The Battle of the Joes: Maddon vs. Girardi


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David Kohl - USA Today Sports
David Kohl - USA Today Sports

With a year left on his contract, are the Cubs starting to prepare an exit strategy for the manager who took them all the way just two years ago?

It’s hard to believe that the third most successful manager in Cubs’ history has neither asked for, nor been offered, an extension past 2019, but by all accounts, that is the case.

While Joe Maddon has compiled a 387-261-1 (.597) record over four seasons in Chicago, the Cubs skipper’ came under fire at the end of this season for his multiple batting orders and took criticism for the way he used his starters and bullpen.

While we can all “armchair” manage the rotation and the bullpen, the most significant sticking point seems to be with the way Maddon managed the batting orders. In 163 games this past season, Maddon utilized a total of 152 different batting orders (160 when including the pitchers), which unquestionably hurt the rhythm of the team.

While I applaud Maddon’s ability for thinking outside the box and for mixing things up, there’s little doubt that he took the idea of “change” to another level. The most any given batting order was used this season was five times, and he used five other batting orders twice each- that’s it for consistency. The irony is, that the most used lineup (Almora, Baez, Bryant, Rizzo, Contreras, Schwarber, Russell, Heyward, pitcher) yielded a 4-1 record.



Turning to the former Cubs’ catcher and Yankees’ manager, Joe Girardi, reports have now come out that Girardi has stepped down from wanting to be considered for the management jobs in both Texas and Cincinnati, possibly to wait a year for the job as the Cubs’ skipper. Girardi was almost considered to be a shoo-in for the Reds’ management position, but he backed out Friday, before any discussions about salary.

Having spent a total of ten seasons as the Yankees’ manager, Girardi put together a 910-710 (.562) record, placing him twelfth all-time, among the winningest Yanks’ managers. Much like Maddon, Girardi managed to bring the Bronx Bombers a World Series trophy in his second year with the team, after finishing third in the division in his inaugural year.

In addition to spending a total of seven years as the Cubs’ backstop, Girardi is also Northwestern grad and a former Illinois native, which both probably contribute to his desire to be once again affiliated with the Cubs.

While either management job (Texas or Cincinnati) would have given Girardi a chance to climb out of the booth and back into the dugout, the odds of resurrecting the Reds or Rangers in a short period seem slim.

Should Girardi take over the Cubs in 2020, it will not come without challenges, as the Cubs are due to lose five key players to free-agency that year (Hamels, Zobrist, Cishek, Strop and Smyly). While the odds of Kintzler and Duensing remaining with Chicago after this year are relatively small, the two of them are also due to become free agents in 2020.

Girardi has his finger on the pulse of baseball, which leads me to wonder why he thinks the Cubs’ top spot will be open after next season. Has he had talks with Cubs about Joe’s future in Chicago? Or maybe talks with Theo Epstein? Somehow, Girardi must know something, otherwise, he’d have had no reason to pass on the offers from the Reds and Rangers; but what is it that he knows?

By all accounts, Epstein seems content with Maddon, as he stated in his most recent press conference, which leads me to believe that it may be Maddon who is looking for a change. Whether the Cubs stay with Maddon or look to Girardi to take the team in another direction once 2020 dawns, one thing is for sure; neither guy is just an “average Joe.”

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