The Cubs have interviewed six men for the open manager’s position: Joe Espada, Joe Girardi, Gabe Kapler, Mark Loretta, David Ross and Will Venable.
According to Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times, you can eliminate four of those six names:
After an interview Monday with Espada that sources say impressed Cubs executives, insiders suggest it’s a two-man race for the Cubs job, with in-house candidate Ross holding the edge.
Ross, a special assistant to the front office since retiring as a player after winning the 2016 World Series, has been the Cubs’ presumptive manager-in-waiting since Epstein tabled contract extension consideration for Maddon a year ago.
If the Cubs go with Ross, an announcement could come by Monday’s eve of the World Series opener.
If they go with Espada, that could get pushed back until the end of the month if Houston advances to the World Series.
Ross has seemingly been manager-in-waiting since his two-year tenure as backup catcher with the Cubs. He was highly lauded for his leadership qualities in the clubhouse, especially his willingness to hold his teammates accountable when they were perceived as not doing their jobs.
And it’s not just Cubs personnel or fans saying this about Ross. Check out this recent article from his hometown of Tallahassee, quoting both Ross’ high school coach and also former MLB player Dean Palmer, who attended that same high school some years earlier:
Jeff Hogan – Ross’ former baseball coach at Florida High – believes Ross could be an ideal fit for the Cubs, even as a first-time manager.
“His overall knowledge of the game, he was always so advanced,” Hogan said. “I think he can get along with the front office, I think the players respect him – he’s earned that. He’s tough, competitive, knows the game. I think he will be a great choice if the Cubs go that way.
“He’s not afraid, that’s for sure.”
Former MLB player and Tallahassee resident Dean Palmer agreed, pointing to Ross’ acumen developed as a catcher.
“David knows both sides of the game,” said Palmer, who played 14 years in the Major Leagues at third base and was a Silver Slugger Award winner (best offensive player at each position). “I think his personality, his leadership qualities and communication skills. … I think eventually he’s going to be a big-league manager. And I really feel like this will be his time. It’s really cool to think he could be managing the Cubs. That’s awesome.”
Personally, I think any fear that Ross would be “too close” to former teammates isn’t valid. Ross is a smart baseball guy and I believe everyone involved would understand Ross would be in a new role as manager and everyone would adjust accordingly.
I don’t know as much about Joe Espada. He’s been widely praised for his work as Astros bench coach, as well as previous stops as a coach and manager in the Marlins system and as a scout and special assistant with the Yankees. I had mentioned previously that he had worked with former Cubs coach and current Orioles manager Brandon Hyde in the Marlins system. Turns out the relationship is closer than “worked with” — Espada is Hyde’s brother-in-law:
Joe is my brother-in-law. Well, he’s my wife’s sister’s husband. Is that my brother-in-law?
(Got that? Hyde’s wife’s sister is married to Espada.)
Anyway, if the Cubs do choose Ross, they could make an announcement as soon as Monday, which will be the next off day before the World Series begins. I suppose they could do the same with Espada, but if the Astros win the ALCS that’d be a bit awkward.
Interestingly, both men have been associated with many organizations during their baseball careers — but not the same ones:
The only time they might have crossed paths is playing against each other in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2002.
Espada never played in the major leagues, but has worked in winning organizations and now is a bench coach under a World Series-winning manager, A.J. Hinch.
Ross played 15 big-league seasons under the following managers, in order: Jim Tracy, Lloyd McClendon, Pete Mackanin, Bruce Bochy, Jerry Narron, Mackanin again, Dusty Baker, Terry Francona, Bobby Cox, Fredi Gonzalez, John Farrell and Joe Maddon. There are a lot of winning managers in that group and a lot of different styles. For what it’s worth, Jim Bowden of The Athletic says Ross is the best fit for the Cubs:
Ross has worked in the Cubs organization and is well respected by the front office, players and media alike. His lack of experience is a drawback, but he’s studied the game his whole life and could have quick success like other young managers recently, including Aaron Boone of the Yankees, Alex Cora of the Red Sox and Rocco Baldelli of the Twins. The front office would work well with Ross in terms of analytics, planning and preparation, and he’ll be able to carry out the direction he gets from above.
I think Ross is the right guy for this job at this moment in Cubs history. Your opinion might differ.
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