I know The First Ward doesn’t typically tackle sports, but with even my scurrilous Sox fan friends bidding him a fond farewell, someone has to set the record straight, and it may as well be me. I understand the cultural norm dictates a glowing eulogy of the dearly departed, but the truth is, Joe Maddon is, bar none, the worst Cub manager we’ve ever had to endure.
And you can “print it!”
We’ve had to tolerate some real Clunkers, too! But even Leo “The Lip” Durocher was a better manager, as were Herman Franks, Lee Elia, Gene Michael, Jim Lefebvre, Jim Riggleman, Don Baylor, Dusty Baker, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum, and Rick Renteria. In his own words, Joe Maddon “tried not to suck,” but that’s all he ever did.
“But Jeff! What about those 471 wins?”
Even I could’ve racked up that record with the current cadre of core Cubs players. There’s a reason they have the highest payroll in all of baseball and the only reason Joe Maddon had any success at all was the Cubs’ front office made it virtually impossible for him to fail.
And I say “virtually,” because this year, Maddon failed miserably.
“But Jeff! What about their fist pennant in 108 years?”
Nope! That was David Ross providing the appropriate “corrections” and Jason Heyward delivering the kind of rousing rain delay speech that Manager Maddon should’ve provided. But no! Joe was always more than happy to simply sit back and watch things unfold, which, in his case, wasn’t always a bad thing because whenever he did do something, it generally sucked!
The truth is, the Cubs won the pennant despite Joe Maddon, not because of him. His World Series pitching moves will go down in the annals of Chicago baseball bizarrities alongside the Cubs’ College of Coaches, Lee Elia’s fascinating rant, and Disco Demolition.
And it all starts with the average IQ’d Maddon firmly believing he’s the smartest person in any room, and then consistently trying to prove it. You can see the same phenomenon among local politicians like Geneva Alderman Mike Bruno, former Kane County Board member Phil Lewis, Aurora Alderman Judd Lofchie, and Elgin City Councilman Terry Gavin.
Always trying to be cute, Maddon’s inexplicable lineup changes were absurd to the point that players never really understood their role on the team. In a 162-game 2019 season, the most he used the same lineup was nine times! That’s a lot like going to a restaurant that regularly rotates the cooks, bus boys, waitresses, and managers. Do you really want the busboy making your sushi?
Anthony Rizzo is not a leadoff hitter. Addison Russell shouldn’t even be in the lineup, much less batting third. Javier Baez should’ve batted second, not fifth. David Bote isn’t a cleanup hitter, and Jason Heyward, with 110 strikeouts, isn’t a leadoff man.
And what did Maddon do about the plethora of shifts proffered against pull hitters like Bryant, Schwarber, Rizzo, and Heyward? That’s right, nothing! When teams started shifting against baseball’s greatest left-handed hitter, Ted Williams, he started bunting to third base until they finally relented.
Relying on insipid launch angles, instead, those players tried to hit more homeruns, striking out a combined 496 times. Didn’t Maddon notice that, by hitting to all fields, late season acquisition Nick Castellanos racked up a mind boggling 58 doubles?
Then Maddon refused to employ shifts much to the Cubs’ defensive detriment!
But as poorly as he did with his hitters, Maddon was beyond bad with his pitchers. He loved to give ‘em the hook when they were sailing along and let ‘em give up five runs an inning when they were clearly out of gas.
He allowed closer Pedro Strop to bat late in a game, only to watch him pull a hamstring trying to beat out an infield hit, and it quickly became a chronic injury. Maddon should’ve been fired that day.
He insisted upon inserting rookies and underachieving relievers in the kind of dire situations that required Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler or Kevin Ryan. Despite a whopping 6.13 ERA, Brad Brach somehow managed to make it into 42 separate games. And it took sports talk show host Dave Kaplan to tell Yu Darvish to get out of his head and pitch the damn ball!
But the absolute worst managerial BS of his inexplicably lengthy Cubs career was indulging Jon Lester in his throwing-to-first-base-ophobia. Oh, my bleepin’ lord! If a Little League pitcher can hold a runner, then shouldn’t we expect the same of a 35-year-old professional? Even my baseball-hating wife said, “I’d make him practice that throw to first base three hours a day until he got it right.”
And if he refused to get it right, I’d sit his ass down until he did.
To be fair, Joe Maddon does have a talent for getting the most out of young players, but the problem with that is, young players only stay young for one or two seasons. Then they become veterans, and the veteran mindset is an entirely different proposition.
I’m not saying Joe isn’t a nice guy, because I think he is. But the in words of the aforementioned Mr. Durocher, when it comes to managing, “Nice guys finish last.”
The great Jim Palmer credits the even greater Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver for getting him into the Hall of Fame. Palmer was a notorious headcase, but Weaver would have none of it and he always responded positively to Weaver’s verbal ass-kickings.
Say what you will about infamous New York Yankees’ Manager Billy Martin and his unique brand of “motivation,” but his former players told reporters they were afraid to lose, and that’s exactly what this Cubs team needs – a little bit of fear.
Just like he did in Tampa Bay, Maddon will go on to destroy the San Diego Padres, and despite their declared intention to interview multiple candidates, the Cubs will hire former backup catcher David Ross, who will put the Cubs right back into the playoffs. And he’ll win more than four playoff games in three seasons, too.
But fond memories of Joe Maddon? Not me! With the exception of Sunday’s firing, there ain’t a single one. I’ll say it again, he was the worst manager in the general futility known as Cub history. So, all I can say is, “Goodbye and good riddance, Joe! Don’t let the screen door hit ya where the good Lord split ya!”