Chicago Cubs: Maddon continues to prove his doubters wrong

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is on the final year of his contract. Many fans and analysts thought he’d be gone after this season. That doesn’t exactly seem like a sure bet anymore.

In the first two weeks of the MLB season, the Chicago Cubs looked like a team that was headed for last place in the division and a return to lovable loserdom.

Just over a month later, the Cubs are 28-18 and sit alone in first place in the NL Central. While there’s still a lot of baseball left to play, it’s clear that rumors of the Cubs’ demise were greatly exaggerated.

I’ll admit, I was not happy with the Cubs offseason moves and their inability to win early in the year. It was especially difficult to see the team struggle in the areas they failed to address in the offseason.

One of those areas was the bullpen. The team’s relievers were awful during the first two weeks of the season, but they corrected course quickly. Carl Edwards Jr. was demoted to AAA Iowa until early May. He’s looked better since returning.

The bats have really picked up as well. The Cubs offense was abysmal for the last two months of 2018, and it’s a big reason the team’s season ended so bitterly last year. The hitters seemed to come into this season with a chip on their shoulders.

That brings us to manager Joe Maddon, whose future with this team was up in the air after the front office wouldn’t discuss a contract extension for him at the end of last season. Maddon’s deal is up at the end of the year.

There were signs in the offseason that the relationship between Maddon and the Cubs front office turned cold. There were new rules in place that came from above Maddon, at the direction of executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

Some of these rules seemed directly aimed at countering Maddon’s laid-back, there’s more than baseball attitude. There’s now mandatory batting practice up to five times per week.

There’s not as much room for lineup tinkering because lineups are now submitted before each series. Maddon drew criticism from players and fans for giving guys random off days and shuffling position players around too much.

There’s also an effort to reduce alcohol and junk food consumption by the team as a whole. Obviously, these items aren’t banned outright. But the team is trying to have a healthy mindset while avoiding some of the pitfalls Epstein faced as GM of the Boston Red Sox.

But it seems as if fans (including myself) misread the state of the relationship between Maddon and the Cubs. He appears to be having a blast this year, and the team has done a complete 180 from the beginning of the season.

What once seemed like a clear picture for Maddon’s future after this season is now a completely different story. Maddon still may retire after this season because of age, but if the Cubs keep winning and the team still decides to move on, fans may have an issue.

It’s interesting how fickle we as Cubs fans can be. While the expectations for this team permanently raised after 2016, many fans saw the bad start to the season as a sign this team was regressing back to cellar-dwellers.

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Think again. The Cubs showed resilience and quickly got to the top of the division after an awful start. That run came from the efforts of both starting and relief pitching, and an offense that keeps coming up clutch at the right time.

The Cubs say they’ll address Maddon’s future after the year. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and enjoy this season’s wild ride. Hopefully, it ends with another piece of jewelry.