Joe Maddon's latest Cubs comments show he's clearly in denial

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages

I think I can safely speak for all Chicago Cubs fans when I say we'll always appreciate what Joe Maddon did for us. He changed the organizational culture on the North Side in ways that many fans felt were impossible after generations of losing at the Friendly Confines.

But when Maddon arrived in Chicago, everything changed. A year early, the 2015 Cubs won 97 games, boasted the NL Manager of the Year in Maddon, Cy Young Award winner in Jake Arrieta and Rookie of the Year in Kris Bryant. Oh, and they knocked a pair of division rivals out of the postseason, sending the Pirates home in the NL Wild Card Game and the Cardinals in the NLDS.

The next year, of course, is the one we'll never forget, with Chicago cruising to 103 wins, a National League Central title and, eventually, the franchise's first World Series championship since 1908. Decades of futility were a thing of the past and Maddon looked like he may be a staple at Wrigley Field for years to come.

The 2017 team won just 92 games (still good enough for another division crown), miraculously got past the Nationals in the Division Series running on fumes before sputtering out against the Dodgers in the NLCS. From there, though, things got bleak quickly for the Cubs under Maddon.

Despite 95 regular season wins, a brutal stretch late, including a Game 163 loss at home to the Brewers, giving Milwaukee the division title, pushed the Cubs into a Wild Card matchup against the Rockies at season's end - and Colorado took down Maddon's club by a 3-1 margin. Things only got worse for the Cubs from there, winning just 84 games in 2019 and missing the postseason altogether after going into freefall in September.

Cubs were unquestionably great under Joe Maddon, but 2019 late-season collapse was a sign things had run their course

Before we knew it, Maddon was out - and it became painfully clear the dynasty we'd all envisioned early on in his tenure was never going to come to fruition. Of course, we all know what followed: David Ross is hired as manager, COVID hits and ownership starts unloading payroll, starting with the Yu Darvish trade following the 2020 season and six months later, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo are all shown the door at the trade deadline.

But despite the team's collapse in 2019, Maddon - to this day - insists that group had more in the tank. Maybe he's right. After all, the Cubs did win the NL Central in the shortened 60-game 2020 season played in empty ballparks across the country. But that team was never a legitimate contender - and were knocked out in the first round of the expanded postseason by the Miami Marlins.

"“We should’ve stayed together longer, there’s no question. We had a lot more chicken left on the bone. We weren’t given the opportunity. I’ll say that because it’s true.”"

Joe Maddon, via 670 The Score

I'm not saying the front office couldn't have worked harder to keep someone like Anthony Rizzo. But given the decisions that group made in the wake of the 2016 title when the organization seemed to rest on its laurels a bit, 2019 was a clear indicator things had run their course and simply running it back and expecting different results wasn't the move.

I get that Maddon wants to reminisce about the past - and in his career, what he accomplished in Chicago (no disrespect to his time in Tampa Bay) stands head and shoulders above anything else. His legacy was certainly tarnished a bit in his return to the Angels, with his tenure ending abruptly mid-season back in 2022 after the club put together a nine-game losing streak.

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Maddon is one of the great all-time Cubs managers and without him, the ticker may still be ticking on the club's World Series drought. But, despite what he may think, things had run their course by the end of his five years with Chicago - and there's nothing wrong with that. Suggesting otherwise makes him come off as stubborn and unwilling to face the truth.