Joe Maddon: An Equal Partner

One of my first jobs out of college was at a company, which shall remain nameless, that was run by the three men who had founded it a decade earlier.  It was not a particularly fun place.  While the partners came and went as they pleased, the employees were expected to be in by 8 and out at 5.  Lunch was to be eaten at your desk and there was no Internet access as it may interfere with productivity.  But what, really, were we going to do?  We were paid well and had little to no chance of making that kind of money anywhere else.  One day, they realized they needed a network expert.  To their credit, they went out and hired the best available.

He was different.  He came in when he felt like it.  Took long lunches.  Sat around and, not infrequently, poked fun at the bosses.  What was the difference?  He had a resume a mile long and could have gotten another job in seconds if he’d walked away.  Meanwhile, the company would likely have to take a step downwards if they replaced him.  He saw himself as the equal of the three partners because, in a real sense, he was.  They would lose much more credibility than he would if he walked away.

I couldn’t help but remember this as I saw Joe Maddon saunter up to the microphone for his introductory press conference in ripped jeans and a casual shirt, having to be asked to stand up and do the photos for the press.

This guy was different than what had come before him.

Over the last three years, we’ve seen a number of personnel decisions — Carlos Marmol and Jose Veras, for example — that seem to come from the front office, not the manager’s office.  To their credit, Jed and Theo were quick to say that on-field decisions were made by the manager.  I’m sure that, technically speaking, this is absolutely correct.  But just think about this from a human nature standpoint.  If you’re Dale Sveum or Rick Renteria, in your first job as a big league manager and looking to succeed, how do you disagree with Theo Epstein, the boy genius who is working to end a second curse?  As Rick Renteria found out the hard way, there are more experienced candidates who Theo could go to at any moment.

This is not meant to disparage either man.  In fact, I was one of the few defending Renteria’s record once the Maddon news broke.  But they were brought in, largely, to implement the front office’s plan and, hopefully, learn to be major league managers along the way.  They were employees.

From the moment Maddon had to be reminded to stand back up for pictures, a very different message was sent: I’m a big deal.  Unlike Sveum and Renteria, Maddon has earned his battle scars over 9 years making one of the most inexpensive teams in baseball competitive year-in, year-out.  This is a guy with a resume that rivals Jed’s and Theo’s.  He can stand up to them in a way that the others simply couldn’t because, at the end of the day, he had 10 other job offers and chose the Cubs.  Those 10 other offers aren’t going anywhere.  For good or for ill, Maddon is a partner in this.

Indeed, I heard rumors today that the Cubs will make some roster moves this winter to give Joe the tools he wants.  Can anyone realistically see Rick Renteria dictating personnel moves?

What Theo gets out of this is someone who will challenge him and, ultimately, make the organization better.  While he will always know this intellectually, I suspect there will be moments next summer when he longs for the days when managers would go with the flow.  Maddon, for all the laid back attitude, will not.

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    Good stuff Mike!!

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    Thanks.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Bravo Mike. Very insightful and well thought out piece.

  • While I love the Joe Maddon hire I still rue the day when managers were dictating development and front office moves through the media. First it was Baylor with we need Patterson brought up STAT. Now after 1 month of struggles I'll stick him on the bench. Baker and we need a lead-off hitter, the missing piece, Hendry bends over backwards to get Juan Pierre. Piniella "we need a lefty", so Hendry makes the ill advised Milton Bradley signing. These were all moves dictated by the managers through the media forcing the GMs hand. Hendry and McPhail before him should have been strong enough to resist, but they didn't. They gave those coaches exactly what they asked for unfortunately to the detriment of the future team.

    Granted I don't think Theo would allow a little media pressure force him into something stupid. But I liked how with Renteria, Theo could basically dictate how players were used. I don't think he'll have that luxury with Maddon.

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    In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Yeah, Piniella really had a bee in his bonnet about getting more lefthanded! I wonder what Maddon is asking for?

  • i liked renteria a lot. i loved his attitude towards baseball - never get too high, never get too low. that type of attitude was necessary during a long season with a young team, due for slumps and growing pains. it worked more than it didn't. now, i questioned his use of the bullpen often, and he bunted a bit more than i'd like, but he was a rookie and due for some learning/teachable moments. i was looking forward to watching him grow and learn as much as possible; to see if he would learn from his mistakes.

    it's a shame that he won't get the chance as cub manager next year, but, i mean, it's joe freaking maddon. this instantly makes the cubs better on so many levels: confidence, experience, game management, attractive landing spot for free agents, etc.

    if he challenges theo and jed and co. to be better then that's all the more reason to feel hopeful.

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    Well put.

  • Nice read, thanks Mike.

  • Great stuff Mike!

    The 4 headed monster:

    THOYERDONEOD!!!

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    Theod McMaddon?

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Nice!
    I guess I'm still geeked over this signing.
    How about:

    THOYER-MACLEOD!!!
    Or
    THOYERJEOD!!!

  • I wish McCleod's last name was spelled McCloud because
    THOYERJOUD!!! would be perfect!

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Mad McHoystein

  • In reply to PeteyB:

    Awesome!

  • In reply to PeteyB:

    I like it.

  • This is the best manager hire since Leo the Lip.

  • In reply to Roughrider:

    Since Joe McCarthy.

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    Good writing mike, but cubs can still suck it....

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    In reply to Stephen Engels:

    Thank you, Swedish Chef. ;-) (Before anyone gets too upset, this is an old college friend. I know he had a smile on his face when he wrote this.)

