Cubs Counting On Ross To Reveal Their Best

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- When Albert Almora Jr. joined the Cubs as a rookie in June of the team's World Series season in 2016, a veteran player was quick to pull him aside to share a message.

It was David Ross.

"He tells me, 'Hey, man. I don't care if you're a rookie or not, you're here to help this team win ballgames. Just be yourself,'" Almora recalled. "It helps you fit right in.

"You hear all the stereotypes of when you get to the big leagues as a rookie -- you don't speak, you don't say anything, you kind of stay in a corner. When you got a vet like that come to you and say 'just be yourself and help us win ballgames,' it's an unbelievable feeling."

Every Cub who played alongside Ross during his two seasons with the team has a story of why he was such a good teammate and how he showcased the qualities needed in a manager. 

When the Cubs decided to not retain manager Joe Maddon late last September, the prevailing hope within the clubhouse was that Ross would be the replacement. He was then named Cubs manager in October.

"This is kind of a dream come true," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "You're playing for one of your best friends. I'm excited to see him grow as a manager and he can help me continue to grow in my career."

The close friendships that Ross holds with players like Rizzo and left-hander Jon Lester was viewed as a benefit in the eyes of Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein as he conducted the interview process. The Cubs' belief is Ross has the mindset and equity to hold players accountable and that he'll also have the right touch to help maximize the talent of some players who have regressed since 2016.

Maddon led the Cubs to four playoff appearances, two NL Central titles and one World Series championship in his five years, but there was also an alarming drop-off in production for many of the team's core players over the last couple seasons. The source of that regression is something Epstein has searched for in these last two empty offseasons.

Ross has entered his new role believing he can elevate each player on the Cubs' roster.

"It's just a little bit more of getting back to what we found important and some of these guys where their minds were when I got to play with them," Ross said. "Maybe the lack of attention to detail at times. And getting back to some of those winning ways that I've seen in my career as a player and being on winning teams."

The Cubs are confident that Ross' approach will strike the right notes in the clubhouse.

"It's a perfect position for him," right-hander Kyle Hendricks said. "He's an unbelievable leader. When he was on the team, he was the best teammate that any of us ever had. He was the leader of this team. 

"He's coming into a situation where he knows everybody so well, he's not afraid to have those conversations. So he's going to know what makes guys tick, what they need and he's going to address what needs to be addressed."

Ross has taken over during an odd time for the Cubs, who are balancing their hope of contending at a high level in 2020 with building for their long-term future. It could come at the cost of a star like third baseman Kris Bryant, who has been mentioned in trade talks for a haul of prospects.

However that plays out, when Ross gathers the Cubs at spring training in February, he will offer a message that his team can win the World Series in 2020. If the Cubs have any chance to accomplish that, Ross will have to help reveal the best in each player. 

"Reset the mind, refocus on our work, just a little bit of attention to details," Ross said. "That's all I feel can take us to the next level."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.