First step for new Cubs manager David Ross is proving he’s not like cuddly Joe Maddon. Good luck with that.

I expect Ross to show up at his first news conference with purpose in his stride and a serious look on his face. I also expect Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber to host a shower for him.

SHARE First step for new Cubs manager David Ross is proving he’s not like cuddly Joe Maddon. Good luck with that.
League Championship Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs - Game Four

David Ross meets with Cubs manager Joe Maddon before Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers in 2017.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cubs just traded a mime for a cha-cha dancer.

Their new manager, David Ross, looks a lot like their former manager, Joe Maddon, so the transition from a cute-and-cuddly team to a cuddly-and-cute team figures to be seamless.

The Cubs reportedly brought in Astros bench coach Joe Espada for a second interview this week. That led to a brief moment of public doubt about what seemed to be a fait accompli, the hiring of Ross, a favorite of team president Theo Epstein and several very, very comfortable Cubs players.

Then Wednesday dawned, and along came the news that Ross, a former Cubs catcher and ‘‘Dancing With the Stars’’ competitor, was indeed the new manager — ‘‘indeed’’ meaning, ‘‘What, you really thought it was going to be someone else?’’

I expect Ross to show up at his first news conference with purpose in his stride and a serious look on his face. I also expect Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber to host a shower for him.

If all of this sounds shallow, well, sorry. Also, don’t blame me. If the Cubs were serious about going in a different direction from Maddon, who liked to motivate his team with dress-up days, mimes and petting zoos, they shouldn’t have hired Ross, if only for perception’s sake. Ross is known as a fan favorite who defied age and weak offensive skills to hit a home run in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Rizzo and Bryant made ‘‘Grandpa Rossy’’’ famous, and he became known for his rah-rah enthusiasm.

A team lacking toughness and discipline would seem to need an outsider who refuses to put up with business as usual. Perhaps Ross, three years removed from the team as a player and, until Wednesday, a Cubs special assistant to the baseball-operations department, has the ability to put aside his friendship with several of the team’s stars. And perhaps his lack of managerial experience at any level won’t hurt him.

But of all the people in baseball, why this guy for the job? Either the manager truly doesn’t matter much anymore, or Ross has such incredible leadership skills that Epstein had no other choice. But of the seven franchises Ross played for in his 15-year career, only one wanted him to be its manager. And all the teams he didn’t play for failed to call him.

The Cubs needed a fresh start, not a nod to the good ol’ days of 2016, when anything seemed possible. Things went a bit sideways for them after the World Series, and now they’ve reached back and grabbed Ross, a feel-good movie of a human being.

It seems like more of the same. The same hasn’t worked for a while.

The Cubs need a kick in the pants. They might get it from Ross, but it’s hard to forget that, two years ago, his pants had sequins on them. This, too, might strike you as shallow. But there’s too much of a sugary feel to this whole production, too much of a sticky-sweet quality to this homecoming.

It looks like a match made in heaven for the Cubs’ new Marquee Sports Network, which wants fans’ money in return for a warm, accessible product. Ross fits perfectly. The Cubs will tell us that we have it all wrong, that Ross will be a disciplinarian and a taskmaster. That he yelled at Rizzo once! By the time they’re done talking, he’ll be Attila the Hun. But hearing it and seeing him consistently challenge Epstein’s chosen few are two different things.

Until we witness that consistently and observe the Cubs winning more than a few road games, we’ll stick to our perceptions of Ross. He has a lot to prove to a fan base that liked him as a player but hasn’t warmed to the idea of him as a manager.

Since he retired after the 2016 season to spend more time with his family, he has written a book, danced with the stars, worked as an ESPN baseball analyst and helped the Cubs as a special assistant. That’s why the burden of proof is on him. That’s why there are so many doubts about his ability to lead people he still calls friends.

If you’re putting your trust in Epstein to get this right, the ground is a bit more solid. He built the World Series team and took the Cubs to three consecutive National League Championship Series. But that same guy had a rough 2019, with very few of his moves the last two seasons panning out.

And now he’s hiring Ross, a guy you’d want in your corner if a dance broke out.

Sounds familiar.

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