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Former Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross, who is considered a leading candidate to succeed Joe Maddon as the team's manager, was asked during Sunday's Baseball Tonight show if he'd be interested in the job if the Cubs called.

"I think it's one of the best jobs in baseball," said Ross, who currently works as an analyst for ESPN. "I've got a lot of close ties with those guys. I think the interest would be there. I think my heart is drawn to that dugout a little bit.

"The rumors are flattering. It makes you think about a lot of things. I've got a nice job here at ESPN that I enjoy and gives me a lot of free time with my three kids."

Ross, 42, played the final two seasons of his career with the Cubs, winning a World Series in 2016. He was asked if his close relationship with the players would be a hindrance or a help.

"You never know until you sit in the manager's seat how hard it really is to have those tough conversations with guys. I'm kind of an open person; when I was teammates with a lot of these guys I shot them straight.

The Pittsburgh Pirates fired manager Clint Hurdle on Sunday.

The NL Central-worst Pirates fired the 62-year-old Hurdle after a 69-92 record, the franchise's worst since 2010 (57-105).

Hurdle had two years remaining on his contract. He had been the third-longest-tenured manager in the majors, behind only the retiring Bruce Bochy of the Giants and Ned Yost of the Royals.

"Words cannot express how much respect and appreciation I have for Clint as a person and a leader," general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement. "He was the right person at the right time to take on the enormous challenge of leading our Major League team out of an extended losing streak and piloting us to three straight Postseason appearances. We will be forever grateful for his dedication to the Pirates organization on and off the field. This was an extremely difficult decision for us. As an organization, we believe it was time for a managerial change to introduce a new voice and new leadership inside the clubhouse.

"This has been a challenging season on many levels. We are committed to assessing and improving upon our operations at all levels in order to return Postseason baseball to Pittsburgh."

Huntington will not be fired, chairman Bob Nutting said in a statement.

"While we felt it was time to make a change at the managerial level, I strongly believe Neal Huntington and the leadership team that he has assembled are the right people to continue to lead our baseball operations department," Nutting said.

Hired as manager in 2011, Hurdle led the Pirates to winning seasons in four of his nine years. They made the playoffs three times, the last coming in a 2015 NL wild-card loss to the Cubs.

But Pittsburgh has hit a dry spell since, and bottomed out in 2019 as losses and a series of on- and off-the-field incidents piled up.

In July, reliever Keone Kela was suspended two games by the team for a confrontation he had with its performance coach. Weeks later, the Pirates suspended bullpen coach Euclides Rojas for two games after an altercation he had with reliever Kyle Crick.

In early August, Hurdle was among eight suspended for his role in a benches-clearing brawl with the Reds sparked when Kela threw up and in at Cincinnati's Derek Dietrich.

In September, Crick needed season-ending surgery on the index finger of his pitching hand after he was injured in a clubhouse fight with closer Felipe Vazquez. The following week, Vazquez was arrested on multiple felony charges, including sexual assault of a minor.

The Pirates were one game under .500 at the All-Star break, 2½ games behind the first-place Cubs in the NL Central. But they proceeded to win just four of their next 28 games to plummet out of contention.

The 2018 trade deadline deal with the Rays for Chris Archer backfired. The right-hander is 6-12 with a 4.92 ERA since joining the Pirates, while two of the players acquired for him, outfielder Austin Meadows and pitcher Tyler Glasnow, have blossomed with Tampa Bay.

Not everything was Hurdle's doing, but it was enough for him to be fired. He finishes with a 735-720-1 record over his nine seasons in Pittsburgh, winning 2013 NL Manager of the Year along the way.

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Olney: With Maddon out, what other MLB managers could be next? "I loved my teammates when I played with them; every team that I played for. But I also try to tell guys the truth in love, and so I think the best managers I have had do that exact same thing -- they have great conversations, they communicate, they walk that line between authority and leadership and being a friend as well. I think that's the line you've got to kind of walk with players and you never know until you are in that seat.

"I've got a lot of thinking to do if this gets presented to me as everyone says will happen. I'm sure waiting for that phone call."

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said he would not be surprised if Ross gets that call.

"I've always looked at Rossy as a coach when he played here," Bryant said. "Yeah, it was goofy, it was fun, it was energetic. But when he needed to tell you something, he let you hear it. From the very get-go, I felt like this guy will be a manager some day for sure."

Cubs All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo was also asked about the possibility of playing for Ross, his good friend and former teammate.

"If it was Rossy, I'd obviously sit down; I've talked to him about it before," Rizzo said. "He's in a really good place now at home with his family and what he's doing and he's happy. The pros and the cons. I mean, he's the biggest mentor in this game other than [Maddon]. Can it work? Yes. But I don't know which direction we are going in."

Other candidates for the opening include Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta; Kevin Youkilis, who is a Cubs special assistant; and Mark DeRosa, who works as an analyst for MLB Network. None of them has previous big league managerial experience.

If hired by the Cubs or another organization, Ross would follow in the footsteps of Boston's Alex Cora and the Yankees' Aaron Boone as first-time managers who also spent time as ESPN analysts following their playing days.