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Is Joe Maddon Hall of Fame worthy?

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The Cubs manager could be the team’s next representative in Cooperstown.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There was a decent discussion in one of the recent game recaps about Joe Maddon and his worthiness for the Hall of Fame. I will try to explain my position and some of the others that were presented, but certainly I welcome discussion relative to this matter. I probably think big picture to a fault at times. It helps me in not sweating the result of any one game or group of games too much. But in some instances, and this is probably one, I make assumptions that may or may not be true.

I assume that Joe Maddon will go into the Hall of Fame at the conclusion of his managerial career. Joe is 64 years old. That makes him the second-oldest managers currently in baseball (Reds manager Jim Riggleman is a bit more than a year older). The trend has been towards younger and younger managers. And yet, Joe still seems very much engaged and content to continue managing this talented group of Cubs players. At very minimum, I consider it a given that he will finish out his current contract that takes him through the end of 2019. Al wrote this article in the offseason suggesting that the Cubs should actually extend his contract through the end of the 2021 season to align with the contracts of the front office. I think that would be a very sensible thing to do given the Cubs place in the contention window. The team still seems to be very much engaged by Joe and I don’t see a current need for a change.

When we were having the discussion, many of the people who disagreed with my point of view were evaluating Joe based on his career to date. That’s a fair point of view. The future is never guaranteed and indeed things can change quickly. As a quick example, Miguel Montero wasn’t on his way out as a Cub until he was. It’s different, but it is a reminder that the landscape can change very quickly.

With that in mind, let’s look at this through two lenses. First, I’ll look at Joe’s resume to date. Then I’ll make some projections through the 2019 and the 2021 season. I’ll provide a poll for you to vote Yay/Nay/Incomplete and you can vote. Then for those of you who are inclined, we can discuss further in the comments.

Career to date

Joe Maddon ranks 53rd in baseball history in wins as a manager. There aren’t many managers in the Hall of Fame with fewer wins than that, but he’ll probably move up five or six spots by the end of 2018. At least a couple (example Frank Robinson) had some success as a manger but are in the Hall based on their playing career. By winning percentage, Joe is 59th in baseball history. There are a number of Hall of Fame managers with worse winning percentages. Even Casey Stengel only had a career winning percentage of .508 (Joe’s is .538). Joe is ninth in career postseason wins. Of course virtually everyone at the top of that list other than Casey Stengel managed in the modern era. Joe’s postseason winning percentage is .485. Again, there are a number of managers with worse postseason winning percentage in the hall. Joe has managed seven teams into the playoffs. That ranks tied for 12th. There are a mix of current and old-school managers ahead of him.

Joe has won a single World Series. 23 managers have won more than one Series. 16 of the 23 managers with two World Series wins are in the Hall. One of those who isn’t in the Hall is active manager Bruce Bochy, who with three titles will absolutely go in. Joe has won two pennants as a manger. 33 managers have won three pennants. Of the those 33, 27 are in the Hall. As noted, Bruce Bochy will absolutely increase that number. (As an aside, Charlie Grimm isn’t in the Hall. He had a .547 winning percentage, and won three pennants. Does anyone know something I’m not aware of?)

Assessment: In fairness, I think Joe strictly statistically is not yet a Hall of Famer. He does have the narrative of being hands down the best manager in the brief history of the Rays and arguably the best manager in the history of the Cubs and the one who was at the helm of a truly historic championship. He also has a lifetime in and around MLB including being a bench coach on the Angels 2002 World Series championship team. I still think narrative would push him into the Hall if he never managed another game. But it is not a lock by any stretch of any imagination.

Projecting through 2019

The Cubs have won an amazing 292 games in his first three full season as a Cub manager. That is an average of 97.33 games per season. Though I have repeatedly predicted that they will win another 97 this year, I will not use that projection. The Cubs are on pace for a little over 90 wins, but if we conservatively estimate him for 90, that would put him at 1192 wins. I’m also going to project that Ned Yost will not win 86 games over that same span as the manager of the Royals. At 1192 wins at the end of this season, assuming no managers come out of retirement mid-season, Joe will be 43rd in career wins. He will pass three more Hall of Fame managers in doing so. That would likely give him an eighth playoff appearance. Dusty Baker is the only manager with more and not in the Hall (someone should probably eventually put Dusty in for managing/playing in totality).

I’m then assuming that Joe then returns and manages the Cubs again in 2019 and modestly projecting the Cubs to win 88 games (being extremely conservative as there is no obvious reason for this team to steadily regress). That would put him at 1280 wins. Assuming Clint Hurdle also continues to manage and win games and the Rockies don’t fall off dramatically, that would put Joe at 39th in MLB history in wins. 26 of the 38 managers ahead of him would be Hall of Fame managers and a large chunk of those not in only stopped managing within the last decade or still managing. If he nudges that back into the 90’s and also returns to the post season, then he would join Dusty Baker as one of only eight managers with nine post season appearances (Bochy has eight and could certainly also get there, though less well positioned). Also, with just the 90 wins in 2018 and 88 in 2019, he increases his career winning percentage to .542 and nudges into the top 50 winning percentages of all time. Of the 48 better winning percentages in history, exactly half of them are held by guys who managed less than 10 seasons. 13 of the 24 actually managed five or less seasons.

Assessment: Obviously as I move this far, I’m starting to make more assumptions. So therein lies the rub. You just can’t know. But certainly the Cubs are loaded to be competitive going forward at least for the next couple of years. If Joe manages through 2019, even if he doesn’t get the Cubs back to the Series, I think he’s almost certainly in. One more Series appearance will pretty certainly do it.

Possibly managing through 2021?

As we go further and further into the future, things get hazier. Injuries could curtail careers. There could be internal strife. He could lose his clubhouse. Or the Cubs could reel off a couple of 100-win seasons and another championship. We can’t know. For the sake of fairness, let’s give Joe an 85 win season in 2020. The Cubs slowly slide to mediocrity (boo!). Then in 2021, tensions bubble over and the fire just isn’t there the same way. Joe finishes out his contract but announces his retirement. An uninspired Cubs team only wins 75 games.

So with 90 wins in 2018, 88 in 2019, 85 in 2020 and 75 in 2021, here are Joe’s final career numbers:

1411 wins, 1222 losses. That’s a .536 winning percentage (so I trimmed .002 off of his current mark). I’m going to give him the nine postseason appearances (2018 and 2019) so that not everything turns to ashes looking forward. He doesn’t get back to the Series. Assuming he never catches Clint Hurdle, that leaves Joe with the 29th most wins in history (and if I would have given him just three more wins, he moves up one more notch). He has managed more playoff teams than all but seven (eight if Bochy also reaches that plateau) managers in history. He has two World Series appearances and one championship. Even with that kind of sour end to his career, I think he’s a no-brainer.

Poll

Is Joe Maddon a Hall of Fame manager?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Yes!
    (145 votes)
  • 7%
    No.
    (21 votes)
  • 38%
    Too soon; let’s see how the next season or two play out
    (106 votes)
272 votes total Vote Now