Remember when Cubs fans couldn’t get enough of David Ross?

With his team struggling, the Cubs manager has lost most of the goodwill he had built up as a player.

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Former Cubs catcher David Ross competing in a 2017 episode of “Dancing with the Stars.’’

Former Cubs catcher David Ross and Lindsay Arnold compete on a 2017 episode of “Dancing with the Stars.’’

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Remember those innocent days when David Ross was Chicago’s cuddly stuffed animal? When Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo called their aging teammate “Grandpa Rossy,’’ and the nickname caught on among Cubs fans ever on the lookout for something to clutch to their chests?

Remember when Ross guaranteed himself a place in city lore by hitting a home run in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, helping the Cubs win their first title since 1908? When Ross competed on “Dancing with the Stars?”

What happened to those happy days?

Baseball happened. Demanding, tough-as-a-catcher’s-mitt baseball happened. The Cubs are struggling, and their fan base seemingly has had enough of Ross as a manager. Once upon a time, it couldn’t get enough of him as a player or person.

When the Cubs named him their skipper in October 2019, the biggest questions were how he could run a tight ship when it was filled with players who were his friends and whether, just three years removed from the end of his career — and with no coaching or managing experience on his resume — he knew enough about the game to succeed.

The first question was never fully answered because Covid-19 intruded in 2020 and because the Cubs traded Rizzo, Bryant and Javy Baez midway through the next season.

If you pay attention to social media, the answer to the second question is that the next time Ross makes a correct in-game decision will be the first time. He has gone from a fan favorite to the TV set in a rage room.

He was particularly vulnerable to this kind of outcome, something former Cubs president Theo Epstein surely was aware of while eyeing him as a potential manager even before the catcher tangoed into retirement after the World Series. Epstein wasn’t alone in his admiration for Ross’ ability to inspire teammates. The first word out of Baby Rossy’s mouth wasn’t “mama’’ or “dada.’’ It was “rah-rah.’’

But enthusiasm doesn’t make a manager, any more than a lineup card does. The Cubs, stumbling hard after a fast start this season, are finding this out, if they didn’t know it already. And Ross is finding out that love affairs with fan bases can turn on you, fast.

Before anyone gets the idea that he’s being picked on or that this is an extraordinarily fickle market, let’s take a look at the NBA, where being a head coach means having the job security of a tyrant’s food taster. Four head coaches — Toronto’s Nick Nurse, Phoenix’ Monty Williams, Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer and Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers — were fired in the past four weeks. Budenholzer won an NBA title in 2021, and Nurse won one in 2019. The Suns made the NBA Finals in 2021 under Williams, who was named Coach of the Year the following season. Rivers won an NBA title with the Celtics in 2008 and hasn’t had a losing record the past 16 seasons.

It’s about expectations. All those franchises thought they deserved better than what they got this season, and, so, off with the heads of their coaches. That’s how it works. It’s not pleasant, and in some regards it defies logic. But it’s a big-boy business.

Ross had trafficked in fun as a backup Cubs catcher with a lifetime .229 batting average, and fans couldn’t get enough of whatever it was he was offering. It could have lasted forever. But then he became a manager, and managers have targets on their backs.

There was a lot of sentimentality in Epstein’s 2011 introductory press conference, but there wasn’t much in his dealings with managers. He hired Rick Renteria, then jettisoned him less than a year later when Joe Maddon became available. Maddon did what some had considered the impossible by winning a World Series for the Cubs, but that didn’t stop Epstein from showing him the door three years later.

Now team president Jed Hoyer is in charge, and it will be interesting to see if he’ll be as cutthroat as his former boss was. The Cubs were 19-24 heading into a weekend series against the Phillies. This is supposed to be the turnaround year in the franchise’s second rebuild in a decade, yet the .442 winning percentage isn’t much different than that of the past two seasons. Managerial mediocrity isn’t quite as obvious during a teardown. It’s a lot more noticeable when the new building starts taking shape.

The high opinion that Cubs fans once had of Ross has lost serious altitude. The only thing that matters now – the only thing that ever matters with professional teams not named the White Sox and the Bulls – is winning. It used to be you lose and you lose your job. But as the NBA is showing, you can win and lose your job, too.

How much goodwill does Ross have left?


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