Joe Maddon – Cornerstone of the Wrigley Renovation?

Well, sadly the baseball season is over and the Royals went all Cubs and stranded a runner at third-base with a weak pop-up after a terrible at-bat to end a game. Series, and season.

My “twin” Alex Gordon got a 2 out single turned triple after the Giants went Brant Brown in the outfield.  Giants win.  Again.

Stranded at 3rd. (https://twitter.com/hasselESPN)

Stranded at 3rd. (https://twitter.com/hasselESPN)

Now, the off-season is “officially underway” to steal a line from Pat Hughes.   The talk of the baseball world other than Bumgarner saving his manager’s poor decision is a fellow World Series manager who is now looking for employment.  Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay (no longer Devil) Rays to hopefully bring his talents to another baseball team, or his sofa.  A few in the know think Joe may wait a year or two for the Yankees or Dodgers job to open up. After all, his former boss went to the Dodgers.

But, rumors and reports now say Maddon will be the next manager of the Chicago Cubs.  There’s was only one problem, they already had one. Rick Renteria, and he did an excellent job. Everything they have asked him to do, and then some.  But, “it’s not you, it’s me,” came to be with Ricky.  He did better than expected but if you have Kyle Orton as your starter and he’s turning the Bills around, you like him. But, then Peyton Manning comes through the door and you tell Kyle to start packing his things.

Rick HAD earned the right to more years in the Chicago Cubs dugout.  Quade was never the right fit and it’s not all his fault.  He did not have much of a team on the field and the minors were still re-stocking.  Dale Sveum?  Yeah, He was there.  Now with Renteria gone, that means 4 managers in 4 years.  Not exactly how an organization wants to get the “Cubs way” underway.  But, alas, as of moments ago, Ricky is gone.

The “big” hire has not always worked for the Cubs.  Lou Piniella led the Cubs to 99 regular season wins one year but not one single post-season victory.  In fact, he OVER managed his way out of town in the post season.  It was hilarious to see him put Sean Marshall in left field vs the Cardinals for one at-bat in a regular season game but that Lou was not to be found in the post season against the Diamondbacks (Hi, Augie Ojeda) or the Dodgers.

Lou trying to remember what a leadoff hitter looks like (http://blogs.suntimes.com)

Lou trying to remember what a leadoff hitter looks like (http://blogs.suntimes.com)

  Teams with nowhere near the talent, depth and pitching of the Cubs.  But they advanced and the Cubs went home.  And Lou went home permanently.

Dusty Baker.  Well he’s the last Cubs manager to win a post-season game. Also the same one to start the avalanche of media scrutiny that was Steve Bartman.  Moises “I Pee On My Hands In the Shower to Toughen Them Up” Alou shared a large role in that as well.  Dusty also ruined Mark Prior.  Remember Prior running into Marcus Giles and landing on his pitching shoulder.  Yup, the ‘TrustyToothpick’ sent him back out there and Prior was never the same.  Dusty Baker single-handedly ruining young arms – but fully supporting the toothpick industry.  Dusty DID win with pieces to the puzzle – not high price free agents.  Much more like what Theo, Jed and Co. are doing now.   Role players – not the highest priced guy available. Dusty did guide the Giants to a World Series loss at the hands of the Anaheim Angels and Craig Counsel’s odd batting stance.

Before Dusty, there was Don Baylor.  Don never made the post season but was supposed to be a great hire from the Rockies.  Yeah.  He had 187 wins and 220 losses. Which seems appropriate.  He was so bad as the Cubs skipper he would never manage again in Major League Baseball.

A man and his trusty toothpick (http://www.walkoffwalk.com)

A man and his trusty toothpick (http://www.walkoffwalk.com)

Joe Maddon comes in with more success than almost any of the other managers – other than Lou Piniella.  Ironically two of the other three Rays managers, former Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild, and once again, Sweet Lou Pinella. 

There were a number of options when the previous managers were hired. Such as Joe Girardi, who had won a World Series for the Marlins and used to sit in the stands with his wife at Wrigley in the middle of the night when he was playing for the Cubs.  Mike Maddux was in the running before Renteria was hired and would have been a better fit than Sveum. 

Ryne Sandberg coached a lot of the minor league talent to success and seemed like a perfect fit and a Cubs fans dream.  But Ryne didn’t fit with Jed and Theo’s vision.  So that left us with Rick Renteria, who had little fanfare, but did a very solid job in his freshman campaign as Cubs skipper.  This was his first MLB manager gig and he was brought in to help the influx of Latin players in the Cubs system. Rick Renteria has done nothing wrong, arguably most everything right, and he still lost his job.

Joe Maddon – HAS won a World Series – in 2002.  Yes, I DID have to look that up, because, well, it’s Tampa Bay baseball.  The same team that went from AL East Doormat to annually competing for the AL East crown with the Yankees and Red Sox.

Don Baylor (http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com)

Don Baylor (http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com)

 Though the NL Central does not have the payroll depth of the AL East it certainly has its annual competitors. Namely, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Year in and year out St. Louis is always in the thick of the NL Central race.  They are one of the most successful Major League franchises in MLB history and have had a lot of recent successes.  For all the success the Cardinals have had, the Cubs have had none.  The North Siders are growing weary of seeing their counterparts of the I-55 series annual success.  When you haven’t won it all in over a century it burns.  When your hated rival does it multiple times in less than a decade, it stings.  And then they have to dub themselves, “The Best Fans in BASEBALL…”   But I digress.

Joe Maddon buys into the sabermetrics, much like his future bosses do.  Sabermetrics are the reason that Jorge Soler is working out so much better than Felix Pie. 

Renteria was brought into help the Latin players while Joe would be brought in to get the most out of the talent on the field.  He’s even made use of former Cub castoffs like Sam Fuld.  Sam Fuld popular enough to have his own give away cape on Super Sam Fuld Day. 

Maddon is also a calming influence in the locker room for a young team that will need it.  Gone are the days of hotheaded players like Milton Bradley and Sammy Sosa with his stupid boombox.  Starlin Castro’s mental gaffes and Javy Baez attitude should not go unchecked with Maddon.  Not playing the game right and 100%? Then that player will sit in Joe Maddon’s world.  In fact, when Maddon is signed, I could see Javy Baez traded.  Doesn’t seem like a Maddon guy.

Maddon seems like a match made in Heaven for the Cubs.  The feeling of “been there, done that” certainly can’t be overlooked.  The man has won a World Series in the last decade and fits the bill for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and could be the key pickup in the Cubs off-season. 

The reports are out there that it’s a done deal.  If it is, Cubs Nation will be as excited as they have been in years. Probably since 2008.  I would have been fine with more Rick Renteria, but a better candidate became available.   The Cubbies aren’t far away.  Back to the Future might be right after all.