Saturday, April 20, 2024

Grading David Ross’ Managing so far in 2023


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David Ross has the ability to be the reason the Cubs’ season finishes less than what’s possible.

Over his short managing career, he has never had a team quite like the current roster. During his first full season, he finished 71-91, then 74-88, and 14-13 at the end of April. If fans can remember, the Cubs had a less than average roster the first two seasons, with the elimination of the “core” Cubs’ players from the World Series run. With that being said, Ross has the benefit of the doubt with still being a new coach and not having a competent roster until this season, but he has been in the MLB-world for nearly thirty years now, so there’s no excuse for the horrendous decisions and being a key reason the Cubs have lost close games.

The big highlight to Ross’ recent failed decisions would be the bullpen. It doesn’t seem like Ross understands who can play what role when it comes to the relief innings. There are days where Mark Leiter Jr. or Keegan Thompson will pitch in the 6th-inning, and days where they’ll be the closer. Not only that, but when these relievers have to keep switching back and forth from setup to closer back to long reliever, there is no way to expect the players to be in a consistently dominant headspace.

A recent example of this is Craig Kimbrel, when he was traded to the White Sox from the Cubs. With having a prominent role in both Boston and Chicago as a last-inning closer, the White Sox had to utilize both Liam Hendriks and Kimbrel in the same bullpen, so they changed Kimbrel’s role to setup, and that led to the worst numbers of his career. It’s not a sustainable method to have pitchers not know their own role on a team. The messiness and lack of structure within the bullpen has been a catastrophe, and leads right into the next point.

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Michael Fulmer. He gets his own paragraph, and he’s only half to blame. Fulmer has been the black cat of this year’s Cubs team, due to his highlighted blown saves, where the Dodgers (two of them) and the Mariners games are the big ones most remembered. Fulmer has struggled to say the least, having a 6.57 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP as a closer is not ideal. However, as stated earlier, everyone needs to have a role, Fulmer’s role is not as the closer, and the numbers back that up. All nine runs he’s allowed this season come in the ninth-inning. Every single run. Every game where he’s pitched before the 9th, he has allowed just two hits and has ten strikeouts. Ross has as much access, if not more, to these numbers, and the decision to keep bringing Fulmer in the ninth-inning is costing the Cubs games that are easily winnable.

Finally, the Iowa Cubs have some players that the Chicago Cubs could really use, specifically Matt Mervis and Christopher Morel. Fans have been practically begging the Cubs through social media to bring them up, because the players we have either on the bench or in their respective positions are only hurting the Cubs’ contention chances.

It is fully understood that Ross does not have a final decision in these matters nor can he just call players up at his own will, but it goes without saying that he absolutely has influence on who gets to play in the big leagues. There is no evidence whatsoever that Ross has or has not talked to upper management about bringing these guys up, but at this current point in time, Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini, the prominent first-base/DH players, are not helping the team be better. It’s become clear that the Cubs have a roster that can make a postseason push, so why not go all in and do what you can to make it happen? 

It’s easy to blame a manager or a coach for a team’s failures, but this feels a bit different. Managers make mistakes, but when they keep making the same mistake day after day, game after game, there is a problem. From bullpen failures to roster management, Ross has really had some issues and ended up costing the Cubs a handful of games. While it’s early in the season, these games still matter just as much as those in late September.

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