During the post-season, I was noticing all the good baseball managers for the teams still playing and began thinking about who I thought the best ones in baseball might be today. The one at the top of my personal list was Joe Maddon on the Tampa Bay Rays. It's sort of stunning to me that today Joe Maddon is now the manager of my beloved Chicago Cubs.
And so the Joe Maddon Era officially starts. And now we sit and watch what happens next. They should be some starting pitcher-signings coming. We'll see.
Of course the manager doesn’t win for the team. But it’s nice to put pieces together that a team needs. We’ll see what the Cubs do now. It should be an interesting "Hot Stove" off-season. Then again, it already is.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Rick Renteria who was just fired by the Cubs after only one season, but he’s got two more years of a contract he'll be paid on, and can always be hired by someone else. And ultimately, it’s hard to feel overly bad for anyone when your own team hasn’t won in 106 years…
On Pardon the Interruption today on ESPN, Michael Wilbon went on a tear slamming a couple of unattributed comments from unnamed baseball executives who were critical of Maddon. Among other things, he said that the Cubs have been so polite and gracious for 106 years, and have been losing. And the teams that are criticizing the Cubs are probably those who wanted them to keep Maddon so that they could keep beating them.
There was a particularly good perspective on it all in a piece today by Tim Brown on Yahoo Sports. He wrote --
Maybe the criticism is in part born of jealousy, because Maddon, again, is very good at what he does, and he is a wonderful, interesting, smart man whom nobody wouldn’t construct a franchise around. It’s a bottom-line game, everybody knows that, and better than most the Cubs understand what the bottom looks like. So, given the opening, they’d take their shot and undoubtedly would justify themselves as honoring the best interests of the franchise and their deserving fans.
That has generally been the reaction. But for all the criticism of how "cold" this maybe have been by the Cubs, what I appreciate is how the team went far beyond the norm to say good things about Rick Renteria and how he deserved to stay, but when given the opportunity to hire a Joe Maddon -- who's not only such a good manager, but especially good for helping build a team that has so many young, highly-touted prospects -- you almost have to do what you can to get him. The team didn't only say nice things about Rick Rick Renteria, but also offered him a job in the organization. And they had GM Jed Hoyer fly to San Diego last week to talk the situation over and kept providing him with regular updates.
Among other things, team president Theo Epstein admitted that Renteria, whose record last year was 73-89 record despite losing two starting pitchers in trades during the season and having to play with such a young, inexperienced team, deserved to return. And Epstein added --
"Rick’s sterling reputation should only be enhanced by his season as Cubs manager. We challenged Rick to create an environment in which our young players could develop and thrive at the big league level, and he succeeded. Working with the youngest team in the league and an imperfect roster, Rick had the club playing hard and improving throughout the season. His passion, character, optimism and work ethic showed up every single day."
So, under difficult conditions, I think the Cubs handled things as well as could be expected. And in the end, it's a business decision. They hired someone they felt was the best, and did something they felt would be best for the team -- and did so in as gracious a way as reasonable, however tough it was.
And in the end...the Chicago Cubs now have Joe Maddon as their manager. And a growing roster of hopefully up-and-coming young stars.
By the way, I still don't expect the team to compete for the post-season, even if they sign some great starting pitching. But with so many young players, they still need time to mature. I think they can be a respectable team next year, over .500, but still think they're a year, maybe even two from seriously competing for the post-season and World Series.
But at least they should be a whole lot more fun to watch...
Hey, it's only been 106 years.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor