It was seemingly inevitable, but it became official before Sunday’s season finale. The Chicago Cubs and manager Joe Maddon have mutually agreed to part ways. This comes after much speculation of why the franchise wasn’t succeeding like it had in the past, despite all of the talent present in the clubhouse.
Maddon did not have a simple path to the Cubs organization. Back in October of 2014, when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays as their manager, the Rays’ General Manager, Andrew Friedman, left the organization to take a front office position with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This led to an opt-out in Joe Maddon’s contract, meaning that if Friedman left, Maddon had the option to as well. Despite aggressive attempts at getting their manager back, Maddon opted out, 754 wins and a World Series appearance later.
Around the time that this was all going on, Rick Renteria was fired by the Cubs. That almost instantly led to the hiring of Joe Maddon. Ironically enough, these two, up until Maddon’s Cubs departure, were opposing managers on each side of town, with Renteria still serving as the White Sox manager following being hired in 2017.
The lack of simplicity in Maddon’s northside arrival continued when the Tampa Bay Rays filed for tampering charges. They believed that Maddon only wound up as the Cubs manager because he had heard of what they were planning to offer him prior to his opting-out in Tampa Bay. It ended up not amounting to much, as it was determined there was no tampering.
After all that had gotten through, it was time for Maddon to take over the franchise’s managerial chair. It was on April 5, 2015 – the first game with Joe Maddon as the manager. The Cubs would go on to lose 3-0 to their rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, but that was just the beginning. The Cubs got off and running, going (12- 8) in April 2015. That was their first winning April in seven years.
It wasn’t too long into the month that the major league club was introduced to someone you may have heard of before – Kris Bryant. Bryant made his major league debut with the Cubs on April 17th, 2015, and we all know what has come of the all-star since then.
A month later, Maddon accomplished a historical feat with his 800th career managerial victory. That was followed by an August no-hitter thrown by Jake Arrieta in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Yet, despite all the accolades that had already accumulated in the inaugural season of the Maddon era, one more regular season accomplishment still remained. On Sept. 25, the Chicago Cubs clinched a postseason berth for the first time since the 2008 season.
After that successful 2015 campaign, there was certainly a lot of optimism in the room heading into the 2016 season.
That optimism quickly flipped to concern on April 7th. When outfielders Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber were both after a fly ball in Arizona’s Chase Field, the two collided. Fowler was fine, but Schwarber was not. In the collision, Schwarber had suffered a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee.
What the Cubs did with that was embrace that ‘next man up’ mentality, starting the season with a league-best (17- 5) record after April 2016.
In fact, it wouldn’t come until May 17th that the Cubs even lost their 10th game, going (26-9) prior to that 10th loss. So clearly, something special was brewing at Wrigley Field.
A solid start can often translate into the All-Star game. In the earliest returns, the Cubs were the holders of five starting slots.
Flash forward a few months, and with September in the books, the Cubs still held the best record in baseball, now at (102-57). What eventually became 103 regular season wins is certainly something to be pleased with, but that doesn’t always equal a World Series crown, and when you haven’t won a championship in 108 seasons, you tread lightly when that “C” word is mentioned.
The rest is history. A four-game win over the Giants in the NLDS, six-game NLCS win over the Dodgers, and just like that, although easier said than done, the Cubs were in the World Series.
The series did not get off to a good start, with the Cubs getting shut out in both Games 1 and 3, slipping a 5-1 win in Game 2.
More skepticism took over the World Series when a 7-2 Indians win in Game 4 put Cleveland ahead by three games to one. Would the magic go to rest or would the Indians be part of a rarity, blowing a 3-1 lead. The lead was blown, as many know by now.
The Cubs rattled off three straight victories to win the World Series, the franchise’s first in over 100 years. Everyone knows about the famous rain delay in Game 7, where players such as Dexter Fowler rallied the team in the clubhouse, and numerous sources say that made a big difference in the Cubs’ efforts the rest of the game.
In the end, it was an 8-7 victory in 10 innings to take the crown.
Now, where have they been since then?
Despite an exciting five-game NLDS win over the Washington Nationals, the North Siders were tabbed with a very tough Los Angeles Dodgers team in the NLCS, in which they were nearly swept, with Los Angeles winning in five.
As for 2018, they slipped into the playoffs as a wild card after losing a tie-breaking 163rd game to the Milwaukee Brewers. That run didn’t last long, as the Cubs were defeated by the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card game.
Well, there’s 2019. Actually, there wasn’t. It was an up and down season for the Cubs. Whether it be injuries, off-the-field speculations, etc., it just wasn’t good. In the end, the Cubs couldn’t win the division, falling to both the Brewers and the Cardinals by seasons’ end and completely missing the playoffs.
Then came the metaphorical hammer. On Sept. 29, 2019, just before the Cubs concluded the dismal season against their rival St. Louis Cardinals, it was announced that Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon had “mutually agreed to part ways,” ending the Maddon era in Chicago.
Is it Maddon’s fault? The front office’s fault? Will we ever know? Either way, Joe Maddon should pick up another managerial job very soon and the Cubs ought to find an adequate replacement, but it’s nothing to rush.
Come April, it’ll be time for a new Major League Baseball season, and Cubs fans will have a new skipper to support and hopefully restore the Cubs’ postseason success on a larger scale.