CHICAGO -- The rampant speculation has started regarding former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. Will the Chicago Cubs – one year removed from firing their last manager – sign Maddon while dumping current skipper Rick Renteria?
The timing of Maddon’s Friday resignation has put teams in an awkward position. Only the Minnesota Twins currently have an opening, so a courtship of Maddon would have to take place behind the scenes. The Cubs, in particular, know the awkwardness of changing managers under contract, as the end of Dale Sveum's tenure in 2013 didn’t go smoothly. At the time, team president Theo Epstein – speaking honestly – left the door open for Sveum’s dismissal well before the season had ended, leaving people to wonder what would happen. Sveum was fired the day after the season ended.
The Cubs have some cover to hide under as they don’t have to speak publicly on the matter until the general managers meetings in early November. Between now and then, they’ll need to decide if they want to hire one of the best managers in the game. Some teams have already stated on the record they aren’t switching managers, but as of Friday afternoon, the Cubs weren’t one of them. Of course, Maddon has to be interested in the job, but assuming he is, how can the Cubs pass up the chance?
“He has a mind for the National League game,” former Cub and current Ray David Dejesus said Friday. “And he puts players in positions to succeed. He’s as good as they come.”
That’s the sentiment around the league regarding Maddon, and although the Cubs signed Renteria to a three-year deal with two options, it simply doesn’t matter. It’s a unique situation to have to fire a manager you’ve already stated is coming back, but it fits the unique timing of Maddon’s resignation and availability.
Reports back in 2003 had Maddon finishing behind Terry Francona for the Boston Red Sox job when Epstein ran that team. And that came before Maddon had ever managed a game in the big leagues. Since then, he’s developed a reputation as one of the best in baseball at combining the necessary people/leadership skills and an understanding and use of new-age statistics.
While Renteria didn’t do anything wrong in his first year to warrant being removed, he also didn’t show that special quality that sometimes becomes apparent with a first-time manager. With some, you just know you’re seeing the beginning of someone special. Renteria could easily get there, but whatever that special quality is, Maddon already has it.
“He’s going to be missed around here,” Dejesus said. “But he’ll know what to do over there (National League) if he ends up there. He would be good wherever he goes.”
And that’s why you can’t simply expect the Cubs to make an announcement. Like the Cubs, other teams that are interested – besides potentially the Twins – will work quietly as well. No one wants to disrespect their current manager, considering he still might be their guy since only one team can sign Maddon. Plus, taking headlines away from the World Series is usually frowned upon. But many observers understand the Cubs are going to have a run in them soon enough. Unless a World Series-ready team jumps in and grabs him, Maddon to the Cubs makes all the sense in the world.
In making every tough decision, from releasing a popular player to firing a coach, the Cubs have always fallen back on the notion that it makes them better. They’ve publicly aspired to being the best organization in baseball. After getting past the minor awkwardness of moving on from Renteria, how can they not hire Maddon to be their manager?