Saturday, December 24, 2016

Unknown Heroes Pt. 45: David Ross

I received the below card recently.  This the black parallel numbered to 63 and I really like this photo.  Ross is showing off his World Series ring he won with the Red Sox in 2013.  Of course Ross recently played a big role in winning a World Championship with the Cubs.  I was planning on doing a post on Ross and getting this card gives me a reason to go ahead and do it.
David Ross was well-known for being a great teammate and the kind of player who could be counted on to do the little things to win ball games.  Ross had an incredible moment at the end of this season when he hit a home run late in Game 7 of the World Series for the Cubs, helping the team to eventually win their first World Series Championship since 1908.  A lot of Cubs fans have adoped Ross as "Grandpa Rossy".  I still personally remember him as a great backup catcher with the Red Sox.  Ross has two World Series rings (or will soon), and the first of those came from his 2013 season with Boston.

Originally coming up with the Dodgers, Ross possessed a lot of power.  He hit 10 home runs in 40 games in his first full season.  Later on, he hit 21 and 17 home runs for the Reds in 2006 to 2007.  Oddly, he was released by the Reds just one year later in August.  Boston picked him up for the first time that same month.  But Ross only played in eight games and only had one hit in nine plate appearances.  He was one of four catchers that season for Boston behind starter Jason Varitek and backup Kevin Cash.  Boston also had a promising young catcher in George Kottaras, so Ross was the odd man out after the season.  He caught on with the Braves and had four good seasons as a backup.

Boston re-signed Ross for a second term to a two-year deal to become the backup to starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  Ross was one of my favorite signings that year, and there were many.  He was an experienced catcher with strong defensive abilities and leadership skills.  Ross did not play a lot in his first season in Boston, he made it into just 36 games, and he did not do a lot on offense when he played.  He hit .216/.298/.382 with four home runs, 10 RBIs, and five doubles, though he had a 4 for 4 game against Houston in which he hit two home runs.  Nevertheless, he was a 0.7 WAR player due to his strong defensive abilities.  He made just one error and caught 41% of attempted base stealers.

It was in the postseason that Ross was really valuable.  Saltalamacchia was a limited defensive catcher and Boston used Ross quite a bit.  He had a double in each of the two American League rounds leading to the World Series.  Ross ended up playing in the last four games of the six-game World Series against the Cardinals, mostly due to Saltalamacchia's deficiencies.  Ross had a huge moment in Game 5.  With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the 7th, Ross broke the tie with a ground-rule double that scored Xander Bogaerts with what turned out to be the winning run.  This was a mere preview of what he would eventually do with the Cubs.  Ross caught the final strike of the World Series and the image of Koji Uehara jumping into his arms is an enduring image from the World Series.

In 2014, Ross entered the season as the backup catcher, this time to A.J. Pierzynski, and then later to Christian Vazquez.  Ross played a little bit more, making it into 50 games.  His numbers declined to .184/.260/.368, but he hit seven home runs and drove in 15 with seven doubles.  Ross's defensive numbers also declined as he caught just 22% of attempted base stealers.  After the season Ross was allowed to leave as a free agent and he ended up following former teammate Jon Lester to the Cubs, where he continued as his personal catcher.

I have been finding backup catchers fascinating lately and Boston has had some good ones between Bob Montgomery, John Marzano, Doug Mirabelli, and David Ross.  It is clear that Ross's popularity has skyrocketed since he became a Cub, but he was a very popular player during his time in Boston as well.  Ross has a book coming out in May of 2017 and I will at least look at it.  If he is really covering his entire career, I will likely read it.  


  1. I find it so much easier cheering for the Ross type players than I do the major stars, but I've always been one to root for the underdog or "little guy". In today's age of expanded information for all through technology, it's actually possible to follow a guy like Ross and his personality/career.
    He was my favorite Cub on last year's team and he will be missed.
    Nice write-up!

  2. I liked Ross too. Speaking of Red Sox backup catchers, Moe Berg was a fascinating individual!