It was less than a month ago that the Cubs were up four games on the Brewers in the NL Central with 21 games left to play. Yada yada yada, the Brewers and Rockies, who took turns suffocating the Cubs at Wrigley on Monday and Tuesday, play each other in the NLDS and Joe Maddon somehow finds himself perhaps on the chopping block.
Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic wrote a hedged-but-ominous-nevertheless story today openly speculating that Maddon’s time with the Cubs might be over. He noted, of course, that Maddon steered the Cubs to their first World Series victory in over a century in 2016 and won 95 games with an injury-riddled roster this season.
But then came the warning signs in the piece. Maddon, Rosenthal wrote, is a “celebrity manager, more difficult to control than less-experienced types, and perhaps not as much of a grinder as some.” Theo Epstein appeared to blame Maddon for overusing relievers Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop and perhaps causing injuries that led to a depleted bullpen down the stretch. Maddon’s initial refusal to read the letter written by Addison Russell’s accuser made him seem like a Luddite.
But guess what: It’s a safe bet no one is writing this story right now if the Brewers didn’t go 16-5 in those aforementioned 21 games — including seven in a row to end the season — to catch the Cubs, and then silence their bats in a 3-1 game to break the division tie on Monday. When you hear Javy Baez talk about being too fixated on “other teams,” who do you *think* he’s referring to?
It may be a nightmare for FS1 and MLB Network that they have the Brewers and Rockies and not the drawing power of the Cubs, but they did get teams that are a lot more fun to watch and played this season with more urgency and energy. Jon Lester perfectly summed up the how the Cubs were lacking this of late:
To be clear, Rosenthal did not definitively say Maddon is about to get axed. But, presumably sometime soon, Maddon and Theo are going to meet. Theo is going to flesh out Maddon’s tone in that meeting and make a decision whether or not they can have a productive working relationship going forward.
Potential Maddon replacements broached by Rosenthal include Dave Roberts, Joe Girardi (who, uh, doesn’t seem easy to work with from the outside), or a “lesser name” like the promotion of bench coach Brandon Hyde.
If you were running the Cubs, what would you do?
Kyle Koster and I discussed this today at length on TBL Live, presented by Kingsford:
UPDATE: Well, this was fun to talk about while it lasted but ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reports Maddon is ‘expected’ to return to the Cubs next season.