CHICAGO – At last, he gets his chance to lead a Major League Baseball team on the field as a manager.
Just like it would have been in March, there will be some pressure on once the first pitch is made sometime after 6 PM on Friday for David Ross.
Remember, this was the year that the Cubs were expected to determine just how long this current core had left before contracts would start coming up. Now that period of evaluation is just 60 games, and if the club chooses to make a major move, they’ll have till the end of August to do so.
Some fans aren’t getting that heavy with their thoughts on Friday, for the joy of just having an opening day during a pandemic is enough to stay in the moment. In some ways, Ross is doing the same as he recognizes the significance of managing his first big league game.
“I’m excited, almost relieved,” said Ross of the opener. “A start three weeks ago that you didn’t know how this was going to go. It really has been a daily process, with a lot of conversations in between that had nothing to do with baseball. I’m so proud of the work our guys put in, the attitude they’ve brought every day, the energy, the commitment to the work.
“I couldn’t be happier with that, and now we get to do it for real.”
The first opponent in Ross’ tenure will be the Milwaukee Brewers, who have made the playoffs the last two years. They’ll be a part of a wide open National League Central division which also includes a seasoned Cardinals’ team and an emerging Reds’ group poised to make a run.
It’s a critical year for Ross right off the bat, since the team’s going to have to make some contract decisions soon on players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Willson Contreras. They make up a big part of the core of a team that won a World Series and made the playoffs four-straight seasons.
With none of those guys locked down long term, Theo Epstein will have some decisions to make, and these 60 games could provide him some perspective on those. That’s why Ross can’t get too nostalgic about the start of a new chapter of his baseball life.
“It was fun, but you’re trying to plan ahead, it’s just one game,” said Ross when filling out his first lineup car. “You try to look at so many factors – the quick turnaround the next day is a factor in that as well.”
That game with the Brewers is a Noon on Saturday. The Ross era will be off and running Friday night, with plenty on the line even if it’s just a few months.