After the Braves fired Fredi Gonzalez last month, Cubs players joked David Ross was in line to take over as manager in Atlanta in 2017.

Those jokes actually have an element of truth, as Ross has been widely praised for his clubhouse leadership and charisma throughout his career. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon has said on several occasions that he could see Ross becoming a manager someday.

The veteran catcher has carved out a journeyman-type career, but his longest stop was from 2009-12 in Atlanta, where the Cubs continued their three-game series against the last-place Braves on Saturday afternoon and Ross helped nurture Jason Heyward during the outfielder's first few years in The Show.

But regardless of where "Grandpa Rossy" goes or what he does after this season, his departure will leave a void in the Cubs clubhouse.

Maddon may very well be the best manager in the game, but he's also hands-off when it comes to policing the clubhouse and lets his players set - and enforce - the guidelines. He doesn't believe in appointing a captain.

"It's an organic situation," Maddon said. "Leadership is taken. You can't give leadership. (That’s) just the way it happens. You just can't anoint a leader.

"You can maybe, through politics, by having people vote for you, I guess. I've often thought that's a fabricated way of anointing a leader sometimes.

"But when you're within a group setting like this with us, there's no real hierarchy set up specifically. So if somebody wants to emerge as the leader, they have to, like, take that.

 

"Players have to want to follow this particular person. I just can't say, 'I'm gonna put a 'C' on your chest and all of a sudden, people are going to listen to you.'"

The Cubs have clearly taken on Anthony Rizzo’s personality, watching the All-Star first baseman grow up and find his voice around the team. Rizzo knows how to have fun, play hard and represent the franchise.

Each season, Maddon has his "Lead Bulls" meeting with a group of about 10 veterans who get together in spring training to set guidelines and ground rules for the clubhouse. Moving forward, Maddon expects the Cubs to continue to have a "leadership by committee" type of approach.

Of the Cubs' young everyday core, only Rizzo and Heyward have played full seasons in the big leagues, and both will be 27 this August.

"That's something that's become really obvious to me over the last 10 or 15, 20 years: Watching young guys attempt to be leaders," Maddon said. "Again, you can't try to be a leader. Either you are or you're not. Either you have the bells and whistles or you don't.

"And I don't think batting average or home runs or 20 wins indicate that you're a leader. Those are all misleading reasons why somebody is appointed a leader.

"You get veteran players from one group to your team and the guy's had a nice career for 10 years. And automatically, the exterior believes that this guy is gonna be the leader in that clubhouse. It could be the farthest thing from the truth."

Ross embodies Maddon's sentiment that the back of a guy's baseball card doesn't qualify him as a leader.

The 39-year-old catcher has played 15 years in the big leagues, but has a career .228 average and has hit double-digit homers in a season three times. In fact, he's only played more than 90 games in a season one time.

Ross has made a career out of being a backup catcher and it's his personality, relatable nature and sense of humor that has helped him earn the respect of his peers.

"For me, leadership, a lot of it has to do with what you are more willing to give to somebody else as opposed to being worried about yourself on a daily basis," Maddon said. "I think when you're a good leader, you are really sensitive and have a lot of empathy towards everybody else around you.

"If you're looking at guys within clubhouses, I would look for empathy as much as anything, regarding whether or not you believe somebody's a leader. Also, listening skills, somebody that's not always pontificating. That leads you in the wrong direction."