Rozner: The Cubs are moving on, but Maddon's place in team history is secure

  • Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon carries in the Commissioners Trophy during a celebration honoring the World Series champions at Grant Park in Chicago, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon carries in the Commissioners Trophy during a celebration honoring the World Series champions at Grant Park in Chicago, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/29/2019 12:18 PM

The cold truth is this was always going to be Joe Maddon's last season with the Cubs and the only result that could have changed that was a World Series victory.

This is not news. Everyone knew it. At least, anyone with a clue.

 

At $6 million a year, Maddon wasn't coming back, not at those prices, and staring up at the Dodgers, Braves, Astros and Yankees, there was no chance for the Cubs this fall even if they had made the playoffs.

That's not on Joe Maddon -- and he's not the reason the Cubs missed the postseason.

But then, you probably knew that, too.

It should be noted that since he arrived, Maddon -- during the regular season -- has had the greatest run of any Cubs manager … wait for it … since Frank Chance in 1912, the last time before 2018 that a Cubs team won at least 90 games four years in a row.

Maddon also led the Cubs to four straight postseason appearances, which had never been done before in Cubs history.

In the 50 years of divisional play, Maddon is the only Cubs manager to reach three straight NLCS. No other manager went to even two consecutive league championship series.

So yeah, pretty heady stuff. Mount Rushmore kind of stuff.

We can argue about his best year, but 2015 was remarkable, when he raised a bunch of kids and never let them know how good they were until setting them loose in August, putting away the Giants in the wild card with that memorable four-game sweep.

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Last year was awfully good, too, when he dealt first with a terrible rotation, then with a putrid offense, and always with an exhausted bullpen.

Somehow, he made it work.

The genius of Maddon was how he handled players and relationships. They played for him and played well, averaging 94 victories over five years.

Obviously, he had great talent during his tenure, but there's much more to it than that and he deserves proper credit for it.

Simply put, Joe Maddon had more success here than any manager in more than 100 years and it was no accident.

The ugly side was his postseason managing, which was horrendous in 2016 and just as bad against Washington in 2017.

We'll spare you the sordid details, but the Cubs won the World Series despite him, not because of him. He was so bad, in fact, that Theo Epstein would have had cause to fire him had the Cubs not recovered in Cleveland.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That said, Maddon did a fine job these last two years and probably deserved better. It's just the way the business works.

This has felt inevitable for two years with teams going younger and much cheaper in the dugout, but you can't tell this story without saying Maddon didn't put this team together.

He didn't prevent them from going after free agents. He didn't collect this array of coaches. He didn't teach his pitchers to walk hitters, or teach his hitters to swing at balls in the dirt.

Maddon could only work with what he had.

It's reminiscent, in some ways, of the Cubs firing Don Zimmer in 1991 and hiring Jim Essian, who was not to blame for how the rest of that season went, but the Cubs were a game under .500 when team president Don Grenesko fired Zimmer in May, and went 59-63 under Essian.

After the season, Grenesko, GM Jim Frey and Essian were all sent packing.

It was a bloody and brutal October.

One time after a game, Essian waited until all but one reporter had left his office, and started naming off the relievers in the bullpen. He smiled and put his palms to the air.

No words were necessary.

That's where Maddon has been since this season started.

But when a team that's supposed to be good is this average, the manager always pays the price for it.

Still, it's not the main reason he is gone today.

Maddon did not see eye to eye with Epstein on many issues, from launch angle to coaching staffs to lineup cards.

That, in and of itself, is not shocking. They didn't dislike each other. They just disagreed. That's not unusual in baseball.

And lest we forget, it's Epstein that ran as fast as he could to court and engage Maddon when he became available, tossing aside -- just as quickly -- Rick Renteria, and handing Maddon life-changing money in the process.

But Epstein wants what he wants and now he'll get what he wants.

The Cubs must hope a shock to the system and some significant upgrades will get them headed back in the right direction.

Hey, sometimes it works. Maybe it will work for this Cubs team.

Nevertheless, it's unfair and no one understands that better than Theo Epstein.

It's almost always unfair when a manager departs. But when there's no other answer, it's just the way it is.

In the words of the poet William Munny, "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it."

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