Chicago Cubs Joe Maddon is NL Manager of the Year
The Chicago Cubs improved their record by 24 games from 2014 to 2015. That fact alone is worthy of great recognition. However, the Cubs also made the playoffs for the first time since 2008, ended the season with the third-best record in baseball, and did all this with a roster loaded with first-year players. Joe Maddon, the man guiding this young team through their turnaround season, was recognized for his efforts by being named the National League’s 2015 Manager of the Year.
This is the third time Maddon has brought home Manager of the Year honors, winning the honor twice while with the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League (in 2008 and 2011). In winning his third award, Maddon joins an elite group of just six other managers to have won the award three times, adding his name to a list that includes Lou Pinella, Dusty Baker, Jim Leyland, Buck Showalter, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox (LaRussa and Cox each won the award four times). Previous Cubs managers to win the award are Jim Frey (1984), Don Zimmer (1989) and Lou Pinella (2008).
This year, Maddon beat out Mike Matheny of the St Louis Cardinals and Terry Collins of the New York Mets. Maddon was the only manager named on all 30 ballots from the Baseball Writers Association of America–the organization who votes for the award. Maddon received 18 first-place votes. Matheny received 9 and Collins had 3.
Why did Maddon win it? What brought him such success?
From the very beginning of his time with the Cubs, Maddon expected his team to succeed. In Spring Training he introduced the Cubs to “Respect 90”–a slogan meant to inspire his players with a will to hustle and succeed. Maddon demonstrated a willingness to shift personnel if it meant more victories. He moved former All Star starting pitcher Travis Wood to the bullpen. Later in the season he benched All Star shortstop Starlin Castro, then reinstated him as a starter at second base. Several times Maddon inserted slugging infielders Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant in the number two slot in the line-up. He also regularly batted the starting pitcher in the eight slot to take pressure off rookie Addison Russell and put more hitters in front of Bryant and Rizzo.
Winning is the ultimate morale booster, and Maddon did whatever he could to insure the Cubs kept to their winning ways. When wins were hard to come by, he found clever ways to keep his team loose and their spirits high. He hired a magician to work magic on the Cubs after losing five straight games. The team responded with a win over the Mets. Later he supplied for a little fun on a red-eye flight by calling the team to have a “onesie” trip where players wore pajamas. During the waning days of the season, Maddon treated his players and their families to a petting zoo.
Maddon is a master of vibe. He inspires good vibes–and good vibes tend to bring good results on the field. The vibes Maddon inspired in the young Cubs brought great success. And for that Maddon has received some well-deserved recognition. Congrats, Joe.