Is David Ross's job secure for 2024?
This, like most questions having to do with the Chicago Cubs 2023 offseason, is complicated. Currently, the Cubs boast a 65-60 record and sit second in the NL Central, 3.5 games back from the leading Milwaukee Brewers. If the season were to end today, the Cubs would be a postseason team by way of a Wild Card slot.
Ross has led his team on a good turnaround that proved the team put together this offseason was built to win. Pieces started to click, and the team was performing better.
But as good as things are now, fans at Wrigley are impatient and no doubt have the early-season woes front of mind. The Cubs return to glory has been triumphant this year, but only because they came out of the gates slowly in the first place.
How much of that falls on Ross? And do the Cubs find him reliable enough to avoid a similar fate at the start of next season?
Fans are currently frustrated with Ross's recent decision to keep Drew Smyly in the starting rotation despite his excellence as a relief pitcher.
Smyly came in as the closer in his last two appearances prior to Tuesday and has been used in both a starter and relief capacity throughout the last several weeks.
On Tuesday, Ross rolled Smyly out as the starter again against the lowly Detroit Tigers, and he gave up seven earned runs, striking out four batters and walking three in 3.2 innings. The Tigers, notably, are bottom-two in runs per game this season in MLB.
Looking at his splits paints a clear picture: As a starter, he has a 5.40 ERA, as a reliever, 4.09. His WHIP is a tenable 1.182 out of the bullpen but a ghastly 1.438 as a starter. Most telling is his strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is 2.55 as a starter and 4.67 as a reliever.
Now, Smyly has only pitched 11 innings out of the 'pen this year, so the small sample size doesn't make the results all that convincing just yet. But it's enough to make you wonder, and certainly, one would think that a manager seeing it work this well would do whatever he can to keep it rolling.
After all, baseball is about rhythm and consistency, right?
Ross said he felt that Smyly deserved some grace since it was his first start back, and that he doesn't see a path long-term to keeping him in the bullpen because he isn't sure who would take his place in the rotation.
That feels like precisely what Ross's job is to figure out. Instead, Smyly will be a starter.
Managing a team is complicated, and in a vacuum, this incident is small and not notable. Plus, with the trade deadline in the rearview, the Cubs don't have many options to backfill Smyly's role as a rotation man.
Whether these small, questionable moments with Ross's managing style accumulate to be enough to get him sent packing will be the question.
Ultimately, his fate is likely to return. Before their turnaround, his firing was reported as unlikely, and now that they've proven they can win under Ross, he has likely earned even more trust with the organization.
Barring an implosion and the Cubs missing the postseason, I think it's highly unlikely Ross isn't back at the helm with Chicago in 2024.