Before you cry foul over my headline, hear me out. As Halloween descends upon the wicked tonight, I eagerly await the signing of Joe Maddon to the Chicago Cubs. The deal is expected to be announced Monday and include a 4-5 year deal. This is good for the National League Central and more importantly, it’s good for the Cardinals and Cubs rivalry, which has gone flat over the past couple of years.
Let’s be honest. There was no chance in hell of Maddon coming to the Cards. Mike Matheny has a contract and is entrenched in John Mozeliak’s thinking and future. Mo brought the former catcher onboard because he loved Matheny’s ability to handle adversity and work with young players. After three straight National League Pennant appearances and one World Series, Mo had no clear path to firing Matheny. It’s not like gym class. You see the big guy walk onto the court and immediately kick poor undersized Timmy to the sidelines. This is the big leagues and Matheny is here to stay. He has the results to back it up, the trust of his GM and the players love him. Especially after the untimely death of young budding star Oscar Taveras, Matheny wasn’t going anywhere. Maddon was NOT coming here. That’s the truth(go ahead, grab one of those Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and inhale it).
Now that the nonsense is out of the building, let’s talk about the newly refurbished Central division. Clint Hurdle is the leader of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Ron Roeneke is set as the Milwaukee Brewers skipper, and Bryan Price just took over the Cincinnati Reds last season. If Maddon indeed signs a long term deal with Chicago, the division is set to collide for years to come. Lots of good baseball, respect, hot tempers and white hot action. A dead division is like a sad saloon with no regulars. It gets boring after a while and stadiums empty out.
Joe Maddon has managed the Tampa Bay Rays for 9 seasons and done very well with ZERO fans and a LOW payroll. I don’t like to say positive things on behalf of the Cubs but that city has filled Wrigley Field for decades and badly wants to contend with the big boys. The attendance is solid. General Manager Theo Epstein has switched out managers like suits at a dry cleaning joint. Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria both took turns and didn’t fare too well. Maddon took a team with 101 losses and turned them into a playoff team. He won with home grown players and cheap rentals. He was manager of the year in 2008 and 2011. He has won 781 games as a manager in this league. Maddon will make the Cubs right again and have a ball with that huge payroll. He will craft those younger players in Baez, Rizzo and Castro into good ballplayers. This will make the Cubs a contender very quickly, possibly in 2016 with the right moves.
Most importantly, the move will reheat the burner on the Cards-Cubs rivalry. Maddon’s managerial expertise will challenge Matheny and the Cards in every way possible. The Pennsylvania native loves the Cards and surely would have landed here if a vacancy was there. Maddon has talked about his love and respect for the Cards for many years, so he can’t wait to face off with them over 12 times a season. Maddon will be the thick rimmed glasses wearing professor to Matheny’s eager to please and learn young jumpstart. Matheny’s Cards have made easy pieces of the Cubs for the last few years, so Maddon’s arrival will slowly change that. If you like competitive baseball, you will love the signing of Joe Maddon in Chicago. I don’t want him going anywhere else. I want him here in the Central. If the Cards can’t have him on their side, their coaches can learn from him. He’s been a coach or manager in this league for 21 years, working with the Angels organization first and serving as interim manager in 1996.
The bandwagon fans will hate the signing of Maddon for the North Side little bears. They just don’t appreciate good baseball when they see it. They don’t realize that Maddon will make a man out of the Cubs’ young fleet and possibly Matheny’s managerial skills as well. He will challenge the new order of the division and bring another layer of excitement to the National League.
I’ll be honest and say my instant reaction to the potential deal wasn’t full of roses and cheery feelings. I was a little mad and had to chew on the possibilities. Soon enough, I realize the Maddon landing at Wrigley could do wonders for the competitive nature of the division and the in game action between two teams that have a long history together.
I am tired of the year to year downer baseball in Wrigley. I want the beast up north to climb to its feet again and challenge the local Birds. Give the energy a new kind of wicked flavor.
I am an advocate for Joe Maddon in Chicago Cub Blue. The fun is only starting.
Now go out there and have some fun with the kids on a calm, cool and collectively cold Friday evening. Collect some treats, eat half and save the rest of the chocolate for the upcoming and highly anticipated 2015 season.
Find more of my instant take on Twitter or come back here for the goods.