It’s not quite the same as saying he’s on the hot seat, but some folks are claiming Joe Maddon’s pants are on fire in the wake of his comments regarding the perceived security of his coaching staff.
“[Maddon] lied to the Chicago media, and by extension Cubs coaches and their families,” wrote Patrick Mooney while highlighting the Cubs coaching changes. The NBC Sports Chicago writer was critical of Maddon because, before Game 4 of the NLCS, the skipper implied his coaching staff would return in 2018.
While Mooney does a phenomenal job covering the team and posing interesting questions on a consistent basis, I wholeheartedly disagree with the light in which he portrays Maddon’s statement.
Eight days ago, Maddon says "of course" he wants entire staff back. Theo says "rest assured" every coach Joe wants will return. #ThatsCub
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) October 26, 2017
I object because the question posed to Maddon was, to an extent, inappropriate given the context. A defending World Series champion team was still fighting — albeit meekly — to return to that big stage and the focus of the Cubs organization was certainly not on offseason plans. Why weren’t all questions directly related to the team at present, and did anyone really expect Maddon to admit that they were thinking of letting guys go? He was clearly caught off-guard, understandably so.
Further, if Mooney is concerned about the well-being of Cubs coaches’ families, then it’s borderline hypocritical to criticize Maddon, who was placed in a lose-lose situation. If the decorated manager gives the “we’ll handle this in the offseason” answer, like Mooney suggests should’ve been the response, the narrative could easily have shifted toward the Cubs lacking confidence in their coaching staff. That would certainly cause unrest for the coaches and their families.
“If you put yourself in my position having to answer that question during the playoffs,” Maddon explained, “if I had answered it any differently, I thought that would have really caused a lot of concern in the coaches.”
Even more, while beat writers spend a lot of time around the team and associate with the staff regularly, they nevertheless have only a snapshot of the day-to-day interactions within the organization. The front office and Maddon are under no obligation to report the finer details of their operation. To assume that Maddon and the Cubs coaches didn’t discuss his “of course” comments is dangerous. And to insinuate that the manager was cruel to his staff is a bit untoward.
Plus, Maddon emphasized that the hiring of Chili Davis and Brian Butterfield was a matter of opportunity.
“It was just about the availability right now with [Davis and Butterfield],” said the Cubs manager when discussing the new hires.
That’s probably why John Mallee had his exit interview the day prior to Davis and Butterfield being hired, while Bosio was let go nearly a week before that. During a time when Maddon was preparing for Game 4 of the NLCS, perhaps he imagined Mallee and Jones returning.
Again, I want to emphasize that I’m not attacking Patrick Mooney or the outstanding job he does. I frequently read his work and appreciate his thoroughness and overall objective coverage of the Cubs organization. I have a great level of respect for him, but I was surprised to see him drive a harsh narrative that didn’t seem justified. I should also note that he’s not the only one, either, but this particular column stood out because of the reasons I just listed.
Baseball is a game, but at the highest levels there are some very tough decisions that must be made. And there are always going to be different ways to characterize said decisions. I just don’t agree with the notion of making Maddon out to be the bad guy in this one.