Chicago Cubs: This team boasts the best leadership in all of baseball

Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With less than a month left in the regular season, the Chicago Cubs find themselves in first place late in the year yet again – but in a very different manner than in recent years.

Injuries hit key players from the start, yet the Chicago Cubs managed to work around them to get where they are with a month to go.  It is time to recognize that Theo Epstein, the front office and manager Joe Maddon have expertly handled this 2018 rendition of Cubs through circumstances that would have, and in some cases did, crater other teams.

We’re not even counting left-hander Drew Smyly who started the season on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery.  It all really started with Anthony Rizzo’s back issue in April, the major culprit in the slugger’s worst month of his major league career.  That landed him on the 10-day DL barely two weeks into the season.  Joining him on the disabled list in April? 37-year-old Ben Zobrist and right-hander Eddie Butler.

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Zobrist’s stint saw David Bote come up and a new Cubs hero was bornYu Darvish’s parainfluenza virus hit at the beginning of May forcing the Cubs to move Mike Montgomery into a starting role.  Then, Jason Heyward went on the concussion protocol, leading to another flurry of call-ups from Iowa.  He eventually hit the 10-day DL later that month.  In another blow, Carl Edwards, Jr, one of the Cubs most reliable arms in the bullpen, hit the shelf, as well.

Summer of woes

Darvish was sent to High-A South Bend on a rehab assignment. After pulling himself from his first start and requesting an MRI, we learned he was done for the season. Brandon Morrow is in DL purgatory and has yet to be heard from.  Kris Bryant’s left shoulder finally gave out and after more than a month on the DL and a rehab assignment, is expected back Saturday.  Addison Russell, who has struggled at the plate all season, was finally assigned to the DL after battling various injuries all season.

Joe Maddon‘s lineup cards must look like he has managed a different team every week.  Through it all he has negotiated dozens of player moves on and off the DL and trips up from and down to and from Iowa. The Cubs have set a record for the most players to see time on an MLB active roster.  How many different infield combinations have played for the Cubs this season is anybody’s guess.

The front office takes action

The relentless onslaught of injuries and inconsistent play spurred Theo and the front office to turn to the trade market.  They landed Jesse Chavez from Texas, Brandon Kintzler from the Nationals, and, in the two boldest moves, traded for Cole Hamels and Daniel Murphy.  These moves stabilized the rotation, strengthened the bullpen and sparked a resurgence in the Cubs offense.

We can second-guess the Darvish and Tyler Chatwood signings.  But when faced with the collapse of the starting rotation and an offense that played like Jekyll and Hyde through more than half the season, the front office made the right moves at little cost to the farm system and without exceeding the salary threshold.

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Maddon did his part by keeping the group loose and reminding players and fans to never let the pressure exceed the pleasure.  Indeed, if there was any doubt, this year may prove that this version of the Cubs management is the best that has ever led the organization.