Photo Courtesy of MLB Cut4
Well, here we are. After five seasons, four trips to the postseason, three to the NLCS and one incredible World Series championship, Joe Maddon is officially out as Cubs manager and we find ourselves afloat without a skipper. It feels... well, pretty bad, actually. At least, I feel bad, because I've always been a fan of Maddon's clubhouse management and on-field demeanor. Farm animals in spring training? Fantastic! Dress up road trips where the boys wear pajamas on the plane? Outstanding! I'll never forget that it was one of Maddon's dress up trips that brought us the indelible image of Jake Arrieta doing his presser after no-hitting the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 wearing a onesie covered in mustaches.
Yep, still amazing.
This is still funny, I don't care who you are.
OK, so maybe you've had enough of Maddon's antics. Personally, I love him and think the FO tamped him down a little too much in his lame duck season. The boys played tight from game 1 and never really seemed to stop pressing the entire way, except maybe for that nice stretch in April and May where it felt like we might have a winner on our hands. (No, really--they had a .583 and .571 W/L percentage in those months, respectively. It wasn't all terrible!) It's also not fair to send a manager into a season without a closer and adequate bench depth and think he can get the job done.
That said, I get how the line up shuffling, musical lead off men and bullpen malfeasance got exhausting for a lot of fans at the end, and the desire for a fresh voice isn't lost on me no matter how big a fan of Maddon I am. Maybe he can give the new manager the phone numbers for his petting zoos and mimes so they can bring some fun back to spring training. (And I swear if Bussy goes, I riot. Who's with me?)
None of this is the point of this article, however. The real point is who the Cubs absolutely, positively should NOT hire.
Yeah, you know what's coming.
I don't hate Girardi, so let's get that out of the way now. The man has a history of success with the Yankees that cannot be denied--he came out of New York with a .562 winning percentage, a World Series championship in 2009 and never did produce a sub-.500 season. He navigated an aging Yankees ballclub, the circus of A-Rod's PED suspension and final years with the team, and a rebuild on the fly, and did all of those things while maintaining a winning culture. He also managed to win NL Manager of the Year in 2006 at the helm of a losing Florida Marlins club, which I actually don't understand in hindsight but we'll just go with it.
Over the years, however, as Girardi got older, the players got younger, and the manager's job moved toward analytics and clubhouse management, more discontent and grumblings could be read in the daily New York media. The biggest complaint revealed after his firing was about his ability to communicate with the players, a problem that could be traced all the way back to his dealings with Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams in their last years on the squad. Now, the reports were that he was also inconsistent, criticizing players' performance in the media but not enforcing those standards on the practice field.
Girardi has also been known to bench players for gaffes on the field as a method of discipline, sometimes in huge spots where their bats could be extremely useful. I'm not one to let the players run the clubhouse, and I agree that young players sometimes need a kick in the pants, but some players also have impulsive tendencies that can be nurtured into something great.
It's just El Mago, sliding into this post...
A hallmark of Maddon's tenure with the Cubs has been allowing Javy to be Javy, and harnessing Willson's "hair on fire" tendencies for the good of the team. The result has been one MVP-caliber middle infielder and an All Star catcher who are shining stars in the league. I'm not sure I believe Girardi will continue to nurture these young Cubs, and I'm also not sure I want to see Javy riding the pine for running through a stop sign at third at a ballpark near you any time soon. I'm not even going to mention Girardi's ban on ice cream in the clubhouse, but I will say that I stan a manager that knows my boy Rizzo is gonna need a Choco Taco once in a while. I'm just saying.
Ultimately, I believe Girardi will find himself managing again in 2020, but I sincerely believe it won't be with the Cubs. Perhaps he'll find himself back in New York with the Mets where their inexperienced FO could use a manager who's been around the block a few times. I just hope Pete Alonso can keep that magnificent dad bod on point with the stash he's got at home.