manager Joe Girardi, bench coach Mark Loretta, and former infielder Mark DeRosa had also reportedly been candidates to replace Maddon.
Ross has no managerial or coaching experience, but that’s not unusual for a first-time manager, at least throughout recent history. Ross spent parts of 15 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last two of which came with the Cubs. In his final season of 2016, when the Cubs won the World Series, Ross split time at catcher with Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero. Ross homered in Game 7 of the World Series against the Indians that year.
In addition to being a key member of that championship squad, Ross endeared himself to the Cubs’ young core at the time with his leadership skills and clubhouse presence. Given that many of those young players are still in place, Ross’ hiring will surely be popular in the clubhouse. Among his challenges will be managing a number of players who not so long ago were teammates.
Ross inherits a talented roster that includes the likes of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Contreras and others. While the Cubs endured a disappointing 2019 season that saw them finish in third place in the NL Central, they’re not far removed from a 2015-18 run that saw them average almost 97 wins per season and make the playoffs four times. Ross’ challenge will be getting that still talented roster to find its level and return to the postseason while also distinguishing his leadership style from Maddon’s, which by most accounts had grown stale this past season.
As for what else the Cubs need to do to make a resurgence happen, our own Matt Snyder provided his offseason blueprint not long after they were eliminated in the NL Central race.