According to David Kaplan, the Cubs have made their decision on a new manager. And to no surprise, they've landed on David Ross.
Highly placed source has confirmed to me David Ross is expected to be named Cubs manager this week. His agent has been discussing contractual terms with Theo Epstein. Deal is almost done. More on @ESPN1000 at 9 am. On @NBCSChicago + https://t.co/VqUFW8rK8r throughout the day.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) October 23, 2019
Cubs made their decision late yesterday afternoon and the other candidates have been informed they are indeed out. David Ross is the choice. @ESPNChiCubs joins me at 9:25 on @ESPN1000. Story coming on @NBCSChicago and the MyTeams app.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) October 23, 2019
Ross was widely speculated as the heir apparent to Joe Maddon and that's exactly how the situation has played out. The team also interviewed incumbent bench coach Mark Loretta, first-base coach Will Venable, Astros bench coach Joe Espada, and former Cubs player and Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
The Cubs had whittled down their options to Ross and Espada, with both candidates coming in earlier this week for a second interview:
Not as formally announced as Espada, but David Ross is said to have also had a second interview with the #Cubs. Given his position with the team, I'm told they expanded conversations earlier this week. #MLB— Kelly Crull (@Kelly_Crull) October 22, 2019
Ross retired after the 2016 season and has spent the last three seasons working in a special assistant role in Theo Epstein's front office while also serving as an MLB analyst/broadcaster for ESPN. He has not coached or managed at any level.
During his two years as a player with the Cubs, Ross was an integral part of changing the culture inside the clubhouse and is revered as a legendary leader to all the young players that came up and helped end the 108-year championship drought. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant affectionately dubbed him "Grandpa Rossy" and he rode that popularity on the shoulders of his teammates in a Rudy-esque celebration after Game 7 and then a stint on "Dancing with the Stars." Every time he has been shown on the video board at Wrigley Field, it elicits a deafening cheer from Cubs fans.
Even three years since he last donned the uniform, Ross' impact remains and the Cubs have been searching for the type of clubhouse leadership he provided. Earlier this season, Javy Baez brought up Ross unprompted, mentioning how Ross told him that this game teaches you something new on a daily basis.
The question was never really if and more about when Ross was going to get a chance to manage the Cubs in the future. Just last fall, he was brought up as a potential option to replace Brandon Hyde as Maddon's bench coach, but Ross still wanted to spend time with family in retirement and wasn't yet ready to commit to the grind of a long season.
Still, Epstein mentioned at the GM Meetings last November that he and the front office were pushing Ross to be around the team more in 2019. GM Jed Hoyer followed that up at the Winter Meetings in December talking about how much of an impact Ross has on these players and the level of trust that's already inherent within this group.
Apparently, Ross is now willing and able to put in the 7-to-8 month time commitment to step in as the Cubs' new manager. When it was officially announced Maddon would not be returning, Ross was on ESPN's Baseball Tonight and expressed interest in the job and Epstein confirmed the next day Ross was on the team's list of managerial candidates.
Epstein mentioned he would prefer hiring a manager with big-league experience and the main theme of his end-of-season press conference was all about change, not hanging their hats on 2016 and climbing out of the "winner's trap." But they still opted for Ross as the organization's new field general.
"I always have greater comfort level hiring for roles in which the person has done the role before, especially with manager," Epstein said on the final day of September. "I think there are ways for that to be overcome. There’s a lot of different ways to get experience in this game. Beliefs, skills, personal attributes, those can outweigh a lack of experience, but experience certainly helps.
“David Ross has a lot of great things going for him, I would say. His connection to the players on this team, and especially his connection to the 2016 team, are not necessarily things that are gonna be important to us.
“I think Rossy is a really attractive candidate, and he’s gonna be evaluated on the merits, what he can bring to the table as a major league manager given his skills, given his experiences, given his world-view, given what he knows about winning, all those things.”
We now know how that evaluation process has played out.
The question now becomes — how would the Cubs players handle Ross as a manager, moving from friend and teammate to boss?
We'll find out in the coming months.