Rozner: Why Joe Maddon is trying to revise Cubs history just a bit

  • Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon wasn't too happy about his departure from the Cubs.

    Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon wasn't too happy about his departure from the Cubs. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/14/2020 2:15 PM

You can like the Cubs' decision to move on from Joe Maddon.

Or not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

You can agree with their call to end the relationship after five years.

Or not.

You can understand wanting a fresh voice and a new vibe.

Or not.

What isn't in dispute is that Cubs management took the high road last fall and continues to do so, even after Maddon took a swipe at Theo Epstein in an ESPN interview a few days ago.

"Philosophically, Theo needed to do what he needed to do separately," Maddon said. "At some point, I began to interfere with his train of thought a little bit. And it's not that I'm hardheaded. I'm inclusive.

"But when I started there -- '15, '16, '17 -- it was pretty much my methods. And then all of a sudden, after '18 going into '19, they wanted to change everything."

In other words, when the Cubs were really good for three years, it was because of Maddon, and the last two years that didn't produce a single playoff victory were because of Epstein.

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It's a convenient timeline.

"There was just, you can say, philosophical differences," Maddon told ESPN. "But he and I are still good friends. And I like the man a lot. It was just time for him to get someone else and time for me to work somewhere else.

"That's all. A five-year shelf life in Chicago is almost equivalent to five to 10 somewhere else. At the end of the day, man, there's nothing to lament there. That was the most successful five years that the Cubs have ever had."

There is no arguing that.

But Maddon's thoughts are an indication of where he truly sees his place in baseball history, the key ingredient to the Cubs ending a 108-year drought.

Interesting point of view.

So why say it now? The answer is Maddon can't help himself.

A qualifier is necessary here because Maddon did a spectacular job managing the Cubs in 2015, absolutely the best of his seasons in Chicago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He took a young, inexperienced team and really wouldn't let the pressure on the players exceed their daily pleasure.

And he had a great regular season in 2016. To suggest the team was so good that he didn't have to do anything is disrespectful. Maddon was terrific again.

For the most part, his regular seasons were very good in Chicago. Some might suggest he checked out at times the last two years, but 2018 was no picnic with injuries and pitching issues, and 2019 is difficult to explain on many levels.

Still, it wasn't on Maddon. He did his job and did it well.

But his postseason managing was as bad as anything you will ever see -- at any time, at any level, in any sport.

The Cubs won the World Series in 2016 despite Maddon, not because of him.

His mismanagement of the pitching staff beginning in the 2016 NLCS and throughout the World Series was staggering, especially Games 5, 6 and 7.

Maybe it's easy to look past the debacle now, but there are so many examples from the 2016 and 2017 postseasons that there isn't enough space to recount all of Maddon's inexplicable decisions.

Ask Aroldis Chapman and Wade Davis.

Suffice it to say Maddon pulled Kyle Hendricks (63 pitches) too early in Game 7 in Cleveland. Jon Lester was brilliant in relief, but Maddon yanked him in the eighth after Addison Russell probably should have ended the inning on a hard-hit groundball.

That's when Maddon went to Chapman to get 4 outs after Chapman had thrown 42 pitches in Game 5 and 20 more in Game 6 with a big lead.

You know the rest of the story.

Maddon never apologized for any of it, resting on his ring and taking credit for the victory, even though he certainly knew that the famous Jason Heyward, rain-delay pep talk was less about cheerleading and more about insisting they not lose a title the players had earned, and Maddon had given away.

But never did Maddon thank them for saving the World Series and maybe even his job.

Think back to that moment. Do you believe the Cubs could have brought Maddon back for 2017 if they had not rallied in extras?

Do you remember what you were thinking at that moment? It would have been the worst defeat in the history of a club that had cornered the market on horrific defeats.

This would have been the Super Volcano of Cubs disasters.

The Cubs would not have been able to salvage Maddon that winter because the conversation about all he had done wrong would have never quieted.

Yeah, do the math. Every game in 2017 and beyond would have been played with a backdrop of that World Series collapse.

We would still be here today talking about the longest drought in sports history, still discussing the way in which Maddon gave it away.

But if you listened to him postgame that night -- and every night since -- never was there a time that he confessed.

Contrast that with Joe Girardi during the 2017 postseason when the Yankees manager said, of failing to request a replay, "I take responsibility for everything, and I feel horrible about it. I screwed up ... and it's hard. It's a hard day for me."

Can you imagine Maddon saying that?

It's possible he lost some players wondering why they should be held accountable in the shadow of a manager who would not accept responsibility for nearly giving away the World Series.

Again, Joe Maddon is a great manager -- a Hall of Famer if he manages another five years -- and his regular seasons in Chicago were fantastic, but he's revising history these days.

Epstein takes responsibility for every season that doesn't end in a title. He's far from perfect and has made plenty of mistakes since he arrived in Chicago.

It's rather human to admit when you foul up, as we are all fallible.

It's just a little surprising to hear Maddon tell his tale today. If not for ego, it would also be unnecessary.

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