Removing ourselves from the
pep rally press conference introducing Joe Maddon as the new manager of the Cubs by a day, one thing remains true about this team…they’re not ready to compete as constructed.
That shouldn’t be an insane statement. After all, today is the first day of free agency. There are months of work to be done to prepare the roster for the 2015 season where competing is possible. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said as much. There need to be additions to the roster and young players need to continue to develop. And the process is not going to happen overnight. Theo and Jed have told us over and over again that they are not going to “sell out” for 2015. Nor should they. Selling out is what led the Cubs to have to punt on three full seasons at the big league level in the first place.
“We look at it more as a 15-month process.” -Jed Hoyer on the #Cubs acquiring starting pitching.
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) November 4, 2014
In spite of the imperfections that remain with the roster, a mere change of the manager has changed the entire perception of the organization. Mentions of “the smartest” staff, between Epstein, Hoyer, and Maddon, have been thrown around on Twitter like that crown makes the Cubs deserving of the Commissioner’s Trophy right now. The odds of the Cubs winning the World Series dropped from 50/1 to 20/1 with the hiring. As we’ve come to learn all too often with the Cubs, however…that hype does not lead to bigger and better, necessarily. For his part, Maddon gets it. Don’t mistake this as an indictment on Maddon. If there is one manager in baseball who gets the absolute most out of a roster, Joe Maddon may be that guy.
Maddon: “i understand development. I love development.” — Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) November 3, 2014
I also understand why fans are so excited about his arrival. The man is charismatic. He’s the uncle you gravitate to at family reunions because he’s funny, he’ll sneak you a beer even though you’re 14, and he’ll lie to your parents for you. Like so many others have said about him: He gets it. That’s not an insignificant fact when examining how he is going to handle a roster of young, talented players. He inherits young all-stars in Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. He is going to be charged with furthering the development of Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and others. His charm will allow him to build the relationships and trust that he spoke of during the presser. His knowledge and his ability to teach and lead a staff who teaches will be what ultimately serves the Cubs best.
Theo: “Joe is a combination of everything we look for in a manager… this is an old school baseball guy with a wealth of knowledge.” #Cubs
— Jordan Bernfield (@JordanBernfield) November 3, 2014
On the field, there is a lot to like about Maddon. He is a believer of blending analytics with his own observations of the performance of his players.
“The numbers are great and they point you in the right direction, but there are human beings involved, too.” — Maddon on sabremetrics
— Julie DiCaro (@JulieDiCaro) November 3, 2014
Maddon: “The players don’t have to be the first one there and last one to leave to impress me. That has nothing to do with winning. Nothing”
— Cubs Talk (@CSNCubs) November 3, 2014
Coupled with his use of analytics and vision, his simple approach to the game is beneficial to all of the young players he is going to manage with the Cubs. Fortunately, he has plenty of experience with the Rays. His track record is unassailable. He was routinely handed young rosters, often times with prospects replacing established and outstanding talent that he’d developed into excellent baseball teams. Once the farm system in the Rays organization got rolling, that team routinely won 90 games and was as competitive as anyone in a division that is very hard to compete in. He had a major hand in that. And he’s walking into a division where it will also be hard to compete in, with the Cardinals and Pirates looking situated for sustained runs of competitive baseball.
The most important thing Joe Maddon (hopefully) brings to the Cubs is consistency. He is the fifth different manager since 2010. Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum, and Rick Renteria have all come and gone in short order. Organizations that win consistently have consistent programs. The “Cubs Way” cannot be a new big league manager every second or third year. Maddon is as good a person to change that trend as anyone else in baseball.
Maddon just said “do do” and then laughed.
— Cubs Talk (@CSNCubs) November 3, 2014
It is fair to label Maddon’s hiring as the symbolic end of the rebuilding phase. Hiring a top flight manager, like Maddon, is what organizations who plan to take the next step toward winning, and winning a lot, often do. But the Cubs were going to take that next step with or without Maddon. Without some significant additions to the roster in the ways of veteran depth and a starting pitcher or two, the Cubs are going to hang around .500 next season…and would have done so if Renteria was still the manager. In that sense, the front office has not gotten “their man.” They’ve gotten one of the men they feel is necessary to bring stability to a chaotic ball club that is coming out of a period of massive transition. The next steps will be carried out by who is added to the roster. Because one thing is sure: No amount of novelty “Joe Maddon glasses” sold at Wrigley Field is going to change a damn thing for the Cubs if they trot the same quality roster out day after day.
Maddon is the start. We’ll have a better idea of how good the Cubs are going to be this season when the Cubs Convention rolls around.