MILWAUKEE – The day Fredi Gonzalez was fired as Braves manager this week, Cubs catcher David Ross was greeted in the Cubs’ clubhouse by a wise-guy teammate announcing his entrance: “D-Ross, the 2017 manager of the Atlanta Braves!”
“Yeah,” Ross said with a smile, “that guy was an idiot.”
That guy also was saying what many others already were thinking — if not next year in Atlanta, then some team, some time. Those in the game who know Ross have said that for years, even before he decided he would retire as a player after this season.
“It would be something that definitely piques my interest at some point maybe,” said Ross. “But there’s a priority list in my life right now, and that’s not the top priority. And I think if you’re going to manage a team it would probably have to be a top priority.
“When I get out of the game, I want to go on a summer vacation with my family. I want to do some things that I haven’t gotten to do.
“Would it be a great honor for somebody to want you to run their organization, on the field and manage a team?” he added. “That’s a great honor, and I think it would be hard to pass up. But that being said, there’s a lot of factors that go into that decision.”
Ross’ people skills, ability to handle a wide range of pitchers and personalities as a catcher, and his experience as a player under a lot of successful managers help keep the future-manager speculation alive.
“I manage my life, and that’s scary enough,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into managing. I’ve never done it. All those things are very, very lovely compliments thinking I can manage a team, but I don’t put a whole lot of stock into it.”
But he has played for Bruce Bochy, Dusty Baker, Bobby Cox, Terry Francona, Joe Maddon and was a one-time teammate of Robin Ventura.
“I definitely feel I know what winning looks like, and I know what losing looks like,” he said. “And I know how those things are handled. I definitely know pitching, and that’s a huge part of it.
“I think managing a team would have as much to do with your staff as your players. You’d have to trust in those people and delegate.”
Manager or not, the other side of what the “idiot” suggested is about what the Cubs will do without their spiritual leader – a veteran whose personality makes him a rare cohesive influence in the clubhouse, Maddon said.
“With him it’s legitimate,” said the manager, who scoffs at the “leadership” cliché. “He’s a different animal.”
Wherever – and whenever — the managing gig for Ross might come, the Cubs’ solution to bridging their Ross gap might be to keep it from opening just yet.
Assuming top catching prospect Willson Contreras is ready next spring as anticipated, Ross could play a Manny Ramirez-like part-time advisory/instructor role – albeit, with actual structure – for Contreras and other young players.
“I definitely want to stay in the game. I definitely want to keep my foot in the door,” Ross said. “I love being around these guys, and obviously this organization is close to me here at the end of my career. I feel like this is a really, really special group, and it’s fun to come to work here.”
Not that he – or the front office – is ready to look very hard at something like that during the early part of a season like this.
“I’m just going to have a blast this year and figure that out when it comes,” Ross said. “If I start worrying about those things now I’m not going to enjoy this. I’m really, really trying to enjoy every moment of this and not think past even today.”
Note: Outfielder Matt Szczur (hamstring) starts a minor-league rehab assignment Thursday with Class AA Tennessee. Manager Joe Maddon said the club has no timeline set for Szczur’s return from the disabled list, but he’s expected to be activated before the team returns home next week.