The Cubs announced a press conference will be held on Monday to introduce Joe Maddon as their next manager. The man that many have called the best manager in baseball will be leading the Cubs in their next step towards a World Series title.
The 60-year-old Maddon has been the manager of the (Devil) Rays since 2006, when he replaced, ironically, Lou Piniella. After leading the Devil Rays to two seasons of 101 and 96 losses, he led the now rechristened Rays to a 97-win season and the World Series in 2008. For that he was named Manager of the Year.
After that, Maddon led the Rays to five straight winning seasons and three more trips to the playoffs. He used an opt-out clause in his contract that was triggered when Rays GM Andrew Friedman left Tampa Bay for the Dodgers. From the moment Maddon's resignation was announced, there was speculation that he would manage the Cubs, despite the fact that the Cubs already had a manager. Reports leaked out on Wednesday that the Cubs had come to an agreement with Maddon, although those reports were quickly denied. However, no one denied that the Cubs were interested in hiring Maddon and Maddon, in the past, had made clear his admiration for the Cubs, Wrigley Field and the history and tradition of the team. Cubs president Theo Epstein had also shown his admiration for Maddon in the past, interviewing him for the Red Sox job after the 2003 season where he was the second-choice behind Terry Francona.
While in Tampa, Maddon earned the reputation of being a both a player's manager and an outside-the-box thinker. He's known for keeping a loose clubhouse with a nurturing environment for young players. Several young players on the Rays developed under Maddon, including Evan Longoria, James Shields, B.J. Upton, David Price, Ben Zobrist and others. He's also considered to be one of the more, if not most, sabermetrically-inclined managers. He was one of the first managers to aggressively employ defensive shifts based on hitting data, for example. His use of Ben Zobrist as a regular without a regular position is an example of his outside-the-box thinking.
Before Maddon took the Rays job, he had been the long-time bench coach for the Angels and served as the interim manager twice. He was Mike Scioscia's bench coach on the Angels 2002 World Championship team. He had spent 31 years in the Angels organization as a minor league player, minor league manager, scout, coach and interim manager.
Maddon is also considered a top manager in dealing with the media. Perhaps that's not important in the W-L column, or maybe it is. Keeping the press from getting into the heads of your players is part of building a clubhouse culture. But in any case, it certainly would be considered a plus for management to have a guy who can win over the Chicago press, for ticket sales if anything.
Taking nothing away from Rick Renteria and the job he did, this move is a clear upgrade. And as Ken Rosenthal said today to those who find it all unseemly or "icky," "deal with it." You can't turn down a chance to get your dream manager because you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
The press conference introducing Maddon will be at 2 pm and held at the Cubby Bear bar because of the renovation work at Wrigley Field. I'm sure both Al and I will have more to say about this in the days to come.