Cubs

Could David Ross make the jump from 'Dancing With The Stars' to MLB manager?

Could David Ross make the jump from 'Dancing With The Stars' to MLB manager?

Nowadays, David Ross' biggest worry involves executing dance steps instead of hitting fastballs in front of millions on live TV. Or, in the case of a dance he did earlier this month, executing those steps while taking off his pants in front of that primetime audience on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars."

"I did the ‘Magic Mike' routine the other night," Ross, fully clothed in the Wrigley Field press box, explained of his April 3 faux-striptease dance. "I literally couldn't sleep one night — I dropped my kids off at school, like half the elementary school goes, 'Mr. Ross, I watched you on Dancing With The Stars.' And I knew I had Magic Mike. So I'm like, wait a minute, all these 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds are gonna watch me take off my pants and shirt. It scared me to death."

Ross was back in the warm embrace of Wrigley Field on a chilly Wednesday evening to receive his 2016 World Series ring, throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Jon Lester ("I wanted to shake him off so bad," Ross laughed) and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the Seventh Inning Stretch. Life after baseball has suited the longtime backup catcher well, even the celebrity aspect of it has been surreal for a guy who'll remind anyone within earshot that he hit .229 in his 15-year career. He's hung out with Eddie Vedder, done the late-night talk show circuit, competed against the likes of Mr. T on "Dancing With the Stars" and has a book coming out next month. 

"Like, I can't even read," Ross said. "How do I have a book coming out?"

But Ross has, on occasion, felt the itch to return to baseball. He's not getting back in as a player, but what about as a manager?

"That's hard to say," Ross said. "I think that I've got a lot of people saying that I could manage and this and that. That's a huge compliment, and I take that very seriously. But I want to know what goes into it."

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A desire to figure out what it takes to manage a baseball team is why Ross took a job with the Cubs' front office as a special assistant to baseball operations in January. He'll do some amateur scouting from home but also wants to learn about the kind of information Joe Maddon receives and how he works with a coaching staff and roster. 

"I know it's a lot harder than people give it credit for, and I don't want to take that for granted and say 'Oh, yeah, I'd make a great manager, I could just step down there and do it,'" Ross said. "I know that's not true. There will be a time for figuring out what role that I'll have in baseball, and that's what's great about Theo (Epstein) giving me the opportunity to try different avenues and see what I like the most."

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo — one of Ross' closest friends — brought up a line of questioning the 40-year-old Ross will have to ask himself, though, if he ever does want to return to a major league dugout. 

"You know, there's just so many cons that come along with that," Rizzo said. "Why? Why would he? He's making more money this year off the field than if he was playing or managing. He's got his family. If he wanted to, I could see him being a manager, but I just don't see that right now for him."  

But if Ross ever were to decide to give managing a try, there are plenty around the game who believe he'd be good at it. Count his former manager among those people. 

Maddon explained that beyond his baseball knowledge, Ross is "people bright" and has the ability to work with a wide range of personalities. Those people skills are one of the biggest reasons why Ross left such an indelible mark on the 2016 Cubs.

"I think he'd do a great job handling what he has to do on a daily basis," Maddon said. "His sense of humor, but also his intensity and his drive all would be obvious. He's going to do that at some point when he's done dancing.

"Another reason why (he'd succeed) is he's stepping out of his comfort zone right now (on 'Dancing With The Stars'). That's not comfortable. That takes a big leap, literally, of some kind of faith to jump out in front of the nation on a dance floor after being baseball player for so many years. I love that. That in and of itself tells me he'll be a good manager. He has all the necessary requirements, plus he's not afraid to take a chance or a risk. Hire him." 

Maybe someday Ross will contact Maddon for a job recommendation, but that's somewhere off in the future. For now, he needs to figure out a way to impress Carrie Ann Inaba, the "Dancing With The Stars" judge who was booed by a sold out crowd Monday at Wrigley Field after giving Ross' waltz a "seven" rating (the other three judges rated Ross' dance as an eight). 

"I'm enjoying the heck out of it," Ross said. "You think good things happen to good people, you try to do good things and hope it pays off, but I wasn't trying for any of this. I was just being myself and that's what I think the people appreciate." 

Cubs' Jason Heyward on racial injustice: 'It feels like a broken record'

Cubs' Jason Heyward on racial injustice: 'It feels like a broken record'

Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward joined ESPN 1000’s “Waddle & Silvy” on Monday for a candid conversation on the unrest and tensions across the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of officer Derek Chauvin.

“It feels like a broken record and where we’re watching a rerun,” Heyward told Marc Silverman and Tom Waddle. “I feel like these things continue to happen over and over and over again and you have people continuously and helplessly trying to find a solution.”

Heyward, who grew up in McDonough, Ga. described how his father discussed racial injustice with him and his brother at a young age.

RELATED: Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts: 'We all need to step up to end' racial injustice

“He didn’t do that just to do it, that wasn’t something he was proud of having to do and having to explain,” he said. “That was something from experience that he could take and know that he went to one of the first integrated schools in South Carolina, integrated movie theaters, having separate bathrooms — things like that.”

Those conversations continued as Heyward committed to pursuing a professional baseball career while in high school, he said. As he was preparing to play for a travel team in East Cobb, Ga., his father told him of what he may face, such as being called the N word and people talking bad about his family.

