If Cubs management doesn’t upgrade the team’s roster, speculation over who will succeed fired manager Joe Maddon is strictly academic.
Baseball fans have heard the cliches about Major League Baseball teams parting company with their managers.
Managers are hired to be fired. Teams can’t fire the players, but they can fire the manager. Yada, yada, yada.
It’s nonsensically true — managers often are the fall guys for players who do not perform and general managers who make poor choices when constructing a roster.
Still, the Chicago Cubs’ weekend decision to fire Joe Maddon would have been a stunner if management hadn’t made it clear before the season that he was a goner if the Cubs didn’t make the playoffs.
Well, they didn’t make the playoffs. So Maddon is out.
Maddon’s Cubs’ teams made the playoffs during the first four years of his tenure. They won a World Series in 2016, made the National League Championship Series in 2015 and ’17. They lost the NL Wild Card game last season, but this season, after contending until the last week, they finished out of the money, behind the Cardinals and the Brewers with an 84-77 record.
Cubs President Theo Epstein didn’t try to offer a reasonable explanation for his decision to let Maddon go.
“Sometimes, it’s just time,” he said.
Maddon took the high road, expressing gratitude for his time as a Cubs manager and predicting — certainly with accuracy — that he’ll be managing another team next year.
On its face, Epstein’s decision to oust Maddon ranks near the top in the annals of ingratitude. Then again, as the architect of World Series winners in both Boston and Chicago, he is not without credibility when it comes to building winning teams and coaching staffs.
So maybe Epstein is doing the right thing. Then again, since it’s the players who play, maybe going in a new direction regarding the manager won’t get at the root of the problems the Cubs displayed this year.
Whatever the case, Maddon’s overall tenure in Chicago was golden. You can’t beat fun at the old ballpark, and there was much fun at Wrigley Field when the Cubs were on top of their game and, consequently, the National League.
A great manager before he got to Chicago, Maddon was outstanding in Chicago and will continue to do an excellent job wherever he lands. Interesting and quotable, the 65-year-old baseball lifer is considered one of the great managers in the history of the game.
Even more important, he’s the only manager to lead the Cubs to a World Series triumph in 100-plus years. Maddon will carry that accomplishment with him forever and wherever he goes.