The Cubs have problems, but David Ross isn’t one

Fans are understandably running out of patience, but the manager isn’t necessarily the villain of the season.

SHARE The Cubs have problems, but David Ross isn’t one
Cubs manager David Ross.

Fans can blame manager David Ross for the Cubs’ woes this season, but he probably shouldn’t shoulder most of the blame.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Seeing the Cubs start Memorial Day in last place and sporting the worst record in the National League was jarring. It has been interesting to monitor Cubs social media to see who’s getting the blame.

Now a couple of caveats here: Social media is a small representation of real life, and usually it’s where people go when they want to vent. There’s a cathartic nature to getting those takes off in a public forum. In some cases, it acts as an echo chamber of thoughts, and dissenting opinions can often be ignored and subdued.

With all that being said, there is a loud contingent of Cubs fans that is expecting manager David Ross to do better.

This has been going on since the beginning of the season. I noticed it inside the replies of Twitter and Instagram posts by the Cubs back in April. Scrutiny of Ross has been raised and is not unreasonable. Fans are paying closer attention because the Cubs roster has improved since the end of last season. The problem is that it probably hasn’t improved enough, but we’ll get to that later.

Fans like Rossy. He’s a World Series hero. He’s smart. He’s been able to marry subjective observation and objective data. He’s passionate about the game and his Cubs managerial resume has shown some results. Most people like to throw the 2020 season out, but that Cubs team won the NL Central. The circumstances were messed up, but to date it’s Rossy’s finest managerial moment. Having to balance COVID-19 protocols and the 60-game sprint was not easy. Add to that to the fact that he was basically managing a clubhouse of his peers; he deserves praise.

But that team’s offense was anemic in the postseason. They scored one run in two games against the Marlins and were eliminated without even a whimper. Since then, the organization has been in a soft rebuild. Last year the Cubs finished strong in their last 70 games, going 39-31. For a roster lacking talent, it was quite a feat. Bad teams can sometimes look better than they should in late-season situations. It can create a false sense of improvement.

To their credit, the Cubs and Ross dismissed the idea that a strong 70-game stretch meant anything heading into the 2023 season.

What gave the Cubs and Ross hope for the ‘23 season had to do with the addition of Dansby Swanson. Swanson has been as good as advertised so far. He’s played a stellar shortstop and has hit enough to make an impact. Cody Bellinger was raking before he got hurt. Christopher Morel has been a revelation. Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner earned their extensions and Marcus Stroman has been otherworldly. Stroman’s complete game shutout on Monday was masterful. He’s a sleeper for the NL Cy Young in my opinion. His rotation mate Justin Steele is one of the favorites for the award right now.

I just laid out a paragraph that would make you think that the Cubs are one of the best teams in the league. Yet they are currently trying to climb their way out of fourth place and fans want to know if the right person is leading the team in the dugout.

The Cubs’ expected win/loss record — a stat that Major League Baseball offers using run differential — is 27-26. Their actual record entering Tuesday: 23-30. So it’s understandable that fans would be asking why the Cubs aren’t playing up to expectations.

I hear the chorus online and they raise some good points, but I’m not ready to call Ross the problem. Organizationally, the Cubs still lack depth. It seems like Ross is trying everything to generate runs. I offer Monday’s bizarre lineup as proof. His critics would point to it as a sign of desperation.

The old adage in baseball is that you use the first 60 games to find out what you need, the next 60 games acquiring it and seeing what happens in the last 42. I’d like to see what the Cubs front office goes out and gets Rossy. This year an end-of-season push would mean a lot more, but Cubs fans’ patience is wearing thin and I get it.

You can hear Laurence Holmes talk Chicago sports Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 670 The Score with Dan Bernstein.

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