Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Joe Maddon Witch Hunt Has Gotten Out Of Control

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I’d be willing to bet my next paycheck that the ever growing contingent of Cubs fans who want to get rid of manager Joe Maddon won’t even open this article. Instead, they’ll jump right into the comment section after reading my headline and say something along the lines of …



“Another Joe Maddon ‘fanboy’ coming to his defense. The guy is a terrible manager.”

How do I know that?

Because it seems like most of my 2018 season so far has been trying to rationalize why Joe Maddon is a good manager with some Cubs fans who feel Maddon’s time is Chicago is running out.

I’ll say that again.

There are Cubs fans who believe that Joe Maddon’s time in Chicago is running out.

The same manager who has led the Cubs to three straight NLCS appearances, two straight division championships, the most wins in baseball since 2015, and another teeny tiny thing called the 2016 World Series championship has somehow become a lightning rod for criticism online. Instead of being included in the “Chicago Coaches Mt. Rushmore” with Phil Jackson, Joel Quennville, and Mike Ditka, Joe Maddon finds himself explaining to the self-proclaimed baseball experts on Twitter the rationale behind every single one of his decisions on the field.

Of course Maddon’s “tell all your folks on Twitter” comment was said a little bit tongue in cheek but I believe there is some truth behind it. How have we gotten to the point that the guy who led the Cubs to breaking the longest championship drought in professional sports history is now being scrutinized for every….single….decision he makes?

I’ll make it clear at this point that the anti-Maddon contingent is definitely not the majority of Cubs fans that I know. Most of us rational ones appreciate what Maddon has done over the past three seasons but it never ceases to amaze me at the number of anti-Maddonites I see on Twitter.com.

And if bitching on Twitter.com wasn’t bad enough, this guy thought it would be a good idea to go after Maddon’s two children to tell them how much he hates their dad.

My purpose of writing this is not to come to Maddon’s defense about every single move that he makes because believe it or not, there are things he does that I don’t agree with. However, with his track record in Chicago, I feel he has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making baseball decisions. I’m level-headed enough to understand that Joe does things for a reason and while they may not always work out, there is a method behind the madness. Somehow, we’ve gotten to the point that every bad decision he makes gets analyzed by the baseball “experts” online yet every good decision always goes unnoticed.

Yet here we are.

Cubs fans are quick to forget that pre-Joe Maddon, the team went 271-377 from 2011 to 2014, highlighted by a 101-loss season in 2012. The team finished last in the division from 2010-2014 and the closest they came to first place was finishing 16 games back in 2010. Since Maddon has taken over in 2015, the team has gone 334-226 highlighted by three straight trips to the postseason, winning the division by an average of roughly 12 games the past two seasons, and collecting one shiny ass piece of jewelry in that magical year of 2016.

Yes, I understand that the Cubs rebuild began in 2011 so the wins and losses were expected to be skewed but that still shouldn’t take away from what Maddon has been able to accomplish since he took over the team. His managerial style fit perfectly with a lineup of players who were too young to really understand what it meant to be a big league player and Maddon’s quirkiness kept the mood light and allowed the players to focus solely on playing ball. Fans loved that quirkiness, the themed road trips, and all the other outside the box aspects that make Joe Maddon so unique.

That same quirkiness has apparently run it’s course for some Cubs fans though. From what I’ve gathered, there are three main reasons why these fans think Maddon needs to be fired (and replaced with either Joe Girardi or Clint Hurdle — Yes, someone seriously told me Clint Hurdle would be a better manager than Joe Maddon.)

  1. Budding superstar Albert Almora Jr.’s lack of everyday playing time.
  2. The lack of a consistent batting order day in and day out.
  3. The Cubs don’t win every single game.

I’m only halfway joking about the last one but it’s true that the bar was set so high in 2016 that fans unfairly expect those same results every single day. I won’t go into just how crazy of a notion that is, so let’s start with the Almora thing.

The 24-year-old center fielder is in the midst of having a very solid season; solid enough that fans have begun to push Almora as a write-in candidate for this year’s All-Star game. As of today, he’s slashing .316/.361/.428 and has shown Gold Glove caliber play in center field every chance that he’s had.

