Since last Friday, the Cubs and baseball worlds have been aflutter with speculations, predictions and rumors about Joe Maddon. After opting out of his contract, reporters, bloggers, fans and a couple cats and dogs all spouted their thoughts, wishes and insider information from “baseball executives” about the next landing place for the former Rays manager. Most of these (almost immediately and very consistently) pointed to the Chicago Cubs.
The timing of Maddon’s departure couldn’t have been worse for those seeking immediate answers. The combination of the Selig gag order on teams making major roster moves during the World Series and the fact that the Cubs aleady had a manager under two more years of team control served as annoying barriers.
But that didn’t stop the rumor mills from turning. From the Cubs supposedly tampering with Maddon to provoke his quick decision, to Theo supposedly flying to Florida to meet with the unemployed skipper, Twitter and sports radio and TV had a lot of time on its hands (OK, just a few days) to come up with scenarios. Yet there still was not that nugget all were looking for: the confirmation that he would sign with the Cubs.
joe maddon to become cubs manager. story up soon at @CBSSports
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) October 29, 2014
Then, lo, it was written today in the Twitter bible in Heyman, chapter 12, verse 17: “Joe Maddon to become Cubs manager. Story up soon at @CBSSports.” Yea, verily, as it was written and distributed to the masses, the flock came together and sang in rejoice, “We have our manager!” Well, not all of the flock.
Several media members immediately came out to say their sources indicated it is not a done deal and that nothing had been confirmed. The flock knew this was not the case, however, as we know that baseball reporting is a very competitive business. Every member of the media wants the edge with their sources. Sometimes they have the right person, as Heyman did. Others, they have those so close to the proceedings that they dare not leak a word, for fear of the trail of cookie crumbs leading back to haunt them by way of a nasty letter from Commissioner Skeletor.
But the word was out. Whether the ink is dry on the contract yet or not is not the point, but official word to the remaining reporters should come soon enough.
So with that said, and with Cubs nation swooning about their new manager, we can all exhale and start making World Series parade plans for fall 2015. Well, not so fast.
Maddon may be the best manager out there right now and brings everything Theo and Jed want in a skipper, from his love of sabermetrics, to speaking Spanish, to outside-the-box thinking, to solid in-game managing, but a manager is still just a manager. It’s the players who win–and lose–the games.
The Cubs have a lot in their chamber offensively right now but are still in need of one to two top arms for their rotation. The thought in play here is that Maddon will attract guys like Jon Lester or Max Scherzer and eventually David Price. With the signing of Maddon, the Cubs have shown the baseball community that they really are coming strong and fast, as Theo intimated some time back.
By landing a big fish in Maddon and, with him, one or two top free agents, 2015 could be a year to contend. But mostly it will be an audition of sorts for Maddon to show the 2016 free agent class that this Cubs team is on the move and has room on the team charter for more talent.
Players aside, it will be interesting to see how Joe handles his coaching staff. Even though Ricky turned in his keys, the coaches are still under contract with the Cubs, including Chris Bosio and newly-signed Doug Dascenzo. Maddon’s Tampa Bay crew is under team control through next year too, so free of some weird hostage negotiations, don’t anticipate Dave Martinez coming over. He could even be the first in line to replace Joe as team ownership packs boxes for Montreal. Aside from a minor move, look for the core of the Cubs coaching staff to stand pat.
For those who are trying to compare Maddon to Dusty and Lou, please stop. You’re only making yourselves look silly. Those managers–aside from being top names–and their situations with their respective teams don’t compare to Maddon and his situation. Dusty and Lou were part of a Cubs culture that was attempting to buy pennants–often with egos–and under Tribune and Jim Hendry control.
This Cubs team, the one we watch now? Sure, they are not the most talented yet, but they play as a team under Theo’s Cubs Way. Top to bottom, inside out, Theo bestowed on this organization a tabula rasa and he is painting a new picture. With one broad brushstroke this week, that painting is looking pretty damn fine.
But at what cost to his and owner Tom Ricketts’s status among their peers.
According to a Fansided report shared this morning by David Kaplan, rival executives and managers are not happy with Maddon taking a job that already had a warm seat. “Classless. Doesn’t look good. Shocking.” Those are some of the words from unnamed sources commenting on the hiring. In my opinion, yes, this was an unpopular move in the baseball establishment, but the last I recall, peer status did not equate to success and, ultimately, a World Series.
For the fans who are feeling badly for Ricky, don’t. He has been in this game for a long time and knows it is a business. He’ll be reminded of that once a month for the next two years with a smile on his face when he hits the ATM to see a sizable deposit from the Chicago National League Ball Club.
The Cubs did something un-Cublike this week, even though not yet officially confirmed. They put on their big boy pants.