Hire Joe Maddon?

In Commentary And Analysis by aisle424

Joe Maddon exercised his option to leave the Tampa Bay Rays today and is now a free agent manager looking for his next job.

Almost immediately after the news came out, multiple reports from guys like Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal and others linked the Cubs to being interested in Maddon.

Cubs Twitter, as it does, went apeshit. But Cubs Twitter is not of like mind on this one.

There is the YES-HIRE-MADDON-NO-MATTER-WHAT group, the Maddon-Is-Better-Than-Renteria-So-Why-Not? crowd, the Cubs-Already-Have-a-Manager gang, the Please-God-Anyone-But-the-Cardinals camp, the Who-Cares?-Managers-Don’t-Even-Matter club, and various factions that combine a few of those views.

I’m basically between Maddon-Is-Better-Than-Renteria-So-Why-Not? and Anyone-But-the-Cardinals.

I’m not going to live or die by this decision. Frankly, the shit-storm on Twitter has been entertainment enough for me no matter where he ends up, unless it’s the Cardinals.

The Cardinals with an already good roster that didn’t use or develop Kolten Wong or Oscar Taveras for the bulk of the year is scary enough, but combine that with a competent in-game manager plus their typical post-season devil magic, and the Cardinals scare the crap out of me.

As far as the Cubs go, the arguments for showing Ricky Renteria the door right now in favor of Joe Maddon are:

  • Renteria probably has never been intended to be the guy that ultimately manages the Cubs when they’re good.
  • While prospect development is key and a strength of Renteria’s (based on one year), Maddon has a pretty good track record (based on 8 years) in developing young talent while remaining competitive in a very tough American League East division.
  • He isn’t afraid to get unconventional in his in-game strategy, whereas Renteria has shown he isn’t overly creative, and possibly too in love with bunting. There are lots of examples over the years of Maddon’s creativity, but this one is one of my favorites:

“The Rays had already lost the first two games of the series [to the A’s], the offense has been slumping, and the Red Sox were pulling away in the AL East. So rather than throw Hernandez and create a bad matchup on paper, Maddon started right-handed reliever Jamey Wright, who would be making his first start since 2007. Maddon would then shift to lefty reliever Alex Torres, forcing Bob Melvin to either leave in his left-handed batters or pinch-hit early in the game.”

That takes some balls, and it reminds me of when Lou Piniella (the best manager the team has had in my lifetime) stuck Sean Marshall out in left field for a batter to get a righty-righty match-up late in the game while still being able to use Marshall again after for the lefty on-deck. Also because, like the Cubs, the Rays went on to lose the game where the unconventional strategy was used.

The arguments for keeping Renteria are:

  • He did everything the Cubs asked of him last year. Most impressively, he got rebound years out of the two most important existing pieces he had, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.
  • He speaks Spanish fluently, which is important since a high percentage of the Cubs’ young elite talent speak Spanish as their first language: Castro, Baez, Alcantara, Soler.
  • He is under contract until 2016 and was only hired just last year.
  • Replacing a well-liked/respected manager one year after naming him (when he had relative success) could send a bad message to the young players from the front office.
  • Maddon is great and all, but he’s been in Tampa, with the Tampa media and a fan base that largely doesn’t care enough to apply outside pressure during a season. Renteria has handled the Chicago media and fans pretty well so far and Lou Piniella also showed that even experience with big bad New Yorkers doesn’t always provide you with the ability to deal with the Gordos and Sullies of the world on a regular basis.

There is not much in the pro-Ricky column that makes hiring Maddon a clear-cut bad idea.  Yes, the Spanish thing is nice, but there’s nothing that says the MANAGER has to be the one speaking the Spanish to the young guys. Being under contract is nothing that can’t be remedied by just buying it out. Maddon seems pretty smart and may have just as much fun fucking with the reactionary Chicago media as Jed and Theo do.

Ballplayers see teammates, coaches and managers change all the time. Of them they like, some of them they don’t, but it’s part of the game. I don’t think Renteria has built up such a loyal intense following in one year that would cause a revolt among players when they’re told their new boss is one of the most-respected, highly sought-after managers in the game today. I just don’t see that being a major problem.

The big thing, to me, is how Rizzo and Castro performed under Renteria. Maybe it’s coincidence. Maybe it’s something that wouldn’t change under Maddon. I don’t know, but it gives me pause to mess with something that isn’t broken. Those two continue to be the most important current Cubs until one of the younger guys shows us something consistently. It is very important that Rizzo and Castro keep playing well (and still get better maybe?).

So I’m not all in on Maddon. If they get him, great. I think they have to at least see what his asking price is and their silence on the matter seems to indicate that’s what they’re doing at the least. If they don’t, that’s fine too. Just not the Cardinals.

Oh dear God, anyone but the Cardinals.

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