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Chicago Cubs: The case of Joe Maddon and no new contract

(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) Local CaptionJoe Maddon
(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) Local CaptionJoe Maddon /
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The Chicago Cubs have opted to wait to offer Joe Maddon an extension, leaving him as a ‘lame duck’ in many peoples eyes. But I don’t necessarily believe that’s the case.

After a disappointing 2018 season for the Chicago Cubs (was it, though?), the team opted not to sign Joe Maddon to a new deal or offer an extension of his original five-year, $25 million deal. Many throughout baseball and in Cubs Nation felt that he was a ‘lame duck.’ Many of his personal choices for coaches (Jim Hickey, Chili Davis) have already moved on or been fired. And many saw that as a sign when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer made the decisions on the new staff. So clearly, Maddon is on his way out, right?

While there have been some reports that the front office and Maddon didn’t see eye to eye on some things, they are also not stupid. Maddon and this FO have accomplished some amazing feats in the last four-plus years. Maddon has compiled a 401-273 record, won a pennant and a World Series, and made the postseason every season. But sure, we win like that ALL the time. Anybody can coach this team.

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About that. When the Cubs win, people believe that anyone can coach this team. When they lose, Maddon is doing too much, and that’s why they fail. The guy can’t win.

There are plenty of fans who are well aware of what Maddon has done for this franchise. But plenty remain that believe the ‘next’ guy will do just as well, if not better. Likely not a gamble I’d be willing to take.

So after the 2018 season finished, the front office did their usual ‘exit interviews’ with staff and players–the ones returning, at least. The Cubs made the postseason but in the most basic of ways. One-game Wild Card with the Colorado Rockies and they lost. The season was over.

After leading the division for most of the second half, the Chicago Cubs coughed it up to the Milwaukee Brewers, lost the one-game playoff for the Central, then followed with the Wild Card loss. Things had to change, and the front office went to the source to find out what needed to change.

So Maddon enters this year in his final year. Tommy Hottovy and Anthony Iapoce are the new pitching and hitting coaches, respectively. Both are heavily driven by metrics, launch angle and exit velo. These are the guys that Epstein seemed to want in these positions, not Maddon. At least, that’s the assumption many have made. So is Maddon being left to fail? I don’t believe so. If anything, I think he’s being tested, and he’s faring quite well.

Maddon has always been a very laid back manager. Has a good rapport with his players, always having fun (themed road trips, magicians, dance parties after wins.) But after the exit interviews, it came to be that many didn’t feel he was spending enough time interacting with players, that he spent more time in his office than on the field. Some see a lame duck. Maddon sees a challenge.

He’s taken the opportunity to learn how to better manage ‘millennials.’ To understand how they think. Players are different from his early years of coaching. Social media rules with players. Some would find a gap with their players, but Maddon is looking to close it.

But the main reason I don’t believe that Maddon is being hung out to dry is money. And that’s because the team didn’t want to spend any of it this winter. The club bought the remaining shares from the Tribune Company to gain full ownership of the team. And while they may have questions about Maddon and his practices at times, they’re aware of his accomplishments in Chicago.

Next. Cubs have guys trending in opposite directions. dark

The team spent scarcely over the winter. If you go and extend your manager for a large sum of money but don’t improve the team? People will get angry. But if they doubt you, and you respond and get the team to rally behind you, ownership will be more than happy to give Maddon a new deal.

I don’t know what Maddon wants. I feel like he wants to stay. He’s accepted the challenge given to him and embraced it. While the front office and Maddon may have butted heads last season more than seasons before? It was also the first actual ‘failure’ in the eyes of the fans and players. I didn’t see it as a workplace confrontation, but a fire to succeed on both sides. I say in the end, the Chicago Cubs keep Maddon.

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