  • Good article. Maddon does have the resume and the swagger to stand with and up against the FO whenever needed. I hadn't thought about it until now, but it can be beneficial as long as they see eye to eye the majority of the time.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    The eye-to-eye part will be the key mjvz.

    They don't always have to agree - in fact - honest disagreement with ground rules and boundaries is a very beneficial thing as long as egos don't get in the way.

  • Can say from personal experience,.... along the way in life I have been a student, an employee (sometimes both at the same time), a partially independent contractor, a project leader and a some-time supervisor.

    Those times I have done my best work - regardless of the level of experience I have had under my belt - I have more often than not treated as a competent and generally equal voice.

    Good managers hire good people and let them do their jobs.

    The best managers hire people at least as smart as themselves (at least in some areas), make sure they have the resources they need to get the job done,.... and stay the heck out of their way.

    Let's hope this is the last scenario here under development.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I hire people smarter than me. I hire to someone to be a solution.
    Maddon appears to be a solution.

  • Exactly We Were,.... Exactly.

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    I want Maddon to have input into personnel decisions. He is a competent and intelligent baseball guy. However, the final say still needs to be Theo and Jed. However, I think in most consequential areas they are likely to agree so there shouldn't be too much conflict.

  • IMO, its still the same thing and Theo is the boss and he makes the decisions, difference is that Maddon will have more of an input than Sveum or Renteria... We forget that Sveum basically recruited Carlos Villanueva and Nate Schierholtz and he wanted Grady Sizemore and Renteria Chris Valaika and some other former Marlins.

    It's still gonna be the same, probably more like home for Theo and Jed, like when they had Francona in Boston.

  • They had a guy like that where I work.
    He got away with it for awhile.
    Then one day they put his stuff in a box and walked him out.

  • I think the description of the partners hiring an equal fits this pretty well. There is something different here, and Mike I think you hit on it. I think that the partners idea goes both ways, Maddon will not be able to dictate to this FO, in the same way they can not dictate to the Manager. This is a high powered group and what you hope for is that everyone works together. ie...That philosophies are in sync

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    Exactly. These are all very, very smart baseball men. Mostly they're going to be on the same page and will agree on the right way to go. However, as with all smart people, they will eventually come to a point where they disagree. Their ability to work through those moments to productive solutions will determine the success of the enterprise. I have supreme confidence in all of them to make it work.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I am disagreeing with the Pinella and Baylor comparisons more and more. Those guys did not have one of the best front offices, one of the best scouting departments putting together one of the best farm systems and now adding one of the best managers. These are different times, the past no longer is relevant. I'm sold - I agree with Joe, why would you not want this opportunity.

  • Really interesting piece. Only thing I'd disagree with is that I don't think Theo will long for days when he has a manager who will go with the flow.

    I think Theo longed for the day when he had a manager he can trust to do the right things without being told what to do.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    I agree with this... Theo has been itching to get back to those Francona days where he had a capable manager with vast knowledge of the league and business.

    They wanted Girardi last year to be that guy and didn't pass the opportunity with Maddon now.

    Maddon should be what Francona was for them in Boston.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Maddon is going to be more fun than Girardi. Thank goodness that it went the way it did.

  • Ooh yeah, definitely... I think highly of Girardi, but if I had to choose between the 2, I'd pick Maddon 10 times out of 10.

  • I see you changed your handle...hope you can remain no longer disappointed.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Me too, I cant take another year like the last few though.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I hope it eventually evolves to 'Can't remember being dissappointed'.

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    What struck me about yesterday's press conference was Joe talking about Theo and Jed coming to Florida to find him. It seems Maddon was as intent on interviewing them as they were him. Maybe more so. He wanted to make sure the philosophical approach to the game lined up. Yes, this is a partnership. I don't think that has ever happened with the Cubs.

  • I wonder if Josh Beckett might be a reclamation project candidate for Bosio. Sure his tenure ended in Boston in an interesting fashion but he might have something left and this FO knows him.

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    In reply to Gator:

    It was kinda lost at the time in other news but Beckett said early last month he plans to retire.

  • Great read. I love the notion of Maddon challenging the FO for pieces he might see. After all he is in the trenches and will know first hand what the team actually needs at any given time. Not saying Theo and co doesnt, but it gives them an alternative point of view on the roster. I am so excited for this organization!

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    I've seen a couple of reports indicating that the Cubs are, in fact, targeting Russell Martin. He supposedly wants a five-year deal. Hot stove!

  • Interesting thoughts Mike. However, I would like to make a distinction.

    In your personal example, Your 3 bosses had little to no respect for their employees. As well, the Network Guy they brought in had the same arrogance towards everyone else.

    I think that theo/Jed and Maddon both have a lot of confidence in what they personally bring to the club, but they also have respect for the other parties on this team. If the upper management is too self absorbed in their own abilities and that causes them to cut off communication further leading to the whole situation crumbling.

    Theo, Jed and Jason along with the Ricketts have shown that they are all on the same page and have worked well together. I fully believe that Maddon will bring the same team player personality to the Management Team.

  • The last 2 big name manager that came to Chicago mellowed out. I hope this isn't the case. I am all for maddon hire, I just hope he can deliver. Not a fan of cocky behavior. Even if go out and get a ace, this line up is a long way away from competing for a wildcard spot. How will he handle that? Same way in Tampa and bail???

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Maddon is no short-sighted, what have you done for me lately, head case. And there is a difference between swagger and cockiness. He knows what he has in front of him here and he likes what he sees.

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