After picking up their jaws off the floor on Monday afternoon, many Cubs fans could not help but look at the hiring of Craig Counsell and think about Joe Maddon's hiring back in 2014. The manager in place getting the boot in favor of a top dog manager in an offseason with massive expectations accurately describes both hirings. Add in the fact that neither fired manager was let go because of the quality of the job they did, but because the opportunity to swoop in and grab an available upgrade was there.
From a fan's perspective, there are some things to note.
On October 24, 2014, it was announced that Maddon was leaving Tampa Bay, where he managed for nine seasons and won the American League pennant in 2008. Immediately, Maddon was linked to the Cubs, even though it was already announced that manager Rick Renteria would be back in 2015. The Cubs had learned that he was opting out the day before the official announcement on October 23. A few days later there was leaked information that the Cubs were going to hire Maddon, but it was denied. It was one week later on October 31 when it was announced the Cubs were letting Renteria go and were going to hire Maddon.
The takeaway here when comparing it to Counsell is that the speculation of Maddon to the Cubs came immediately when he left Tampa. Counsell leaving Milwaukee was common knowledge, but the idea of him coming to Chicago was a pipe dream and not anticipated. It was reported by The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma (Subscription Required) that President Jed Hoyer was doing everything he could to keep his conversation with Counsell under wraps from most of the organization. There was no information for people to leak because so few people knew.
It is worth talking about the two managers that were fired. As mentioned before, they were not let go so the Cubs could do an extensive search for a replacement. If Counsell was not available, Ross would still be the manager. The same could be said for Renteria at the time. Like Maddon in 2014, Counsell was one of the most highly-regarded managers in the game and many teams would love to have his services. The big difference was the reputation of each former manager and the situations they were in.
Renteria was one year into his managing career. He was the captain of a ship that was sailing toward the light, but not yet a playoff contender. His presence seemed to help the growth of some of the younger guys on the roster, but his ceiling as a manager was still not yet known. There was not much of an emotional fan connection to Renteria, even if the overall initial opinions seemed decently positive. There just was not much of a sample to go off of.
Ross on the other hand had managed the team since 2020, and as a player was a hero during the 2016 World Series run. Ross the player grew to be a fan favorite, but Ross the manager garnered very mixed feelings. Questionable decisions and times when he did not handle in-game decisions well got frustrating. Especially down the stretch in 2023 when the Cubs blew the lead in the Wild Card race in the final weeks. He established a great culture, was a good leader of men, and seemed like a good guy, but the "technical" stuff was up and down. He did enough to keep a job under most circumstances but not to pass up a hailed manager like Counsell.
From a human side, it's hard. The sports business can be so cruel. It's relevant to say the Cubs made an incredible move that made the team better while also acknowledging it's tough for the now-former manager. Fair to say many fans (including myself) wish Ross the very best and are thankful for the good he brought to the organization. He deserves to find a great new job wherever that may be.
We will wait until next week for the official introduction of new Cubs skipper Craig Counsell.