David Ross gives Cubs more than a backup backstop

David Ross knows a little about waiting. A career backup catcher, David Ross played a dozen years for a half-dozen teams before experiencing major league baseball’s greatest thrill: winning a world championship.

In 2013, then with the Boston Red Sox, Ross, at age 36, caught the final out of Game 6 of the World Series, when the Sox celebrated winning a World Series for the first time at Fenway Park in 95 years.

Now 37, the grizzled veteran with the salt-and-pepper beard that earned its own nickname – “The Wolf” – has but one goal left in his major league career. To experience that same feeling of jubilation he felt on October 31, 2013, but in a Cubs uniform.
“The one thing I would say having won a World Series — that’s the only reason I play the game now,” Ross said recently in an interview with ESPN 1000’s Jesse Rogers. “I want that in Chicago.”

It has been widely assumed that Theo Epstein and the Cubs signed Ross in the offseason to a 2-year, $5 million contract because of his connection with the team’s new ace, Jon Lester. That the two were, in essence, a package deal.
In Boston, Ross had been Lester’s personal catcher and there’s little doubt that he has contributed to the left-handed pitcher’s success in a big way. In the last two seasons, Lester is 14-6 with a 2.77 earned-run average with Ross behind the plate and 17-13 with a 3.37 ERA with someone else catching.

But the career .233 hitter with 95 home runs also brings to the plate solid receiving skills. In comparing the pitch-framing skills of Ross and the Cubs other new backstop acquisition, Miguel Montero, with those of Wellington Castillo, the team’s primary catcher the last two seasons, SB Nation’s Beyond the Box Score calculated that Cub pitchers could get an additional 200 strike calls in 2015.

“With five postseason spots per league, often one game is the difference between October baseball and golf,” wrote SB Nation’s Scott Lindholm. “Two hundred extra strikes a year will never outweigh a minus bat, but it could be the icing on the cake and be part of the almost-infinite list of small things that, taken together, can yield that one important win. If the Cubs are going to spend big money on pitchers, they might as well acquire catchers who can squeeze out as many strikes as possible for them.”
Perhaps Ross’ greatest value, as far as the Cubs are concerned, is that he brings a much-needed veteran presence and well-regarded clubhouse leadership that the North Siders have sought to help guide their young team.

“He has a great reputation,” Cubs’ general manager Jed Hoyer told ESPN 1000 recently. “People talk about him as a future manager.”
From both behind the plate and inside the clubhouse, Ross hopes that he can help the Cubs end their 107-year World Series drought.

“When you’re talking about a guy like me on the back end of my career, winning in 2013 [with the Red Sox], I realized how great that is, how great that adventure is,” Ross told ESPN 1000’s Jesse Rogers.
“When you get a chance to win a World Series in a big city, there’s no better feeling than to have that city behind you when you take the field. None. I want that again in Chicago.”

Did you know? On September 2, 2002, Ross hit his first career home run off former Cubs first baseman Mark Grace? Grace, then the Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman, took the mound with the D-Backs trailing the Dodgers 18-0 and garnered a lot of chuckles with his dead-on imitation of the windup of teammate Mike Fetters. That was the lone run Grace surrendered in his one and only pitching performance of his career.

Photo: David Ross / Keith Allison / CC BY 2.0 / Alteration: None