Chicago Cubs: Joe Maddon was undoubtedly the right guy for the job
Hindsight is 20/20. Knowing that, you should realize that, no matter what, Joe Maddon was the perfect guy to turn around the Chicago Cubs five years ago.
Seeing Javier Baez call out the lack of preparation that emanated throughout the Chicago Cubs roster last season or seeing his teammates almost unanimously line up behind first-year manager David Ross, there are more than a few people questioning Joe Maddon‘s five-year tenure.
In the first weeks of camp as skipper of the Los Angeles Angels, Maddon offered up a somewhat shocking comment when asked what he’s focused on with his new club.
Alrighty, then. So if Callaway is handling pitching decisions and Gallego handling lineups, what exactly is Maddon doing? Bringing his ‘Do Simple Better’ attitude to the team and hoping that pushes them over the top? That mantra might do the trick – but, as we saw in Chicago, it’s not a sustainable path to success. The message wears thin with time and complacency can take root.
"“That’s what we’ve been looking for, that’s what we’ve needed, is one unifying voice,” Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks told The Athletic (subscription required). “Someone that’s going to say what needs to be said, keep the accountability around here. And it’s clear as day already that Rossy’s doing that. I think that’s why there’s so much excitement this early in camp.”"
Gone are the easy-go-lucky days that once surrounded the Cubs. Now, Chicago is ready for a renewed edge and hunger and a sense of accountability that’s been lost in recent years. That’s on first-year skipper David Ross, who has players ready to ‘run through a wall’ at camp already.
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Even as a player, he brought a tough-love approach to the game. Always the first to hold teammates accountable, the ‘Grandpa Rossy’ persona created by fans is a bit overblown and masks a lot of his most redeemable qualities as a manager in Major League Baseball.
After winning the World Series, Chicago overcame a 2017 hangover, still reaching the National League Championship Series for the third consecutive year, but doing so running on fumes. The next season, the team flamed out in September, before falling at Wrigley Field in the NL Wild Card game to the Colorado Rockies.
Last season, the club missed the postseason for the first time since 2014 – the final year before Theo Epstein dismissed Rick Renteria and brought in Maddon to help the club emerge from a lengthy rebuild.
"“Once you get to the top, it’s even harder to stay there,” Hendricks said. “You can’t rest on your laurels. You need to keep being reminded of that — how tough it is, the grind, appreciating the process every single day and not taking anything for granted. Sometimes getting a new voice and getting new words from someone can really help a lot.”"
Ross may not be a new voice, but although he’s familiar to many of the players on the club, he brings a wildly different message – a much-needed one given how 2019 played out. That all being said, there’s not a shred of evidence to the contrary: Joe Maddon was the perfect man for the job five years ago and without him, we may still be ‘waiting till next year’.