This will seem like an article about Joe Maddon. It is not. It is merely a case study into a firmly held principle of mine. It has always seemed that managers get too much credit and on the flip side too much blame for their team’s success or failure.
Joe Maddon is a great manager. He is willing to trust the process, as was the case in Tampa Bay and eventually helped turn a perennial cellar dweller into a World Series team there. With the Cubs however, he entered a situation that had already finished rebuilding. He was handed the keys to a Porsche and asked to treat it with love.
Maddon brought a mime and a bear cub to spring training and his 2016 Chicago Cubs finished the season with a record of 103-58. They spent 180 days in First Place in the National League Central over the course of the regular season and never got further than one game behind in the division; and that was on April 8th. They went on to win their first World Series in 108 years. It was manager Joe Maddon’s second season at the helm.
The 2015 team, Joe Maddon’s first year, finished in third in their division at 97-65, good enough to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They won a Wild Card Game against the Pirates and the Division Series against the Dodgers. They ended up losing to the Mets in the National League Championship Series. The 2015 team over performed expectations.
Joe Maddon is known around the league for being a player’s manager. He has an often times Zen approach to the game. He prioritizes fun and is open to trying anything he can to get an edge in the game. He champions batting the pitcher in the eight spot in the lineup and batting his highest OBP guys like Kyle Schwarber and recently as Rich Mancuso pointed out, Anthony Rizzo in the leadoff spot.
However, here we are in the middle of June, 2017, and the world beaters of last year are playing .500 baseball. With minimal meaningful personnel changes other than Dexter Fowler departing to the Cardinals , Aroldis Chapman being replaced in the closer’s role by Wade Davis and David Ross’ retirement, this is mostly the same team that won a World Series. Though not a question of job security, the Cubs are certainly under performing expectation this year.
Joe Maddon is not going anywhere, even though many have argued that he misused closer Aroldis Chapman during the World Series. Even though his team is middling right now with young players not performing the way people had hoped. After the Cubs 1st World Series in 108 years, his job is safe.
He is perhaps one of the greats of this generation, and yet, he is a part of a whole brain trust of decision makers. Maddon a perfect example of a manager getting too much credit for his team’s success.