Maddon Fever

Ever since Joe Maddon decided to opt out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays the buzz around the Cubs is that they’re the front runners to land one of the best managers in baseball. Maddon managed the Los Angeles Angels for one year in 1999 and left after Mike Scioscia was appointed the next season. Seven years later Maddon would take over the extremely dysfunctional and perennial basement dwelling Rays who in just two years would be led by him to an AL Pennant. The Rays would lose to the Philadelphia Phillies in six games, but the Rays from that season on supplanted themselves as contenders annually. Maddon’s record with the Rays is  754-705 which gives him 517% of winning. He led the Rays to five 90+ win seasons and won manager of the year twice in 2008 and 2011. In the past five years Maddon has finished in the top five of the AL Manager of the Year voting four times.

In 2006 the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as they were known then were a 100 loss team, in 2007 the Devil Rays lost another 96 games to finish in dead last for the ninth time in their then ten year history. After those two season the Rays never won less than 77 games in Maddon’s tenure. The five 90+ win teams were accompanied by two AL East titles and four trips to the postseason. Since 2006 the Cubs comparatively have been to the postseason twice, lost both NLDS’ in sweeps and have had 90+ losing seasons four times. In addition the Cubs have gone through four different managers.

Joe Maddon would from day one bring stability to the managerial position, and at a time when young players with so much potential are coming up through the farm system, it would be so vitally crucial for them to have the same manager and front office team to grow with. Joe Maddon’s done this before, no other team was in as big a shambles as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were when Maddon took over. Tampa was the laughing stock of baseball, and in a division against powers such as the Yankees and Red Sox, they were constantly forced for the beginning years to be the whipping boy of that powerful arms race.

Joe Maddon is also a great personality and would be a delight to follow for Cubs fans. As the excitement grows for these players, as to does the idea that Maddon could perhaps expedite the contending process by years. The manager that we’re speaking of also has a close connection with the front office already as Theo Epstein almost brought Maddon into the Red Sox organization after Grady Little was let go in 2003. The Red Sox eventually went with Terry Francona, but the past dealings with Maddon could perhaps buoy the chances for the Cubs to land the star manager.

The Cubs are obviously going to have competition for Maddon’s services, and the idea that teams would be willing to eat the contract of their current manager to bring Maddon into the fold isn’t anything different to a team other than Chicago. Rick Renteria did a fine job in his inaugural season with the Cubs, but the chance to get Maddon has fallen into the laps of Epstein and it’s tough to think that he’d lose him again ten years later.

The dream scenario for the Cubs and Cubs fans is that Maddon is with the franchise before the end of the signing period ten days after the World Series which will end tonight. Likely Maddon would be given full personnel control over who he’d want to be with the team and who he’d like to be traded or let go. The obvious benefit of all of this, and in particular having him with the team before free agency is that Maddon would instantaneously make the Northside a desirable place for free agents. One of course being Jon Lester who the Cubs will certainly be trying to land this winter. Maddon could also embolden Theo and Ricketts to open up the purse strings earlier then anticipated after appointing Maddon. Of course that’s being talked about in meetings this week and will be a big selling point by Chicago. Maddon was very much left bare when it came to spending in Tampa by ownership. The Rays were constantly at the bottom in payroll despite making the playoffs several times. This again speaks to the star status of Maddon who conceivably with a payroll of $150+ Million could do wonders. Just this past season the Cubs payroll was nearly $20 million more than Tampa’s. Tampa finished with four more wins than Chicago, one of the worst in the Maddon years. In 2013 the Cubs and Rays were separated by less than a million in payroll yet the Rays won 26 more games and made the playoffs.

If Joe Maddon comes to the Cubs expect ownership to immediately change their marketing strategy. This managerial change would change the culture of the Cubs and everything would be in play for Wrigley Field. Maddon would raise ticket prices, concessions, advertising and television revenue. Epstein and Ricketts knows this and that’s why they’re going to pay Maddon upwards of five to six million dollars per season and allow him to do whatever he wants in the dugout. The move of Maddon as the manager would make the Cubs a more valuable franchise, but more importantly to Ricketts a more marketable one. The Cubs would be in the playoffs undoubtadly in two seasons and would have a payroll in excess of $150 Million by 2016 at the earliest.

This opportunity is perhaps a gift from the heavens that the Cubs troubles will be ending soon, now it’s up to Theo the salesman to bring him to Wrigleyville.