One of the final loose threads concerning the Chicago Cubs' season was addressed Sunday, as the club announced manager Joe Maddon would not return next year. Maddon, whose contract ran only through this season, had managed the Cubs since the 2015 season. In those five seasons, his teams won at least 90 games four times, and notched at least four postseason victories in three of them. That includes, obviously, the 2016 World Series championship team.
Maddon entered the season with lame-duck status, and it seemed like anything short of a deep postseason run would likely result in this outcome. When the Cubs were eliminated from postseason contention earlier this week, ensuring an 85-win season at most, his fate seemed all but sealed. Obviously Maddon has his shortcomings, yet it would be unfair to place the Cubs' failings at his feet and his feet alone. Management and ownership each share in the blame, too.
Maddon met with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein on Saturday night in St. Louis. Epstein said they "both agreed that this type of change is a win-win."
"We're both going to move on," Maddon added. "Cubs are going to flourish. