What has a better chance of happening in 2020: Joe Maddon and Rick Renteria still managing their respective teams, the Cubs and White Sox, or Maddon managing the Sox?
I think I just blew up the Internet. Or made you cough up a lung.
You might be saying to yourself, ‘‘Has Morrissey had a change in medication, or is he simply that desperate to be read?’’ The answer, of course, is yes.
But let’s ponder my crazy question. Perhaps it won’t be so crazy by the time we’re done.
All managers have a shelf life. You wouldn’t normally think a manager of Maddon’s stature and accomplishments would have a relatively short one, but there’s no question he has been tormenting a segment of the Cubs’ fan base for quite a while. It’s not clear how big that segment is, but it’s certainly loud, especially on social media.
Some people are tired of Maddon’s incessant tinkering with the lineup. Some people never have forgiven him for almost blowing the 2016 World Series. Some were unhappy interim manager Jim Riggleman got the best of him in the Reds’ recent four-game sweep of the Cubs.
Does it mean team president Theo Epstein has tired of Maddon’s act, the way some fans have? No, it does not. But if the Cubs don’t take advantage of the championship window Epstein has helped open, if their pursuit of sustained success starts lagging, you can bet Epstein won’t hesitate to make a change. He doesn’t strike me as someone who would be content with one incredible, earthshaking World Series. If the Cubs don’t win another one in 2018 or 2019 (the final year of Maddon’s contract), it doesn’t take much imagination to see the organization patting him on the back and wishing him well.
I think you see where this is going — straight to Crazyville! Unless it’s so crazy it just must happen.
So in our hypothetical, the Cubs have sent Maddon on his way after the 2019 season. Meanwhile, the Sox finally are ready to see the fruits of their rebuild after several years of terrible losing.
This might seem like a cruel cosmic joke on Renteria, whom the Cubs famously and coldly axed as manager in favor of Maddon just as they were starting to turn the corner on their rebuild. Would a franchise do such a thing to a man? Let’s play two with his ripped-out heart? A franchise would if it thinks it isn’t getting enough from the manager and thinks there’s somebody better on the horizon.
In this case, the horizon would be about nine miles north in Wrigleyville.
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It’s difficult to gauge a manager’s performance during a rebuild. The Sox hired Renteria because he had a reputation for being good with young players. Lots of losing was expected. The whole idea of tanking is to lose games to get higher draft picks. But there’s enough talent on the major-league roster this season that the Sox shouldn’t be losing quite so much. Or, at the very least, there should be more obvious progress among their players. In 2014, Renteria’s one season with the Cubs, you could see players getting better. Not so much this season.
What’s happening on the South Side raises the question of whether Renteria is the right man for the job. It’s too early to make the determination he isn’t, but if the Sox’ highly touted farm system starts gushing stars, would Renteria be able to maximize all that talent?
Cruel question. Then again, cruel business.
I never thought Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf would trade a top-shelf player to his crosstown rival, but he did just that last season, sending pitcher Jose Quintana to the Cubs for a package featuring top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease.
So to rule out Reinsdorf replacing Renteria, the good soldier, with Maddon, who has star power in town, seems silly now.
Maddon would seem to be the antithesis of the South Side ethos the Sox embrace. How would his theme days, costumes, zoo animals and art patronage go over at Guaranteed Rate Field? Probably like a bottle of Skinnygirl California Rose would. But if he could mold the Sox’ young talent into a serious contender, Sox fans wouldn’t care if he sponsored a Bring Your Mime to the Park Day.
This entire mad scenario would get blown to bits by another World Series on the North Side. Maddon would be king again. For now, however, there’s no doubt some of his magic has lost its power. It happens with every manager, though rarely this soon after a World Series title.
If the Cubs were to part ways with Maddon, he would have multiple suitors. His track record is excellent, and he’s perfect for any media-savvy team. He probably would have better opportunities than the Sox. But if the unlikely happens and all those Sox prospects the franchise acquired or grew themselves turned into great players, the job would be extremely attractive.
And how much fun would Maddon have trying to stick it to his new crosstown rival?
I know: It’s way, way hypothetical. Too many ifs. Ridiculous. Silly. And, I’m sorry, what’s your point?
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, or via RSS feed.