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Less than 24 hours after the Chicago Cubs lost the National League wild-card game to the Colorado Rockies, the front office is killing any speculation about possibly firing manager Joe Maddon. The team confirmed Wednesday that he’ll be their manager for the 2019 season.
There might be more to this, though: USA Today’s Bob Nightengale also reported an interesting detail along with that news: the Cubs won’t be giving Maddon an extension. 2019 is the final year of Maddon’s five-year, $28 million contract, but it doesn’t look like the team wants to make any decisions about 2020 (and beyond) just yet. The Cubs future is still bright, but it’s possible that it won’t include Maddon.
Maddon staying wasn’t a lock
It may seem like a no-brainer that Joe Maddon would keep his job. The Cubs have made the playoffs every year since he came over from the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015. He helped break the Cubs’ 108-year World Series drought!
But a track record of success doesn’t mean managers have job security anymore. After the 2017 season, managers of three playoff teams were fired: the New York Yankees fired Joe Girardi, the Washington Nationals fired Dusty Baker, and and the Boston Red Sox fired John Farrell. All three teams had exited early from the playoffs, and despite having managed several successful seasons, all three managers were suddenly without jobs.
Just like Girardi, Baker, and Farrell, Maddon is facing heavy criticism for the decisions he made in the playoff game his team lost. And while Maddon wasn’t fired like the other three, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported this morning that there may be trouble brewing between Maddon and the Cubs’ president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
Epstein said in August he was “thrilled” with Maddon’s four-year run, adding the manager was “clearly in good standing” with the organization. Yet, for months talk has persisted within the industry that Epstein and Maddon are not always on the same page.
Even though Rosenthal cited Maddon’s bullpen management and “celebrity manager” personality quirks as probable points of opposition, it’s doesn’t amount to much, and it obviously wasn’t enough for Epstein to make a managerial change. But considering how harmonious Maddon and Epstein’s relationship has appeared, it’s not insignificant.
This is something that Epstein reiterated Wednesday when talking to the media:
What does this mean for the future of the Cubs?
For the immediate future, Maddon not getting an extension probably doesn’t mean much. He’ll be around in 2019 for sure, and the Cubs obviously haven’t closed the door on retaining him beyond that. The front office declining to give Maddon an extension may just mean that after a disappointing early exit from the playoffs, they want to wait and see what 2019 holds before deciding to keep Maddon for two or even three or four more years.
But the end of 2019 would mark the Cubs’ fifth year of being seriously competitive. While it doesn’t look like their competitive window will be closing any time soon, that doesn’t mean everything in the organization should continue to stay the same. The end of Maddon’s contract comes at the perfect time if the front office wants to make some changes after five years of contention — or if Epstein’s reported frustration with Maddon continues to grow.
The Cubs are leaving the door open to multiple options, but a lot is riding on what happens in 2019. If the Cubs win the World Series, will we see Maddon get another contract extension? Or will another playoff disappointment have Maddon donning another uniform in 2020? We’ll just have to wait and see.
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