Yesterday, with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer on stage, the Chicago Cubs introduced David Ross as the 55th manager in franchise history. You can read a bunch of our notes and thoughts from the presser right here, but if/when you do, you’ll notice one thing’s missing: comments from the GM.
Indeed, Hoyer didn’t say much yesterday – Ross and Epstein stole the show – but he did go on The McNeil and Parkins Show (670 The Score) later in the afternoon and you can catch that full interview right here (it’s also embedded at the end of this post).
In the meantime, I’ve collected some of the highlights from that chat and commented on them below. Enjoy.
- On David Ross as “the nice guy,” Hoyer says “I think the Grandpa Rossy stuff is such a misnomer …. I think the reason people think of him as a potentially great manager is his abilities to hold guys accountable. He was always the guy talking to his teammates, the guy policing the clubhouse, making sure things are done the right way. He has a unique ability to be really positive and yet also have those hard conversations …. In some ways he was as much the enforcer in 2015 and 2016 as anything.”
- That response was met with understanding from McNeil and Parkins, who, like most of us, don’t find it hard to believe in Ross’ ability (let alone that of his former teammates) to be professional and get things done. That’s not really the concern, as far as I’d say. The followup, however, did catch my attention. Hoyer was asked whether the Cubs, who’ve done so much internal restructuring and promoting before hiring an internal candidate like Ross for manager, have done what they promised in the end-of-season press conference: i.e., have they looked outside the organization for new talent and new ideas so they don’t continue to get passed by.
- Although Hoyer tries to explain the recent decisions using many more words than I’ll share right now, his first two hit hardest: “That’s fair.” In other words, he knows that’s how it looks. With that said, Hoyer explains that some of the other big changes – like the new directors of hitting and pitching – may include minds they’ve worked with in the past, but most of them were either short-term front office people or people who’s roles will be so expanded, they are essentially new. Shrug. I guess I can kinda buy that – I’m also not sure you need to get new people just to get new people, and I’m also also not sure the Cubs are done making organizational additions. But if I’m ready for this storyline to be buried, I’m sure they are, as well.
- Back to Ross: Hoyer stops short of saying they were “grooming” him, but does admit that they’ve long thought of him as a future manager. And when they hired him after he retired from playing baseball, it did give him the opportunity to “dip his toe in all areas of the organization,” which certainly doesn’t sound like an accident. Those areas, by the way, include (per Hoyer): scouting, research and development, sitting in the box with Theo and Jed during games, and being around during the trade deadline.
- When asked how he hopes Ross will be different from Joe Maddon, Hoyer said that while Maddon’s laidback approach was at one time appropriate, he hopes Ross can foster more cohesion through more structure: “With Joe, he runs a loose ship, is the best way I’d say it,” Hoyer said. “He really trusts the players to get their work done, doesn’t provide a lot of structure and I think with a young team, that’s ideal ….” But now, by contrast, Hoyer really hopes “Ross … wants our guys to do more group work, wants our guys to sort of get together more and do more stuff that can kind of create some camaraderie, create some bonds.” Basically, he thinks the team became very individualized.
- If you’re curious, Hoyer gets into what the interview process looked like for each of these candidates around the 10-min mark. Short version: the first interview for each candidate was 8 hours in one day, spending time with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, the assistant GMs (Scott Harris, Jason McLeod, and Randy Bush), plus the research and development team. Then the Cubs brought back only Joe Espada and David Ross as finalists, who had to do things like fake press conferences and Spring Training speeches.
- Do you see the role of manager as an extension of the front office: “No, it can’t be. What you want is a great relationship with us. You want to be able to take all the information the (research and development) staff gives and you want to take that information and get it on the field in the best way possible. Because I think that information can lead to wins. But it’s the manager. He’s managing the 25 guys and 10 to 15 coaches and the training staff, and he has to be a leader down there. And if that’s just an extension of the front office, he can’t truly lead that group.”
- In his next breath, Hoyer seemed to imply that they’ll “help” him assemble his coaching staff. He technically said Ross will have “a lot” of say in that, but there’s a big difference between “a lot” of say and “final” say, ya know? I’m not saying I take issue with that, just noting it.
- Changing gears, Hoyer says the Cubs have – so far – been totally focused on finding a manager and restructuring the organization, so the roster-planning discussions haven’t really begun in full force yet, which isn’t too surprising. The Cubs will know more, according to Hoyer, after the GM meetings (those are not the Winter Meetings in December) in early November.
- “I think as far as acquisitions or trades, we’re going to be open minded. We have some contractual challenges – we have a lot of guys we control for two more years, and we have to think through that. And we have to think through not only winning in 2020, but also winning in the long haul.”
- Jed Hoyer has no comment on Kris Bryant’s grievance, which reportedly should be decided by the Winter Meetings.