Rozner: No surprise David Ross is the next Cubs manager. Is he ready for the job?

  • Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Jason Heyward carry teammate David Ross off the field after Game 7 of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

    Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Jason Heyward carry teammate David Ross off the field after Game 7 of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland. John Starks | Staff Photographer

Updated 10/23/2019 2:39 PM

When Ryan Dempster famously said of Mike Quade, "He's one of us," it was a frightening thought.

A manager isn't supposed to be friends with the players. He's the players' boss.


And you saw how that worked out.

This will be the first challenge for David Ross as he takes over as the new Cubs manager, retaining the relationships he had with so many of his former teammates, without giving up control or respect.

On a different level, and from a different demographic, this was also the genius of Joe Maddon.

It's true that the days of Mike Keenan in pro sports are over, as players reach the big time at a younger age and with less reverence for that spot in the big chair.

You can't treat players the way Keenan did or they will simply quit on you.

With a personality that fits today's game, Ross has many of the great characteristics necessary to be good at this, aside from the most obvious negative of never having done the job.

That will be the biggest adjustment, the actual managing of the game. Ask anyone who's come out of the broadcast booth or down from the management suite, and they'll tell you that the speed of the game is shocking.

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He has to be thinking many batters and innings ahead, and regardless of how strong his bench coach is, mistakes will be made.

It's no picnic.

But Ross has the advantage of having managed the game from behind the plate, from being part therapist and part pitching coach to the staff he backstopped.

He was in on the pitchers' meetings. He was in on the hitters' meetings. He constantly coached the catchers. And he brought leadership to the clubhouse, sometimes with a pat on the back, but often with a kick in the pants.

He did it all as a player.

This is a job he should be good at if he's given the time to grow into it, but the Cubs don't have time for growing pains.

They are in the business of winning immediately, not developing managers at the big-league level.

Not sure the first time I said it on radio, but it was sometime late in the 2016 season, as his career was winding down, that I believed Ross to be next in the line of succession.


In January 2017, I wrote in this space that, "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."

It was only a guess. Just a feeling that he fit exactly what Theo Epstein would be looking for, but once the list of candidates emerged a few weeks ago, it was obvious that Ross was the choice.

The rest of the interviews were done for show, to appease Cubs fans or to bleed opposing organizations for information.

Ross is young (42), cheap and knows Cubs personnel better than anyone the Cubs could hire, and while a player he was never afraid to tell another player the truth, including pal Jon Lester.

Their conversations -- battles, if you will -- on the mound were the stuff of legend.

As for what he lacks, he will be given plenty of help from a coaching staff chosen largely by management, and he'll be given lineup "suggestions" every day, not to mention the in-game plan for whom to use, how and when, from hitters to relievers.

From management's perspective, there won't be disagreements any longer over hitting approach or pitching decisions.

This is more than just change for the sake of it. This is Epstein's chance to mold a manager the way he wants him, doing the things he wants and the way he wants them done.

It's not like Epstein and Maddon had big problems, but they had normal disagreements as all GMs and managers do, and in David Ross he will have a manager handling the club precisely the way Epstein wants.

That is far from a guarantee of success, but with everything else Epstein has on his plate as he tries to fix what ails this club, this will no longer be part of his daily consideration.

Epstein has the guy he wants in the dugout. That was the easy part.

Now he has to find the players.

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