Joe Maddon will not be the manager of the Chicago Cubs next year and that is not a surprise given they did not meet expectations this year. In a world where people both have too high and too low expectations for professional sport coaches and managers, the common playbook front offices take when teams under-perform is to fire the manager.
Yes, change is needed, and yes, it is easier to fire one person, the manager, and not the team. But, Maddon is not the reason why the Cubs did not make the playoffs. First, and foremost the reason is that Cub players did not do their job. The same players who once ground out at bats in 2016 where doing nothing more than swing for the fences all this year. Second, the Cubs lineup is nothing but the same style hitter, with no diversity on the bench or apparently in the farm system, and the talent, that’s on the Theo Epstein and the front office.
Frankly, up until this point, what Epstein and the front office have done is succeed with the easy decisions and fail at the hard decisions. How hard is it to tank year after year and stock pile on draft picks that every talent scout in America says is a good bet? When Maddon became available, was it really hard to quickly decide to drop Ricky Renteria and sign Maddon?
Be careful for what you ask for, you just might get it. Now Epstein has to make one of the most important decisions of his tenure, who to hire to replace the manager that guided your team to the first World Series in 108 years. David Ross might be a good guy in the clubhouse, but will he have the players attention any more than Maddon? Will Joe Girardi be too hard? Who Epstein hires is crucial towards getting the most out of all the the talented players that are now starting to enter the end of their contracts.
Worse of all, the attention on hiring the next manager redirects attention away from the real heavy lifting of the offseason, which is to make changes to the lineup so that you get more professional at bats. Changing the lineup means moving one of the core players who won the World Series, which is something Epstein has refused to do to date. If you only replace the manager and keep everything else the same, why should we expect a different result?
On Saturday Epstein announced that Maddon will not be returning. If next year is no better, who will be the scapegoat then? You can’t fire the entire team.