Congrats, folks; you now get to tell your children you stayed up on a work or school night to watch a sports curse end.
By now, we all know what happened on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. The Chicago Cubs, after 108 long years of waiting, broke a World Series drought with an 8-7 victory in extra innings over the Cleveland Indians. Veteran utility man Ben Zobrist was named MVP, prized mid-season acquisition Aroldis Chapman got the win after blowing the lead, and for manager Joe Maddon, he finally gets to add his name to the list of managers who have won a World Series.
Maddon, during his post game press conference, had nothing but kind words for both his team and Francona's Indians.
"It's really great for our entire Cub-dom to get beyond that moment and continue to move forward because now, based on the young players we have in this organization, we have an opportunity to be good for a long time, and without any constraints, without any of the negative dialogue.... I want to congratulate the Cleveland Indians and [manager Terry Francona]. It's a difficult moment for them, but they are outstanding. I think on the surface looking at it from my perspective, really evenly matched teams that play the game the same way -- a lot of passion about it, a lot of respect for the game itself."Today, as fans and media people wonder if the Cubs are set to become a dynasty, and they debate about Zobrist being named MVP or even ponder the possibility that the racist character that is Chief Wahoo cost the Indians a title, let's instead talk about something else. Let's talk about Joseph John Maddon, the 62-year-old Cubs manager who, two years after the team went 73-89, helped end the longest and most infamous curse in sports history. After years of being among baseball's best and most colorful managers thanks to his lovable personality, Maddon gets to add a ring to the one he won as the Los Angeles Angels' bench coach in 2002.
And guess what, Joe? By winning this World Series, you've really opened up the Hall of Fame debate for yourself. After years of being just a bench coach and dealing with some bad teams in both Los Angeles and Tampa, you have a real shot at being a first ballot inductee into Cooperstown.
No, this isn't a hot take or an overreaction. I want everyone to seriously think about the job Maddon has done in both Tampa and Chicago. How many managers or coaches in professional sports history can you name that took a team that finished with a total winning percentage below.430 in the past five years (Tampa Bay had a.398 winning clip from 2001-05, and the Cubs won about 42.7 percent of their games from 2010-14, although that number is slightly inflated by a 75-87 2010 season) and took them to a championship game within three years?
How many managers, in a time of big contracts and expensive stadiums, could have a winning percentage of 0.535 with a roster that constantly ranked towards the bottom of the payroll charts (until he landed in Chicago, that is). The funny thing is that Maddon wasn't supposed to be a managerial prodigy or someone like Mike Matheny or Jason Kidd, who people had said for years would go into coaching and become an instant hit as a manager.
In fact, Maddon got his first legitimate, full-time managerial job with the Rays at the age of 51 (he had two separate stints as an interim manager with the Angels in 1996 and 1999, going 27-24 in 51 games) and has done the following since then.
- Since the start of the 2008 season, Maddon has won less than 90 games in a season just twice, going 84-78 with an injury-plagued Rays team in 2009 and 77-85 in his final year with Tampa Bay in 2014.
- Those early Tampa Bay teams had a heavy mix of young talent, (Carl Crawford, Scott Kazmir, James Shields, B.J. Upton, Rocco Baldelli, etc.) but he was often forced to trade big players away due to contracts. Despite never having a team rank higher than 21st in payroll during his time with the Rays, Maddon somehow still won nearly 52 percent of his games, and that's counting the 2006 and 2007 seasons where he went 61-101 and 66-96 respectively (payrolls via SteveTheUmp.com).
- Maddon has as many postseason appearances in that time (six) as the New York Yankees do despite constantly fielding inferior and much cheaper rosters on paper.
When you look at what Maddon's done with the teams he's had and compare them to some of the other 24 managers in the Hall of Fame, his case should immediately scream first ballot even if he retired today.
However, the problems when it comes to Maddon's eventual Hall of Fame case will most likely be his managing style and the lack of postseason success prior to 2016, as the 62-year-old never made it out of the division series following the 2008 World Series run. What we saw in the World Series, from the overuse of Aroldis Chapman to not letting starters go as long as they probably could have, was a manager taking risks that could have either brought home a title or put him on the same level as Terry Collins. If Chapman gives up the go-ahead or winning run last night, are we really having a conversation about Joe Maddon being worthy of a Hall of Fame vote?
No, we're taking shots at the bearded man and watching Cub fans cry for his dismissal so they can hire someone with better bullpen management. Joe Torre, anyone?
In a Thursday article for FOX Sports, Dieter Kurtenbach argued this about Joe Maddon's managing in the World Series.
"Maddon will be -- fairly -- second-guessed for many of his decisions in the World Series. His usage of Chapman was particularly brow-raising, but there were tremendous managerial moves as well. Having Kyle Schwarber batting second for Games 6 and 7 was a stroke of genius, as it set up a murderers' row of the designated hitter, Bryant, Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, and then Russell. Facing off against pitchers on three-days rest and against a bullpen that was overworked a series ago, that diverse 2-6 was cruel -- Maddon deserves credit for being flexible enough to make that kind of a move. Managers can really only control three things -- the lineup card, the handling of pitchers and the culture of the clubhouse. Ultimately, it's that final, intangible thing will define Maddon's success with the Cubs -- he was able to create an environment where the pressure of being the franchise's best shot at a World Series in 108 years wasn't overwhelming to a young team."Then, there's the case of Aroldis Chapman. When the time comes, whether it's in eight years or in eighteen years, to decide if Maddon is worthy of induction, it's highly likely that many voters are going to think back to when Maddon and the Cubs acquired Chapman, someone who had served a suspension with the Yankees for a domestic abuse incident, with seemingly no concerns at all. Granted, some will argue that the decision was made upstairs, and Chapman did stay out of trouble, but could the voters get over the Cubs willingly employing a domestic abuser?
It was only a few weeks ago, mind you, when the Inquisitr reported that Chicago sports anchor Julie DiCaro was flat out accusing the team's wins of being tainted due to Chapman's presence, and this was from a woman who claims to be a diehard Cubs fan. But, those who saw DiCaro's Twitter feed last night, as well as any other Cubs fan who was anti-Chapman, will see that the whole 'tainted wins' thing died down when Kris Bryant threw to Anthony Rizzo for the final out.
Just 19 wins away from 1,000 for his career, and on a team that has all of the potential to be a dynasty, it's already been established Maddon is already going to go down as one of the best managers in Cubs history. At the rate he's going, though, he'll be in Cooperstown before long, and at the rate, this team is going, chances are he'll be joined by plenty of his players as well.
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]