LAS VEGAS — With the lack of leadership in the clubhouse in 2018 dubbed a “miscalculation,” the Chicago Cubs are searching for their next David Ross.
The former catcher turned Cubs executive/ESPN broadcaster famously won over Chicago and the Cubs locker room in 2015 and 2016, helping the team to a World Series championship.
But the Cubs haven’t replaced that kind of leadership since Ross retired, and now it is one goal of the offseason.
“We didn’t have anyone like that on the roster last year,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said from the winter meetings on Monday. “I did think there was a bit of a void, to be honest with you. That’s not to say we don’t have a bunch of guys that have leadership qualities. We absolutely do, but we have such a young group. Having someone that’s been through the game a little bit longer, with more perspective, that can help out with some of the difficult times, is important. We had that in ’15, ’16, ’17. We were lacking that last year.”
Hoyer praised former outfielder Jon Jay for his role in 2017, but Jay didn’t return in ’18, opening the leadership void.
The Cubs faded the down stretch last season, losing the division in a tiebreaker game to the Milwaukee Brewers, then losing the wild card game to the Colorado Rockies the next day. The front office assumed — after several years in the big leagues and four straight playoff appearances — that the young players on the team were ready to be on their own. That wasn’t the case.
“I think it was a miscalculation on our part,” Hoyer said. “We felt we were at a place where those things would take care of themselves because we had this group together for so long. We realized that wasn’t accurate.”
Hoyer stressed that the Cubs have some leaders on the pitching staff — namely veteran Jon Lester. Plus, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo are considered in that category as well, but none necessarily possess the attributes to call out teammates, an area Ross excelled. Hoyer didn’t mention names, but he stressed that an addition with those leadership qualities for 2019 is likely to come from a backup, not a marquee player. He reiterated a winter stance that the Cubs also want Ross around the team more, even though his role isn’t in uniform outside of spring training.
“The right guy with the right professionalism does make a difference,” Hoyer said.