Major League Baseball spent an extraordinary long time investigating the case of Joe Maddon and the Cubs, but in the end were unable to find evidence that either side had breached the manager's contract.
To review, when VP Andrew Friedman left the Rays, an opt-out clause was triggered in Joe Maddon's contract with Tampa Bay. The skipper wasn't even aware it was there, the clause was something invented by his Chicago-based agent Alan Nero.
The Rays were the first to alert Maddon to his opt-out, but did so in an attempt to structure a new long term deal. At the time Friedman left, Maddon was adamant that he was committed to the Rays, and expected to sign another contract with the team.
Media speculation began connecting Friedman's move to the Dodgers as a possible opportunity for Maddon to jump ship as well, should Don Mattingly be fired. As a former Angels man, it was a stretch to think Maddon would be enthusiastic to leave what he'd built in Tampa Bay for a club he considered a long-time rival, but questions lingered in October for the newly appointed General Manager Matt Silverman. What would happen if Maddon didn't sign a new deal this winter?
"We've been comfortable with Joe managing in the final year of his contract. It may not be ideal, but it's always a possibility," Silverman said. "Just because that might happen doesn't mean he's not going to be the manager here long term. I hope we all wake up one day and you see that Joe's here even longer than he's signed for today."
Those questions seemed prescient. Hoping was all "wake up one day" and find an issue resolved, as early as October in an off-season's worth of discussions, is an interesting tone to take.
Then something changed in the week that followed Silverman's statement above, and suddenly Joe Maddon was gone, as laid out in a statement by principle owner Stu Sternberg:
Joe Maddon has exercised an opt-out in his current contract, a contract which was not scheduled to expire until after the 2015 season. We tried diligently and aggressively to sign Joe to a third contract extension prior to his decision. As of yesterday afternoon, Joe enabled himself to explore opportunities throughout Major League Baseball. He will not be managing the Rays in 2015. Joe has been our manager for nine seasons, and the foundation of success laid during his tenure endures. We thank him for all that he's meant to the organization.
Jon Heyman announced the Cubs would hire Joe Maddon on October 29th. The Cubs fired their manager Rick Renteria on October 31st, and announced Maddon's hiring later that day. The contract was officially signed on Nov. 3, ten days after the opt-out, but the delay of a weekend for a press conference was a formality.
Even the time it took to fire Rick Renteria may have simply been the time it took to fly to San Diego, as was made clear by Cubs President Theo Epstein:
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.
For all intents and purposes, the span of ten days was truly a matter of learning of the opt out on Thursday, a day before the media caught wind, and a verbal agreement to hire by the following Wednesday.
In the end, the Commissioner's office made a simple announcement:
"The investigation produced no finding of a violation of Major League Rule 3(k) on Tampering"
Reactions, courtesy of Marc Topkin:
In Chicago, Maddon said, "We're all glad that's in the rear view mirror right now and very grateful it turned out the way that it did."
In New York, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times, "We make our decisions based on the facts at hand and the processes we trust. We can never be certain of the outcomes."
Let this be the last time we discuss. The outcome for the Cubs if they had been found guilty of tampering was somewhere between a fine, a draft pick loss, or a Mike Aviles heading to the Rays. All three situations would have been minor victories, so perhaps this was a matter of pride for Tampa Bay.
The Rays separated from Friedman amicably, and from Maddon bitterly, that much is true - but I have to wonder how much of this was intentional on behalf of Maddon.
Put yourself in his shoes, and imagine someone opened the door for you to step away at a turning point for the club you'd built for a decade.
I believe Maddon saw this as a chance to do something different with his life, maybe just one last time. I think the open door said more to him than the same old story in Tropicana Field. I think he loved the Rays and cared for the team he'd built from loser to perennial contender, and he wanted a shot at doing that again.
I don't think I can blame him, but it doesn't hurt any less.
- Desmond Jennings has avoided the disabled list thus far with bursitis in the left knee, but after missing four games is unlikely to take the field this weekend either.
- Matt Andriese was optioned after yesterday's game to make way for Alex Colome to re-join the Rays as a starter. Accordingly, out of options Erasmo Ramirez becomes the long man in the bullpen, and Colome slots in as fifth starter behind Archer, Karns, Odorizzi and Smyly (in order of scheduling, not talent).
- Kirby Yates was optioned two weeks ago but has not been well, and the Rays have accordingly made him yet another man on the disabled list with a pectoral injury. It never stops.
- According to MLB Trade Rumors, if you've followed the story, Josh Hamilton was pursued by a National League team but scuttled those talks to return to Texas. Today, however, we've heard at least one NL club involved was the Los Angeles Dodgers:
the Dodgers were more interested in acting as a third party with the Angels and Rangers, contributing cash to the deal as a means of acquiring prospects to add to their farm system.
This is what Andrew Friedman can do with money! Cash for prospects is genius if you can afford it.
- Also from BP, a look at Kris Bryant's first two weeks.
- Fangraphs features a deep dive on batted balls by Jonah Pemstein.
- And congratulations to the Ice Rays! The Lightning won Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs, and will face Montreal next.
[Enter relocation jokes here.]