Cubs fire manager Joe Maddon before season finale against rival Cardinals
Less than three years after guiding the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908, Maddon is gone.
ST. LOUIS — Cubs president Theo Epstein’s “year of reckoning” claimed its first casualty Sunday when the Cubs announced the firing of Joe Maddon, arguably the most successful manager in franchise history.
The move surprised no one, coming on the final day of a lame-duck season for Maddon and 11 months after Epstein said he wouldn’t consider a contract extension for Maddon until the end of the season.
“But we’ve been working toward this point for a while,” said Epstein, who was short on specifics in the reasons for the firing. “Sometimes it’s just time. We’re going through some transitions in various levels of the organization and think change will be good for this group.”
Maddon gathered his players Friday night in a suite at the team hotel for a celebration and toast to the group, letting them know he had not been asked back.
“Joe should be revered as a legend here,” said pitcher Jon Lester, who signed as a free agent a few weeks after Maddon was hired five years ago. “He’s probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, manager in Cubs history.”
Maddon was in the final year of a five-year deal that paid him $6 million in 2019.
The firing, which officially came after a postgame meeting between Maddon and Epstein on Saturday night, signals the start of what’s expected to be a series of sweeping changes in the organization, from the player-development department to the big-league coaching staff and roster.
Epstein said he plans to have meetings with coaches Tuesday to discuss the team’s plans and each coach’s status.
Maddon’s dismissal also brings to an abrupt end a five-year era of success the Cubs had not seen since Wrigley Field opened more than 100 years ago.
“Listen, anybody that wants to denigrate anything that we’ve done over the last five years, come and see me at some point,” said Maddon, who’s expected to become one of the most coveted free agents of the winter, with at least six other teams expected to be filling manager openings. “I’m really excited about the future.”
Maddon’s run included trips to the National League Championship Series his first three seasons, the Cubs’ first World Series title since 1908, more victories than anyone in baseball his first four seasons, the second-highest winning percentage (.582) of any manager in franchise history with at least 130 games and a franchise-record 19 postseason victories.
“There’s nothing to denigrate, nothing to bemoan, nothing to lament,” Maddon said. “It’s been fabulous.”
The announcement process began Sunday morning on a grave note when a St. Louis cameraman collapsed in the Cubs’ dugout as reporters awaited Maddon and Epstein. Derrick Goold, a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, administered CPR to the unresponsive man until Cubs medical staff could be summoned to take over. The man eventually was resuscitated and taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where he was said to be in stable condition, according to reports.
The medical emergency delayed the Maddon announcement and added a somber tone to an already emotional day, with many in the clubhouse still seeking updates on the cameraman’s status after the Cubs’ 9-0 loss to the Cardinals.
Maddon, a three-time manager of the year, joined the Cubs after their last-place finish in 2014 and after nine seasons with the underdog Rays, including that team’s only World Series appearance in 2008.
His firing five years later was framed as a benign, if not mutual, parting of ways that on Saturday involved “celebrating an unbelievable five-year run,” Epstein said.
Left out was the fact that no top executives have been fired for failing to develop a single homegrown big-league pitcher in eight years, or for free-agent mistakes that hamstrung the payroll.
Also left out was the fact Maddon was not part of the decision. Asked earlier this season if he wanted to come back, he said he did.
Would he have stayed if asked?
“I have no idea,” he said. “That didn’t happen.”
Maddon insisted he blamed no one.
“We had five years together,” he said. “I think the life expectancy in Chicago is less than in other cities, and that’s cool. Maybe five in Chicago might be seven to 10 somewhere else.
“It’s just how this thing works sometimes.”
MADDON BY THE NUMBERS
.582: Cubs winning percentage, second only to Frank Chance in franchise history (min. 130 games)
19: Franchise-record postseason victories
108: Years Cubs went without a World Series title until the 2016 championship under Maddon
2: World Series appearances (also Rays’ only pennant, 2008)
3: Manager of the Year awards (2008 and 2011 with Rays; 2015 with Cubs)
9: 90-win seasons in 14-year managing career (including four with Cubs)
11: Winning seasons