Rozner: Chicago Cubs' Ross has big future as manager
For a front office that spent so much of its intellectual treasure on analytics en route to that historic World Series title, one thing the Cubs could never quite quantify was the impact David Ross had on the emotional well-being of a baseball team.
"There's no way to properly measure the effect of a great person on an organization," Theo Epstein said the night the Cubs celebrated in Cleveland. "But we believe as much in the human side of this equation as the analytics side. It's why we place such high value on our scouts' ability to find players of high character.
"David Ross is a high-character guy who became the heart of the team. He took on so many roles that he's irreplaceable in that regard. There's no metric for that."
Indeed, Ross at various times was mom and dad to the young players. He was part pitching coach during games, catching coach after games, friend at all times, and even mentor to other veterans.
Never mind what he meant to a fan base that adopted him as its favorite son.
"Just such a terrific person and great teammate," Epstein said that night. "Bad teammates can really ruin a good thing. But a great teammate like David can lift a club. We're really going to miss him."
But the Cubs knew they would never let Ross go far, and it was clear they would allow him to get to know his family again while choosing whatever role he wanted post-career.
His new title for 2017 is "special assistant to baseball operations," though Ross claims to have no idea what that means.
Epstein says otherwise.
"We want him to see the game in ways he never saw it before, from 360 degrees," Epstein said last week. "He has seen it from behind the plate as a player. Now he'll see it from the scouts' seats, from the minor leagues, from the front office and how scouting reports are put together and sent to the clubhouse and used on the field.
"Seeing the game from all angles is really important for him. He could do a lot of different things in this game from here."
The guess here for many months has been that Ross will be the next Cubs manager, if he hasn't been hired somewhere else by the time Joe Maddon calls it a day.
Ross already has so many Joe Girardi-like qualities that it's uncanny, but he'll need some time away from the clubhouse to begin establishing himself as an authority figure and not a friend.
You don't get to be one of the guys when you're the boss.
"He has a huge future in the game," Epstein said. "He can probably do whatever he wants."
For his part, Ross says he's not really ready to ponder where the road takes him, except for the one that takes him home.
"I've been gone a long time, so I need to be home, but the Cubs have given me the freedom to spend time with my family and still be around the team," Ross said at the Cubs Convention. "I'm going to be sitting back and listening and learning from guys who have won multiple championships.
"I'll be seeing things from all different sides, seeing what's behind the curtain as they plan for drafts and winter meetings and free agency and all of the different times of year that they go through all that planning.
"I get to see how their data plays into how they make decisions. Those are all things that have interested me."
So after 19 years in professional baseball as a player and two months from his 40th birthday, Ross begins the next stage of his career.
"It's a different chapter in life. I'm a rookie now, whatever I do," Ross said. "I'm excited about that. I just want to learn, and we'll see where it takes me."
Cubs manager has a nice ring to it.
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