If Joe Maddon wants to continue managing the Chicago Cubs past next season, he’ll need to adopt a simpler approach in his game-time decisions.
The Cubs made it to the postseason in each of Maddon’s first four seasons, played in the National League Championship Series in three of the four and, of course, won the World Series in 2016, ending the franchise’s 108-year title drought.
Sometimes it works
Maddon is known for some off-the-wall decisions. How many times have we seen Anthony Rizzo or other sluggers atop the order in hopes of jump-starting the offense? What about moving guys to multiple defensive positions in the matter of innings?
And let’s not forget some of the ‘way out there’ decisions. Remember letting guys like Travis Wood playing left field to avoid burning position players? Watching Maddon make those moves always keep things lively on social media and have opened folks’ eyes to a simple fact: there are plenty of ways to manage a Major League club.
Sometimes it doesn’t
Even though watching Travis Wood make a catch in left field while crashing into the ivy is fun it does make a Cubs’ fan heart beat a little quicker. It’s ironic.
He seems to push all the right buttons with the “clownish” moves, and then he looks like a clown when he does or doesn’t make a more basic move.
In the National League Central tiebreaker game against the Brewers, Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey decided to take starter Jose Quintana out of the game after five innings and just 64 pitches and turn to a struggling and tired bullpen.
Now would the outcome of the game change if Maddon had left “Q” in the game? That is a question we’ll never know the answer to, but it does warrant a good deal of thought, regardless.
Another example? His insistent usage of right-handed reliever Carl Edwards Jr. in high-leverage situations. Don’t get me wrong. Edwards is a power arm that has shown the ability to get key outs, but from the end of August on, he showed severe control issues and couldn’t get anybody out.
Still, Maddon kept turning to him.
What needs to happen
Joe Maddon needs to follow the KISS method – “Keep it simple, stupid.” It feels like the Cubs skipper tends to overthink and overanalyze things.
He needs to realize that in critical games it is sometimes best to ride the hot arm or bat instead of bringing the hook out at the first sign of trouble or digging into binders full of metrics and data.
The front office most likely won’t talk to Maddon about a contract extension until the end of the 2019 season. But, to me, if Joe Maddon wants a long future with the Cubs, he needs to take his simpleton off-field mentality and carry it with him when the Cubs report to Mesa in February.