Through the postseason, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon has gotten a lot of, well, crap from fans and sports analysts regarding his lineup decisions and bullpen management.
I’m very much not exempt from that.
Throughout the NLDS and NLCS, we’ve questioned everything from Ian Happ’s absence to John Lackey’s presence, and everything in between. Even earlier today, I dug in on Maddon’s decision to start Ben Zobrist against a lefty like Clayton Kershaw. But this isn’t really anything new.
We’ve always questioned decisions made by the coaching staff and front office – it’s sorta our job. The problem, as I see it, is that unlike usual, I (we/Twitter/the internet) haven’t always been able to later appreciate the reasoning behind a decision. Maddon’s made plenty of confusing moves in the past, but usually (in his post game comments and/or deep in the stat pages of FanGraphs), we discover something we were originally missing. Lately, that reason is precisely the thing that’s missing.
BUT maybe that’s just on us.
Nearly all of us are comfortable giving Maddon the benefit of the doubt most of the time, and probably even more of us are willing to bet on Theo Epstein. And the Cubs President of Baseball Operations is fully in his manager’s corner.
“You’re talking about a manager who’s got his team in the LCS three straight times. We have more regular season wins than any other club the last three years and we have more postseason wins than any other club the past three years. So that might be a little bit more valuable than the people looking at this like ‘This is Joe Maddon’s series, and when we lose, he’s lost.’ This is not the case.”
Epstein later went on to suggest that anyone who thinks this series is about Joe Maddon (or Dave Roberts) is “really missing the boat.” According to Epstein, it’s about the players executing and producing like they should. Although I somewhat understand his position, I think the counterargument is pretty obvious: Maddon has not always been putting players in the best position to succeed (like he has throughout the regular season).
In fairness, Epstein concedes that the front office doesn’t agree with everything Maddon does, but there’s always a discussion. According to Epstein, the Cubs try to use “the collective wisdom of the whole organization” to come to the correct approach.
Did I expect Epstein to completely throw his manager under the bus? Of course not. That’s not the way these guys operate. But even still, Epstein seems mostly on board with what he’s seen from Maddon this postseason. And, of course, we always have to remember that there are things known in the clubhouse that can impact managerial decisions that we aren’t privy to.