Chicago Cubs: Maddon confirms rift with Theo, who then responds

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

In a new interview Wednesday, former Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon confirmed that Theo Epstein’s desire to have more control over the team led to his departure from Chicago. Epstein had his say as well.

It wasn’t exactly a secret that Chicago Cubs executive Theo Epstein had differences of opinion with former manager Joe Maddon before Maddon’s departure at the end of last season. But Maddon confirmed just that in an interview with ESPN on Wednesday.

Maddon led the Cubs to their first World Series win in 108 years back in 2016, but after the 2019 season, it seemed as if he wasn’t a good fit for the team anymore. Maddon was reportedly forced to change some of his tactics leading up to that year.

Maddon loved to tinker with batting lineups on a daily basis, and wasn’t big on required practices. Those things suddenly changed, and it wasn’t Maddon’s choice. It still seemed nuts for the Cubs to let go of the franchise’s most successful manager after just five seasons.

But yet, Epstein and Maddon met last September and mutually agreed to part ways. The Cubs later hired former catcher David Ross, a beloved member of that 2016 team. It will be Ross’s first managerial job at any level.

Maddon later signed a three-year deal to manage the Los Angeles Angels, the team that gave him his start in baseball.

Maddon’s interview covered many topics, but when asked about his split with the Cubs he didn’t seem to have any animosity towards his former club. He just felt it was time to move on in his career [via ESPN]:

"Philosophically, Theo needed to do what he needed to do separately. At some point, I began to interfere with his train of thought a little bit. And it’s not that I’m hardheaded. I’m inclusive. But when I started there — ’15, ’16, ’17 — it was pretty much my methods. And then all of a sudden, after ’18 going into ’19, they wanted to change everything."

It’s fair to guess the “They” in that statement refers to Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer. To be fair, Maddon was quick to compliment Epstein as well [via ESPN]:

"There was just, you can say, philosophical differences. But he and I are still good friends. And I like the man a lot. It was just time for him to get someone else and time for me to work somewhere else."

This seems like an insult disguised as a compliment. I could be interpreting it wrong, but it sounds like Maddon is making it clear that Theo wanted him out. This is what led to it being “time for me to work somewhere else”.

That’s just my wild speculation, but who knows? There hasn’t been much to celebrate with the Cubs this offseason as they continue to get rid of players while not making any major free-agent signings. The general attitude around the team is somewhat negative.

Epstein’s had a chance to respond on Wednesday night. Some of the Cubs have already headed Arizona to get ready for Spring Training, and reporters caught up with Epstein at the team’s new training facility. He took the high road in his comments, mostly [via NBCSN]:

"I love Joe, and nothing is going to get in the way of that. I don’t think he meant any will by his comments. It might be his interpretation, in hindsight, of how he thinks things went down. The way I try and do my job is empowering the manager and putting him in a position to succeed…I’ve sensed and feared and been concerned with a bit of a growing organizational complacency."

Epstein did have some dispute with Maddon’s version of how he felt at the end of the 2019 season. Maddon claimed his mind was made up before the season ended that he was leaving the Cubs [Via NBCSN]:

"That would conflict with some of the things that he and his agent were saying and doing towards the end of the season. It doesn’t mean it’s not true. And if that’s how he feels, especially with the benefit of hindsight, then I’m not gonna dispute it. But that doesn’t really reflect the conversations we were having, up until the very, very end."

The Cubs seem as though they’d like to move on from this whole story, but it won’t be going away as long as the media has access to Epstein. It’ll be interesting to monitor if there’s any more back and forth between Epstein and Maddon through the media.