The other day it came out that Joe Maddon would not be returning as Manager of the Chicago Cubs. Mixed emotions ran through me when I heard this news, but one thing was more clear than anything. I, and the entire city of Chicago, am forever in debt to him and grateful for his service.
If you know me, you know I am pretty emotional with the Cubs, especially after winning the World Series in 2016. Sometimes I’ll catch myself taking the wins for granted and the losses personal. That’s the nature of being a fan. Sometimes we overreact, sometimes we’re spot on, and sometimes we get a little caught off guard. Sometimes we say things we don’t actually mean, but when I say this, this is as true of a statement as there is, “Thank you, Joe Maddon.”
Sometimes it takes a change to put into perspective how good you really had it. As a Cubs fan my entire life, winning the World Series was as good as I will ever have it, and I couldn’t have done it without Joe.
The fact of the matter is the Cubs are in a significantly different place than they were 5 years ago when we first signed Maddon. I’ll never forget I was in the radio broadcasting room of my high school when I got the ESPN alert that we had officially signed Joe. I was ecstatic. I felt this would be the guy who could take all this young and versatile talent the Cubs had coming up through the farm system, and turn it into something special.
But now, 5 years later, they’re a much more veteran team, and veterans are coached differently. To me, it feels weird to say the Cubs are a veteran team, but it’s true. I’ll always see Kris Bryant as a rookie, same with Kyle Schwarber.
The reason it’s time for the Cubs to move on is that as players go through their careers, their roles become much more established. Joe’s specialty was evaluating the talent he had on his roster, and each and every day putting the pieces to the puzzle together of who would fit best in what spot, both offensively and defensively. But as players get older, their game becomes more defined. It becomes clear that a specific guy is, for example, more of a two-hitter or this guy always bats clean-up, that guy is our leadoff hitter. I think the lack of structure and definition affected the Cubs these past two seasons.
It is a shame that he had to go out this way, with the Cubs missing the postseason. It really put a damper on his time in Chicago, but it doesn’t take away all he accomplished with this team.
Long and the short of it is that Joe Maddon will forever be the coach that brought me my first championship. A moment I’ll never forget the rest of my life. A freshman in college, the strongest years of your fan hood, I was able to call myself a World Champion, something so many others never get a chance to say.
Through all the ups and downs, I’ll never forget the Joe Maddon era.