The Angels’ firing of Joe Maddon last week immediately made me think back to the end of his tenure as manager of the Cubs in 2019 – and the similarities between the two scenarios.
After leading the most successful stretch of baseball we’ve seen on the North Side in generations, Maddon and the team mutually parted ways after Chicago sputtered in the second half and missed the postseason for the first time since 2014. Whether or not you believe the parting really was mutual or not is another discussion entirely, but that’s the message that was put out at the time.
Cubs: Joe Maddon brought unparalleled success and a lot of second-guessing
We know the Theo Epstein-led front office was very active in the day-to-day; the line between the dugout and the offices at Gallagher Way seemed less defined than in the past, but nobody seemed to care much. A long-awaited World Series title, three NLCS appearances and four consecutive years in the postseason will buy you that kind of leeway.
But after Maddon was fired by Angels GM Perry Minasian and made comments regarding the power balance between front offices and managers in the game today, I can’t help but wonder if the direction the game has gone is what’s led to his lack of success in recent years.
"“It’s been kind of difficult overall. I’m into analytics, but not to the point where everybody wants to shove it down your throat. Real baseball people have felt somewhat impacted by all of this. You’re unable to just go to the ballpark and have some fun and play baseball. It’s too much controlled by front offices these days.”"
The game is more data-driven than ever before. The best organizations are known for not only possessing that information, but skillfully working it into their plans on a daily basis. The ‘go with your gut’ moves that were once common in the game are growing rarer by the day – something Maddon seems to take issue with.
As for Minasian, he didn’t feel like there was any rift between his front office and Maddon, a three-time Manager of the Year and likely future Hall of Famer. In fact, he contradicted what Maddon told The Athletic, saying he felt like everyone involved was on the same page.
"“I did [feel we were on the same page]. There was never any disconnect mentioned,” Minasian said. “Joe made the lineup, Joe made the pitching decisions. I’m a big believer that’s the manager’s job, it’s not the front office’s job. We present information. We have a great group, we have a hard-working front office … Joe and I had a great relationship. If that was his perspective and he did say that, I haven’t seen that, but that was never expressed to me.”"
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If this is the end of the line for Maddon (I’d be surprised if it was) – I can’t help but wonder if people will look back and how his time in Chicago and Los Angeles ended and see a guy known for his player-friendly, new-school vibes who, surprisingly, failed to adapt to the change in the power dynamic between managers and front offices. Hopefully that’s not the legacy he leaves behind, but it’s definitely something folks will talk about and keep an eye on should he land a new gig next year.