Former Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum was fired by Theo Epstein in 2013 over beers in the Newport Bar, a combination tavern/laundromat at which the bartender watched it play out like a reality show.
Sveum faced reporters outside Wrigley Field when the news was announced the next day, saying: “Two weeks ago, I never would have imagined this was going to happen.”
Joe Maddon and Epstein announced their amicable divorce at Busch Stadium on the final day of the 2019 season, holding a news conference to feed a no-hard-feelings narrative no one was buying.
Jim Riggleman stood in a corner of the home clubhouse at Wrigley Field after being fired on the final day of the 1999 season and answered wave after wave of questions for 45 minutes. He admitted he let the “little things” fester, such as allowing Sammy Sosa’s entourage free access to the clubhouse.
Don Zimmer invited beat writers into his Manhattan hotel room when the Cubs fired him in 1991 and told them to clean out the minibar. Sticking the Tribune Co. with the tab was his final hurrah.
Dusty Baker shared his thoughts on his last day as Cubs manager in 2006 in the cramped room he nicknamed “the dungeon” after spending the entire season hearing speculation he was on the way out. “All things must come to an end,” he said. “I wish we could’ve got it done, but we didn’t.”
In the long and storied history of fired Cubs managers, David Ross had it much easier than many of his predecessors.
With the season having ended over a month earlier, Ross was back home in Florida last week when he got the news from President Jed Hoyer that his services were no longer needed, that former Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell would replace him in the Cubs dugout.
As painful as it must have been to learn the vocal support of Chairman Tom Ricketts and Hoyer — not to mention team-owned Marquee Sports Network — meant nothing in the long run, at least Ross was spared the agony of having to answer questions about how it felt and what he planned to do next.
Rick Renteria didn’t say a word to the media in the months after he was shockingly fired for Maddon in 2014, and after a few days without comment, it looked as if Ross might do likewise.
But Ross answered a few questions from a Tallahassee Democrat reporter Thursday without offering any specifics. He said all the right things about being grateful to the Cubs for giving him the job despite having no managerial experience. But he didn’t mention Hoyer’s name when addressing his firing.
“If my boss doesn’t think I am a good manager, then he should move on,” Ross said. “I don’t fault him for that. If he doesn’t think I am the right guy, that’s his job. That’s his choice. I have my own thoughts and opinions that I will keep to myself.”
Ross admitted he “gets mad from time to time” over the dismissal but insisted he was not bitter.
“Anger and all that stuff is poison for me,” he said.
That’s certainly nice to hear if true. Anyone in Ross’s position probably would be angry at the way it came down, especially after Hoyer had indicated to the media he would be back.
Ross easily could have asked the reporter how any manager could have won with the bench he was saddled with in September or why Hoyer didn’t give him more bullpen help at the trade deadline or why the Cubs brought rehabbing Marcus Stroman back to pitch down the stretch.
Hoyer’s fingerprints were also on the Cubs collapse, as were the players’.
But Ross kept mum, and that was probably a wise decision. There is no need for Ross to pull a Herman Franks, the former Cubs manager who trashed his players, including Bill Buckner and Mike Vail, after resigning in 1979. “There isn’t enough money in the world to pay me to manage if I have to look at that face every day,” Franks said of Vail.
Venting is a lost art, and keeping his “thoughts and opinions” to himself makes sense.
Though Ross had a penchant for sounding autocratic, reminding fans criticizing him on social media that he was the manager and they were not, he still acted more like a player than a manager. He didn’t really look at himself as their boss.
In the end, firing Ross seemed more like a roster transaction — almost like designating Eric Hosmer for assignment — than a patented Cubs managerial dismissal. Counsell was just a high-priced free-agent who would replace him.
Before the second-to-last game of the season, Ross shared the blame for the blown wild-card spot.
“We’re in this together,” Ross said in Milwaukee after the Cubs were eliminated. “I wouldn’t separate myself from any player, front office, coach. If we don’t get to where we want to get to, I’m the manager of this team. The blame should come on me first.”
It did, as it turned out, much to Ross’s dismay.
Ross should be back in the game in some capacity, though whether he’ll get another chance to manage soon is anyone’s guess. Sveum was hired as a Kansas City Royals coach three days after his firing, knowing he wouldn’t get a chance.
“I didn’t want to wait around,” Sveum said that day. “I want to be on the field. People said ‘Try this or try that.’ I’m a guy who puts a uniform on and likes to go to work.”
Ross also likes putting on a uniform. Would his ego allow him to take a job as a base coach?
He always can go back to being a TV analyst, where he began with ESPN after his playing career. Or he could just spend time with his family doing whatever he wants. As Ross’s friend and former Cub Ryan Dempster said on “Intentional Talk,” “the world is his oyster.”
Cubs managers always have been in the spotlight because of the team’s history and the passion of its fan base.
“If you win it all with the Cubs, they’ll rename the lake for you,” former announcer Bob Brenly said in 2006.
Maddon later discovered that wasn’t true.
Lake Michigan wasn’t renamed Lake Maddon, and that 2016 championship seems like ancient history after Ross’ firing. Counsell will be introduced Monday at Wrigley, and a new era begins.
Life goes on.