Maddon has juggled Almora in center primarily with 23-year-old Ian Happ. Both players were drafted by the Cubs are both are highly coveted as players in the organization. Almora has historically struggled against right-handed pitchers while Happ is a switch hitter who ideally solves that problem. Almora has drastically improved his approach against righties which has led the a good amount of Cubs fans to demand that Almora be the everyday center fielder and lead off man for the Cubs. The pickle that Maddon is in is trying to fit a square peg through a round hole with Almora and Happ.

With Kyle Schwarber locking down left field for the foreseeable future, there are only two outfield spots for two players.

Simple fix: Almora in center and Happ in right.

Well that used to be the fix when Cubs fans hated Jason Heyward because he couldn’t hit the side of a barn but with JHey’s resurgence this year, there are ZERO fans saying Heyward shouldn’t be playing right field.

So with Schwarber in left and Heyward in right, that leaves us with one position for two players.

I love reading the criticism for Maddon when he plays Happ in center. It’s funny to me because when Joe decides to play Happ and Happ plays well, Happ gets all the praise. However, if Happ goes 0-4 with 4 K’s, all fingers point to Joe and the questions of “Why is Happ playing over Almora” undoubtedly surface.

The ironic thing about the “Almora needs to play everyday” argument is the fact that Almora DOES play almost everyday.

So even though Almora currently has more PA’s than Happ this season and is on pace for 521 PA’s (previous high was 323 in 2017), Joe still can’t get credit for playing Almora enough.

The second argument that supposedly warrants Joe Maddon losing his job is the lack of a consistent batting order every single day. This is always funny to me when I have to talk to Cubs fans about this because when Maddon juggled the lineup the same way in 2016, it was all fine and dandy because every move seemingly was the right one. Cubs fans used to RAVE about moving players around in the lineup to try to keep guys fresh, or helping guys get out of a funk but now that the offense isn’t putting up 18 runs a game like every Cubs fans expects them to, the lineup juggling isn’t fun anymore.

Not having a consistent lead off hitter since the departure of Dexter Fowler in 2017 hasn’t helped Maddon keep a relatively consistent lineup in my opinion. Just this season, I feel like we’ve seen damn near every player take a shot at the lead off spot and obviously putting a traditional two or three hole hitter in the lead off spot will shuffle you lineup order pretty dramatically.

I love reading fans tweet out what they think the lineup should be every single day without any rhyme or reason. No match-up numbers, no splits, no opposing pitching charts but fans want to see certain players hit in certain spots because that’s where they think they should be.

“Javy should bat 7th because that’s where he hits best at.”

Stop it.

This may come as a shock to the Maddon mobb but he’s not the only manager in baseball that has juggled his lineup as much as he has.

That’s right folks.

The division-leading Milwaukee Brewers have run out MORE lineups then the mad scientist Joe Maddon. I refuse to research Brewers Twitter because I don’t know what type of weird rabbit hole I’ll end up in but my guess would be that because the Brewers are in first place and having a nice first half of the season, their fan base isn’t screaming for Craig Counsell’s head (Kato Kaelin doesn’t count).

Bottom line is this: Should the Cubs be in first place in the division right now? Probably.

Are the Cubs frustrating to watch? Sometimes.

Could they do a better job of situational hitting? Of course.

Are they still the team to beat in the National League? I truly believe they are (and so does Vegas.)

Their offense is still ranked in the top five in the NL in batting average, OBP, OPS, slugging, and they still lead the NL in run differential. The pitching staff leads the NL in BAA and ERA and until the past few days, the bullpen has been rock solid. A year ago today, the Cubs were 38-36 and .5 games out of first place compared to this year when they are 42-33 and two games out.

Two games out of first place in JUNE and fans are screaming to fire the manager. Some fans have really forgotten what it was like to be a shitty baseball team. During the bad times in Cubs baseball, I used to tell my brother-in-law, “If the Cubs are within 10 games of first place by the Fourth of July, it should be considered a successful season.” Now, some fans make it seems like if the Cubs aren’t up by at least 10 games by the Fourth of July, the season is a failure.

Certain players will figure it out at the plate, players will get healthy, and the team will go on two or three good runs before the season is out. It’s just part of baseball. Even though he won’t get credit for any of that when it happens, Joe Maddon will be the one leading this team on another run at the postseason.

We’ll see how many “Fire Joe Maddon” tweets I come across when the team gets hot again this season.

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