Rozner: Cubs' Ross intending to manage his way

  • David Ross speaks with Barry Rozner on opening night of the 2020 Chicago Cubs Convention Friday at Sheraton Grand in Chicago.

    David Ross speaks with Barry Rozner on opening night of the 2020 Chicago Cubs Convention Friday at Sheraton Grand in Chicago. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/19/2020 7:46 AM

David Ross doesn't have to prove he's going to be his own man.

He just has to be his own man.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The new Cubs manager will have to be if he wants to keep the trust of his players and the respect of his employers.

That might drive crazy the analytic zealots who at times lost their minds over Joe Maddon's choices, but in that regard Ross has no intention of being told what to do.

The 42-year-old former catcher is keeping an open mind as he navigates the rocky rapids that speed in and out of numbers, up against an old-school feel when it comes to lineups and situational hitting.

Humans play the games and there are moments -- like it or not -- where numbers are not the answer because of circumstances involving players that you'll never hear about.

"It's a balance, right? I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent either way," Ross said Friday night during a quiet moment at the Cubs Convention. "I'm still finding my way as I dive into the numbers, talk to the research guys, talk to my coaching staff and talk to the players.

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"There's some things they bring to my attention that I've never really thought about where the numbers don't lie.

"And there's also times where I'm like, 'Yeah, I don't believe that.'

"There's a lot of back and forth. My baseball knowledge has grown and my feel for what I truly believe in has grown and I'm excited to put it into practice."

One reason the prediction here three years ago was that Ross would be the next Cubs manager was the impact he had on the pitchers, catchers and hitters while a member of the roster, not to mention the way he held teammates accountable when they did not sensibly think through a situation, or weren't properly prepared for such.

He was also in on the meetings for all three groups as a player and was effectively the manager on the field when he played.

That encompassed many jobs, including taking the blame for nearly anything that went wrong -- even when it wasn't his fault.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Expect to see him doing the same now when someone doesn't get it done between the lines.

"When you're calling a game (behind the plate), you're taking all of that information you've gathered into that day's game, the strengths and weaknesses of (opposition) hitters, and your pitcher that day," Ross explained. "You're trying to put into practice all that knowledge, but that changes with each pitch and you have to adjust constantly in a game.

"I see managing the same way. Going back through games and looking at things, I'm already starting to get back into that. My brain is starting to go back to that thought process. As a manager, you have to be ahead of that game."

This is why catchers often make solid managers. They have already managed the game on the field, managed the pitching staff and at times even managed the manager.

It's not an easy job today, handling very young players who have been coddled for a decade and rarely disciplined, not to mention the modern baseball front office that believes in the answers before the questions are asked or the games are played.

"I don't think it's so much about what the boss wants. I think it's about the numbers and what the numbers say," Ross explained. "Theo (Epstein) has given me no restrictions in any way regarding lineups or anything.

"I've talked to the guys that process information, that have the numbers. I have the feel and the experience, but I don't have all the information on the numbers.

"It's a marriage between those two. I think the best managers I've seen use a balance of information you're given and an old-school approach and feel for protecting your players and understanding their needs and their heartbeat."

As for situational hitting in an era that has looked at it with contempt, Ross says there's a time and a place.

"I think we're at a point in our game where there's a ton of talent that gets to the big leagues really fast, missing some of the steps some of us went through where we were taught the game," said Ross, who spent five years playing in the minors. "One of my goals is to continue to teach.

"Of course, you have to play the game and get runners over when the game's on the line and the situation dictates.

"That's important to me. Some people would call that 'old school.' We're in an era when we're hitting the home run and just letting them all swing and hope they run into one.

"I think there's times for that, and I think there's times for being smart at the plate, running the bases the right and doing little things that can put us over the edge."

The one certainty is that Ross, like all managers, will eventually get fired, be it a year or three or 10 down the road.

Until then, as Don Zimmer used to say, he might as well do what he thinks is right.

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