After the most surprisingly successful Cubs season in decades, first-year manager Joe Maddon on Tuesday won the National League Manager of the Year Award.
Maddon, who outpolled finalists Terry Collins of the New York Mets and Mike Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals, became the fourth Cubs manager to win the award, first since Lou Piniella in 2008.
It’s the third manager of the year award for Maddon, who won it with Tampa Bay in 2008 and 2011.
Maddon, 61, proclaimed last fall when taking over a last-place Cubs team that he intended to win a championship – then guided a rookie-filled lineup and Jake Arrieta-led rotation to 97 wins and a trip to the National League Championship Series.
The Cubs beat the Pirates in the NL wild-card game, then beat the rival Cardinals in the NL Division Series before being swept by the Mets in the NLCS – along the way winning more games (101) than any Cubs team since the 1945 World Series team.
“Joe’s made a remarkable impact just by being himself,” said team president Theo Epstein, who signed Maddon to a five-year, $25 million deal after he and GM Jed Hoyer interviewed Maddon in lawn chairs on a beach near Pensacola, Fla., behind Maddon’s RV.
After taking Devil out of Rays, can Maddon exorcise demons of Cub Octobers?“And I think a major-league team over time starts to take on the personality of its manager, take on the sensibilities of its manager, take on the values of its manager, whether it knows it or not. That’s why things were so nutty around here, in a great way.”
Upon his arrival, Maddon immediately stressed players be themselves and embrace the fact that they would make mistakes. He also encouraged raucous postgame celebrations after every victory from April through October.
And, as those who know him promised, he brought a magician and zoo animals into the clubhouse at various points in the season.
“It’s fun to come to work every day and be around him,” Epstein said. “I found that myself. He made my quality of life better, getting to deal with him. He pulled off the impossible, getting a bunch of 22-, 23-, 24-year-old kids – 40 years his junior – to gravitate towards him and feel comfortable around him and look forward to coming to work in part because he was here and the environment he created.”