Chicago Cubs: My Letter to Joe Maddon: Some things I needed to say


by - Columnist -
Dale Zanine - USA Today Sports
Dale Zanine - USA Today Sports

I’ll probably never meet Joe Maddon. He’s no longer with the Cubs, and I’m not traveling to Hazelton, Pennsylvania, on the off chance our paths might cross. He’ll manage next year- somewhere- but if I didn’t meet him in Chicago, I probably won’t get the chance in Anaheim, Pittsburgh, San Diego or wherever.

I’ve been super-supportive of Joe at times, and I’ve been hyper-critical of him- more so the latter- but somehow, I woke up this morning, feeling like I owed him a letter of some sort- even if he never reads it. Maybe it’s my way of clearing my conscience. Perhaps I was too critical sometimes. When I awoke at 4:15 this morning, I had felt that somehow, I’d been hunting an already wounded animal.

Feelings aside, my job is to write- commentary, opinion, and news- and that doesn’t change, no matter the circumstance. There’ll be more about Joe tomorrow in Part-2 of my series, “Maybe Next Year,” and while I don’t lambaste Maddon in the piece, I do point out what I feel to be obvious. I write when things are going well for the Cubs, and I write when they’re going south. To the Cubs’ fans reading this- don’t misunderstand my stance on Joe Maddon; I like him, I appreciated him, and I already miss him, but I don’t think he was the right guy anymore. Period. It was never, ever, personal.

Dear Joe,

Let’s just start with this: You deserved the Cubs, their fans and the city of Chicago, and each of them deserved you. It had been way too long- 108 years to be exact- since Chicago had won a World Series, and a rainy night in Cleveland proved symbolic as you’d just ended the drought. I was only 19 days shy of turning 51 when that night came, and you have no idea what that final win meant to me.

I had goosebumps, I shook, I smiled, and I shed more than a tear or two- imagine that- a 50-year-old man, crying over a ballgame- but that’s what I did, Joe. I wept softly overseeing something that hadn’t happened in over a century. I smiled and teared up overseeing a championship that I never thought I would have lived to see; then I cried for my father who never got to see it happen. My dad taught me to be a Cubs’ fan, and for 70 years, he was as loyal as they come- but I lost him in December of 2014- just 23 months to the day before you took the team all the way. I’d like to believe that my dad somehow saw those accomplishments; and who knows? Maybe the rain was from his tears. Thanks, Joe.

I may have been critical of you- which I know you hate- but believe me, it was never anything personal. Sometimes it’s easy to second guess, especially for someone who played the game for so many years; and especially for someone who writes about the game, day in and day out. By the way, I saw your quote on armchair managers-

“I know what I believe, I know what I think, and I know why I do things. I promise you, for those that say those things, if you were in the other dugout, I would kick your ass. That’s pretty much how this whole thing would work out. Just know that. Your ass would be kicked.

Can’t we just have a beer and talk this one out, Joe? I’m not much of a wine guy, but I’ll be happy to bring you a corkscrew.

I’ll admit, sometimes I found your style a little strange, but who brings a circus to spring training? It was odd, but on another level, it was so “Joe Maddon,” that one couldn’t help laughing and admiring the creativity. That was the one thing that I always admired about you, Joe- your ability to think outside the box. I guess it worked for so long, then it just didn’t one day, but I’ll give you credit- you never lost your creative side.

While I’m thinking about it, your attitude- so care-free- is something to be modeled after. Maybe it appeared as sometimes you didn’t care- and sometimes perhaps you really didn’t, but you always hid it well, always letting the rain roll right off your back. I worry about so much in life, Joe- the kids, the bills, my wife’s health and so on, and what I wouldn’t give to be able to see things through the rose-colored glasses you never fail to wear.

I’ve always been critical- not just about you, the Cubs or baseball in general- but about everything. I’m a guy that wants things to be 100% right, 100% of the time, and I guess nothing short of four-straight World Championships was going to make me (and others) happy. I know it was an impossible feat to accomplish, but you set the bar so high, and did it so fast, that any reasonable person could expect more of the same. I know that you worked with a weak pen, an erratic offense and an aging and injured rotation, but you were the guy who won it all in 2016, after just one year of “practice,” and somehow I just felt like you’d always get 120% out of these guys, no matter who “these guys” were.

Well, sir, this letter is getting long, and there’s more for me to write about- and yes- that will include more about you, as I continue to dissect this season. Remember, Joe- it’s never personal. Your legacy has been established in Chicago, and I would bet that eventually, a bronze statue will stand outside of Wrigley Field in your honor. Go in peace, Joe, always looking forward, but please don’t forget to look back at the past every once in a while. You accomplished the impossible, and I’ll always remember you. Thanks again, Joe, and good luck in your next endeavor.

Always a fan,

Ken Allison

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