According to club president Theo Epstein, Joe Maddon is the man to helm the Chicago Cubs in 2015. The Cubs will hold a press conference on Monday to announce the hiring of Maddon as their next manager, finalizing the move we have all expected.
Earlier this afternoon, the Cubs made the decision to remove Rick Renteria as manager of the Cubs, announced in a statement by Epstein, repeated below (emphasis mine):
"Today we made the difficult decision to replace Rick Renteria as manager of the Chicago Cubs. On behalf of Tom Ricketts and Jed Hoyer, I thank Rick for his dedication and commitment, and for making the Cubs a better organization.
"Rick's sterling reputation should only be enhanced by his season as Cubs manager. We challenged Rick to create an environment in which our young players could develop and thrive at the big league level, and he succeeded. Working with the youngest team in the league and an imperfect roster, Rick had the club playing hard and improving throughout the season. His passion, character, optimism and work ethic showed up every single day.
"Rick deserved to come back for another season as Cubs manager, and we said as much when we announced that he would be returning in 2015. We met with Rick two weeks ago for a long end-of-season evaluation and discussed plans for next season. We praised Rick to the media and to our season-ticket holders. These actions were made in good faith.
"Last Thursday, we learned that Joe Maddon -- who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us -- had become a free agent. We confirmed the news with Major League Baseball, and it became public knowledge the next day. We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.
"While there was no clear playbook for how to handle this type of situation, we knew we had to be transparent with Rick before engaging with Joe. Jed flew to San Diego last Friday and told Rick in person of our intention to talk to Joe about the managerial job. Subsequently, Jed and I provided updates to Rick via telephone and today informed him that we will indeed make a change.
"We offered Rick a choice of other positions with the Cubs, but he is of course free to leave the organization and pursue opportunities elsewhere. Armed with the experience of a successful season and all the qualities that made him our choice a year ago, Rick will no doubt make an excellent Major League manager when given his next chance.
"Rick often said he was the beneficiary of the hard work of others who came before him. Now, in the young players he helped, we reap the benefits of his hard work as we move forward. He deserved better and we wish him nothing but the best.
"We have clung to two important ideals during our three years in Chicago. The first is to always be loyal to our mission of building the Cubs into a championship organization that can sustain success. The second is to be transparent with our fans. As painful as the last week was at times, we believe we stayed true to these two ideals in handling a sensitive situation. To our fans: we hope you understand, and we appreciate your continued support of the Cubs."
Such a lengthy statement was necessary for the Cubs on several fronts.
As mentioned above, the team had already made public commitments to their manager prior to Joe Maddon opting out of his contract, which was announced on Friday. Saving face is no easy task. If the anonymous quotes are to be believed, several around baseball already believe the situation to be "shit" on the part of Maddon leaving the Rays and the Cubs dropping their manager after one season. Careful if you read the link, the article is no better than the adjective used to describe Joe.
Renteria has the respect of the industry for paying his dues, through grey hair and minor league bus schedules, to finally reaching his dream of coaching the show. Maddon has the respect of the industry for being one the best in the business.
The phrasing is also particular to the day the Cubs discovered his availability, that they flew to San Diego to formally discuss with Renteria ahead of time, and then began their formal pursuit of Joe Maddon. The Rays are presumed to be considering a tampering lawsuit against Chicago, in hopes of some form of compensation or retribution. Whether or not that's fair matters less to me than how unthankful such a move would seem, but that's my feelings getting in the way of the matter.
At the end of the day, it is truly a business, so all the belly aching over hard feelings for the coach superseded by Merlot Joe comes across as juvenile by any of the anonymous baseball executives quotes that weren't friends of the Renteria family. I can't imagine any love lost for the Cubs on the North Side of Chicago once the camera flick on for the introductory press conference on Monday. It does feel a bit different, however, for those of us fans of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Joe Maddon built this team and this organization, the face of the franchise for nearly a decade, and openly spoke about his commitment to the Rays -- then made the business decision to dart out the door Andrew Friedman left open. Now it's starting to let in a draft.
I don't blame the man for his decision, he will be well paid in a high profile position with an opportunity to become legendary. That doesn't make it hurt any less. The town of Chicago will love him, and more so if he forgoes his wine glass for a can of Old Style. I imagine he'll have all the success in the world coaching up the young players in the Cubs farm system, just like he had here.
Out of thankfulness for what he did for this franchise, I wish him the best. There was a time I was convinced Joe Maddon would one day have a bronze statue outside New Tropicana Field. May he find that in Chicago instead.