Joe Maddon’s future with the Cubs has been a hot topic since before the season ended, with doubts circling as to whether he’d receive an extension of his original five-year deal. Alan Nero, Maddon’s agent, spoke confidently about the two sides sitting down this winter, but Theo Epstein put the kibosh on that while speaking to the media from the GM Meetings in California.
Theo Epstein announces that he has informed Joe Maddon and Alan Nero, the manager's agent, that the Cubs will not discuss an extension this winter and will re-evaluate the situation later in the 2019 season.
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) November 6, 2018
Epstein said there will be no discussions of an extension this winter, but that the team will re-evaluate things during the season. This follows with the issues pointed out during Epstein’s end-of-season press conference, most notably the team’s lack of urgency. Some of the criticism, such as being more intentional about winning on getaway days or after taking the first two games in a series, seemed to be aimed directly at Maddon.
As such, it makes sense that the front office would want to see whether and how the skipper takes a different tack this coming season. Though Maddon was on the verge of beatification following the Cubs’ World Series win, his teams have underperformed expectations the past two seasons (yes, even with all those regular-season wins). The offense’s guttering flame blew out completely toward the end of this season and Epstein wants to make sure it stays lit before anointing Maddon as the team’s acolyte beyond 2019.
“We’re not running away from Joe in the least bit,” Epstein said (per Tony Andracki tweet). “But given that we all have things we’re working on to get more out of this team and to be one game better than we were last year, this is the appropriate move.”
To his credit, Nero had a significantly better response to this latest development than back in October when he compared Maddon’s reaction to the Addison Russell news to Donald Trump reacting to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. To be fair, Nero has maintained pretty similar rhetoric when he’s not being inflammatory.
Maddon’s agent says Maddon isn’t concerned at all about an extension. Just looking forward to next year and things will work themselves out one way or another.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) November 6, 2018
So it sounds like everyone is on the same page in terms of expectations, but my concern here is how it impacts the clubhouse. Something like this could be a galvanizing force as the players rally around Maddon to ensure he stays around beyond next season. On the other hand, being asked constantly about their manager’s lame-duck status could grow tedious very quickly. Even worse, it could lead to uncertainty and anxiety.
As confident as I am in the ability of this team to block out some of that superfluous noise and press forward, having something like this hanging around doesn’t strike me as part of creating an optimal environment. But again, maybe it’ll electrify the Cubs rather than darken their skies like Schleprock’s perma-cloud.