NBC Sports Chicago is evaluating some of the most pressing Cubs questions entering spring training. Last up: What kind of manager will David Ross be?
Ready or not, it's the dawn of a new era on the North Side.
Gone is Joe Maddon, the most successful manager in Cubs history and leader of the 2016 championship team. In is David Ross, the fan favorite catcher with no experience coaching at any level, let alone managing.
Maddon's laid back personality and proficiency in cultivating a winning culture made him the right manager for the Cubs entering 2015. That approach grew less effective over time, leading to several disappointing seasons and, ultimately, Maddon and the Cubs amicably parting ways.
Accountability, the buzzword of the Cubs' offseason, is a trait Ross was well-known for during his playing career. Since he retired, the Cubs have struggled to replace his voice in the clubhouse. Although Maddon's group didn't run rampant, a big part of his approach involves players self-policing.
The Cubs believe having Ross and his tough-love leadership in the manager's seat will shakeup a stale culture and help maximize the roster's talent going forward.
"I think it's really hard to find that middle ground, and David's just always uniquely gifted that way where he can be hard on guys," Theo Epstein said of Ross in October. "He will be very direct; he can cut right to the core of the issue. It's hard to get away with anything around him because he'll hold you accountable.
"Yet, somehow, he's just got that magnetism and that personality where guys want to be around him. I've seen it where he's leveled a guy and told him exactly what he needs to hear and later that night, they're the ones going out to dinner that night to keep talking it over and also having a good time. He's uniquely gifted that way."
For Ross, accountability means communicating his expectations and calling his players out, if they aren't doing what he expects them to.
"I equate it a lot to being a dad," Ross said in December. "I want to have fun with my kids. I want to love my kids, but when my kids act up and do things that I don't expect them to do or things that I feel like is misbehaving, I got to call that out or else they're not going to have any structure in their life."
The Cubs know experience is an important managerial trait and Ross will encounter growing pains in 2020. This inevitability is why hiring former Padres manager Andy Green as bench coach will pay dividends. Green will help Ross learn the ropes and make decisions, as the first-year skipper adapts to his new position.
"Who he is as a person, Andy right off the bat probably [has] been the biggest help for me," Ross said last month. "I can't say enough about this guy, and I'm very blessed to have him next to me in every game. You guys are gonna see a great product, and a lot of my great decisions, I'll have a great mind next to me helping me make those."
Time will tell how successful Ross is in his new position. What's evident is things will be different with him at the helm, which he and the Cubs hope will help the team be greater than the sum of its parts.
"I just want to create a little structure from the top now from my seat and get these guys back to what I know they're capable of doing," Ross said, "and again, what winning looks like and holding them accountable of, when you see it maybe going the other way.
"I hope it's a shock for the players. I'm kind of relying on that. I want to be different."
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Cubs questions entering camp: What kind of manager will David Ross be? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago