Interesting seasons ahead for managers


We all know by now the Cubs will have a different look next year.

Sport jackets or casual? Inquiring players want to know.

“I haven’t reached out to everybody yet, but the guys I would normally talk to have reached out, asking me about dress code and stuff,” new manager David Ross said. “It’s crazy the questions they ask. It’s funny. What is the dress code going to be? I haven’t even thought about that. We’ll get to that.”

Ross is entering the brave new world of managing on the North Side, where expectations have been muted somewhat by all the talk of a roster reboot. Nothing had happened as of late Tuesday at the winter meetings, though the Kris Bryant trade rumors continued to fly as the Cubs brass played prevent defense against the Twittersphere.

On the other side of town, returning White Sox manager Rick Renteria is suddenly dealing with great expectations, based on the early signing of catcher Yasmani Grandal and the bidding over the second tier of free-agent starting pitchers. Even Tuesday’s trade for Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara was an upgrade over the status quo.

After spending the first four seasons of his managerial career with Cubs and Sox teams in rebuilding mode, Renteria will need to place winning before teaching.

“Everybody should expect to win,” he said. “We’re not taking it any differently now than we did in the past. You’re always going to be teaching. That’s a part of what we do, especially when you have young players.”

No matter the spin, it figures to be an interesting year on both sides of town, and Ross and Renteria will be under the gun. Both managers exuded confidence Tuesday about their team’s chances in 2020, even as both remain in wait-and-see mode while their front offices piece together their rosters.

Speaking to the media Tuesday for the first time since his introductory news conference, Ross revealed he caught up with old teammates and current players Saturday at Kyle Schwarber’s wedding. But he said he wants to wait until the new year to start reaching out to most players.

“Let me get a plan, continue to get all the stuff we’re working toward,” he said. “I didn’t want to call and small-talk them. I wanted to hit them with a little bit of information and what I expect and get a little bit of feedback on how the offseason is going.”

Ross said there was no talk about playing time, and he wants to “keep it casual until spring training,” when he can “give them my true voice.”

“I’ve got a lot of things that I’m jotting down and want to speak real truths to some of the guys that I know and respect and have friendships with,” he said. “We’re going to have some real conversations. Just hit them with where I’m coming from and what to expect and what I know about them to be true already before this thing started.”

How will Ross evolve from being their friend to their boss?

“There will be a change,” he conceded. “There obviously will be some boundaries and a line. But I also don’t want to change who I am as a person. That’s why I got this job. That’s why those guys respected me at the time. There’s going to be a true balance for that, and that’s going to come from me.”

So no more partying with the boys?

“I never was a big partier,” he said. “When you’re the manager, you can still go out to the party. You’ve just got to be the first one to leave. I can’t be the guy that stays late.”

The “Grandpa” moniker that Anthony Rizzo and Bryant bestowed upon Ross helped make him one of the more popular Cubs, which led to a “Dancing with the Stars” appearance and commercial endorsements.

Is it time to bury the lovable Grandpa image?

“I haven’t thought about the Grandpa Rossy thing since he was a player,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “To me, that was a quirky 2016 thing that happened with the young kids and Rossy. … I don’t think there’s any way of getting rid of it completely. That was part of those years.

“But it’s been well-chronicled he’s not everyone’s best friend. Part of what makes him special is the ability to hold everyone accountable and the ability to get on guys. They respected him a ton, and he’s a fun guy to be around. But everyone knows he’s a pretty serious dude as well, so I don’t worry about that.”

Renteria, meanwhile, should get a chance to prove himself in the dugout after being saddled with subpar rosters with little experience. Grandal, who played for the Padres when Renteria was bench coach, said it’s going to be fine.

“How can you not love Ricky?” Grandal said. “He’s fiery, and a lot of times you don’t expect him to do the things he does, and that’s why you love him. He’s a guy that manages the way I do when I’m playing, more by feel. … I look forward to learning from that.

“A lot of times my gut is telling me something and I go by the numbers and I get burned. Those are the calls and the plays that keep me up at night. I think it’s going to be great.”

If the Sox are expected to win, should we expect Renteria to manage any differently?

“That’s going to be a case-by-case thing,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “When there’s games to be won, he’s going to look to try to take home that W on a given night. Certainly as you get closer and closer to being a postseason-eligible team, short-term W’s are going to be more important than long-term development.

“We have to wait to see what the roster is going to look like and where guys are before we decide if the time for that is April, or if it’s going to be midseason or when.”

The waiting game continues, but at least an end is in sight.


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