David Ross is ready to kick some asterisks.
Right to the curb.
Think a 60-game regular season is illegitimate? Think baseball in 2020 is so up for grabs on the field — and off it — that whichever team rises to the top simply won’t hold up in comparison to the more tried-and-true champions of, well, pretty much every other year in league history?
The Cubs’ rookie manager isn’t buying it.
“If they’re passing out a trophy, I want it,” Ross said Monday in his first meeting with the media, via Zoom, since spring training was halted in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“If they’re handing out rings and we’re all starting from the same point, I don’t care if it’s a five-game season. This is competition, and it’s what we enjoy doing. It’s why we suit up.”
They’ll be suiting up again later this week at Wrigley Field — and, for some taxi-squad members, at the Cubs’ facility in South Bend, Ind. — for the start of workouts leading up to a sprint of a season scheduled to begin July 23 or 24. As odd as things will be as baseball is played while social distancing and a host of other health-related protocols are implemented, at least Ross will be able to restart the countdown to his managerial debut.
He has had more than his fill of what he called “a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait.”
He’d like to believe his players have, too.
“If you talk to these players, they couldn’t wait to get started,” Ross said. “For almost every single guy you talk to, these guys were raring to go.”
According to general manager Jed Hoyer, a large majority of players will be tested Wednesday for COVID-19. A small number have been tested and are awaiting results. Two Cubs staff members tested positive and will miss the start of camp. Both are Tier 1 staffers, Hoyer said, meaning they could be coaches, athletic trainers, medical staff or others who have hands-on contact with players.
When Ross was hired, much was made of the need for him to bring the players closer together — in workouts, in their pregame routines, in how they communicate with one another — and raise the bar in the area of accountability.
Now, players won’t even be sitting side-by-side in the dugout. No hugs. No high-fives. Togetherness has gotten a whole lot harder.
“But [we’re] all together for one goal and understand the sacrifices we’re making and the uncomfortableness of some of these protocols, and how outside the norm this environment is,” Ross said. “And to still be able to compete at a high level and compete for one another and be one unit in this bubble we’re trying to create, I think that’s really important.”
Ross joked that at no time in his interviews with president Theo Epstein and Hoyer were there any questions about managing during a global pandemic. No, this won’t be easy. Yes, at times it will be awkward and strange.
It’s still baseball, though. And, if all goes according to plan, there will be two teams fighting for a World Series victory at the end.
Illegitimate? Come on, man.
“Everybody else can put something on it, but if we win the whole thing, I’ll still get a ring and a trophy,” Ross said. “Actually, I don’t know what the parade will look like, but we’ll adjust that when we get there.”