Heyward noted how as a minor leaguer in the Braves farm system, he faced racism playing games in Savannah, Ga. — then home to a Mets affiliate. Silverman mentioned the racist messages Heyward received on Twitter after leaving the Cardinals in free agency to join the Cubs. Last year, MLB investigated racist messages sent to former Cub Carl Edwards Jr. on social media.

Although he said he experiences less of that today in the big leagues, Heyward added it still happens and that’s the message that needs to be shared. He described how the start to reaching a solution is people continuing to discuss racial injustice and being willing to listen and be aware of others’ concerns.

"While everyone has different views and different concerns and every ethnicity, race, gender, all these things — people have their own struggles, man," he said. "But I think at the end of the day, right now we’re seeing a lot of conversation about this that we’ve seen before but I think it’s being spread a little bit faster through social media, through LeBron James, through the rest of the NBA, through other athletes, through people that are starting to look around and say ‘I’m not African American, I’m not black but this affects me too.

"'This affects my kids, this affects them going to school, this affects my friends and their families and their generation.' So, I feel like everyone is a little bit more woke right now, regardless of how ugly things have been, how hard things have been on the people that are being affected most."

Floyd's death sparked week-long protests across the country that became violent. Heyward talked about looking into the future and what happens next as he sees some of the nation's more angry responses.

"I see confusion. I see anger, I see hatred, and these are all things people deal with as human beings on a daily basis. You have some people going out there with a certain message that they’re gonna put out. You have other people going out there and following and thinking they’re doing it for the right thing, but they don’t exactly understand it."

Heyward sees both sides of the issue, expressing sympathy for the difficult job and "judgements" police face.

"To me, that’s the trickle-down effect and what sucks is there are a lot of good cops, there are a lot of great cops," he said. "I’m friends with some — close family friends — to where they’re gonna take a lot of heat for this as well."

The bottomline is this issue isn't new for the life many Americans live on a daily basis.

"When you have hatred, when you have anger, when you have people that dealt with this 40 years ago, when you have people that dealt with this 20 years ago, people that dealt with it 10 years ago, people for the first time dealing with it now, you got people at all different walks of life who have different emotions about it and different thoughts on how to handle it.

"Everyone's not gonna have the same opinion, everyone's not gonna agree. But having the conversations, putting it out there and being aware of how we're all thinking as different individuals is a huge step in the right direction."

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How deferrals in MLBPA counterproposal could provide Cubs financial relief

How deferrals in MLBPA counterproposal could provide Cubs financial relief

The Ricketts family, more than any other owners in the NL Central, should be intrigued by the MLB Players Association’s economic counterproposal.

Overall, the proposal is the second step in a fiery tango, in which the players association and owners begin on opposite sides of the room and hopefully end up somewhere in the middle. The players’ response, which the union reportedly delivered to the league on Sunday, will almost definitely not be adopted in whole. But, in the midst of both sides’ hard-lining, the players extended the option to defer some player salaries if the postseason is cancelled.

As one of the top five spenders in MLB, the Cubs would be one of the teams most affected by that aspect of the proposal.

The prospect of losing the playoffs to a second wave of COVID-19 is the stuff of baseball owners’ nightmares. The postseason supplies especially lucrative TV deals, which become especially important as the league braces for a massive loss of revenue this year.

The MLBPA counterproposal addressed that fear by including deferrals, according to multiple reports. Contracts calling for salaries of $10 million or more (before proration) could be deferred, with interest. High-payroll teams could enjoy up to $7 million each in relief, The Athletic reported.

The Cubs have 10 players poised to make at least $10 million before their salaries are prorated this year, per spotrac.com.

– Jason Heyward, $23.5 million

– Yu Darvish, $22 million

– Jon Lester, $20 million

– Kris Bryant, $18.6 million

– Anthony Rizzo, $16.5 million

– Craig Kimbrel, $16 million

– Tyler Chatwood, $13 million

– Kyle Hendricks, $12 million

– Jose Quintana, $10.5 million

– Javier Baez, $10 million

That’s the most in the league. Twice as many as the White Sox. In the NL Central, the Cardinals (8) are the closest to catching the Cubs, followed by the Reds (5). On the other end of the spectrum, the Pirates don’t have any players with $10 million salaries.

There is, however, a Catch-22. According to chairman Tom Ricketts, 70 percent of the Cubs’ revenue comes from gameday operations. With such a high payroll, and fans banned from attending games for the foreseeable future, the Cubs organization is poised to take an especially large financial hit.

Still, Ricketts said on CNBC last week, “We’d definitely like to see baseball back." 

A presentation from the commissioner’s office to the players association, obtained by the Associated Press, projected $199 million in local losses for the Cubs alone, before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. That estimate was based on an 82-game season without fans and with players taking prorated salaries.

If that number is accurate – the players continue to call on owners to open their books – $7 million wouldn’t be much relief in the face of a cancelled postseason. And, as mentioned before, it would come with interest. But by mentioning deferrals in a counterproposal, the MLBPA introduced an area for potential compromise.

The players quickly dismissed the league’s sliding scale proposal, which could reportedly pay the highest-paid players merely 20-30 percent of their salaries. But deferrals could help ease owners’ financial challenges this season without axing players earnings so drastically.