Sometimes, I get the sense that Cubs fans’ affection for Joe Maddon has waned a bit since he first arrived on the scene in 2015.
And yet, all he’s done since then is steer the Cubs to three straight postseason appearances for the first time since 1908, including back-to-back NLCS showdowns the last two years, and the team’s first World Series title in 108 years (not to mention his 2015 NL Manager of the Year honors).
Part of that waning is probably because of the shiny toy syndrome, but the other part, I suspect, is because of his bullpen usage during the 2016 Postseason – and perhaps into this season. Fair or not, it gets people riled up.
But even if you count yourselves among the less enthusiastic Joe Maddon aficionados – like my grandmother, who thinks he’s “Drinking too much wine!” (probably because of those Binny’s Beverage Depot commercials) – you have to admit … he’s something special.
Yes, he’s achieved a TON of success with a very good and well-resourced Cubs team, but he also had a lot of success before stepping foot into the home field dugout on the North side:
— Respect90 Foundation (@Maddonrespect90) September 28, 2017
Joe Maddon is officially the first Major League manager to reach the postseason 7(!) times in his first 12 seasons as a manager. That’s very, very impressive, my friends, especially when you consider where he started his managerial career.
Jesse Rogers of ESPN has taken special notice of Maddon’s work this season, and offers that it may be some of Maddon’s very best work as a Cubs manager – which is some high praise considering what he did in 2015 and 2016. But as we explored recently, it’s not particularly easy for teams to return to the postseason the year after they’ve won a World Series, and, yet, here we are with the Cubs right back on top of the NL Central.
Sure, it was a bumpy ride in the first half, but that may not have entirely been out of Maddon’s control. Indeed, he seems to suggest, as many have already guessed, that he was purposefully laying off the gas in the first half of the season:
“What I thought I learned was really be patient and really emphasize not pushing too hard too quickly,” Maddon told ESPN. “The two other times I’ve been involved in that, wow, you definitely burn out. You run out of gas and have no chance.”
Maddon’s Cubs were two games under .500 heading into the second half of the 2017 season, but finished 22 games over .500 when the season wrapped up on Sunday. That wasn’t Maddon correcting mistakes from the first half, at least not entirely. It was largely the product of a conscious decision to let his players settle in while resisting the urge to panic or over-manage when the race didn’t call for it. Theo Epstein recognized exactly what Maddon was doing in the first half, and complimented him on his ability to keep the big picture in mind.
I know some of you are weary of giving Maddon credit for what’s happened this season, but, frankly, it’s hard to argue with the results. And in any case, it doesn’t matter right now. Let’s just take a moment and shed some love for one of the best Cubs managers in team history for setting an impressive record after three straight postseason appearances with the Cubs.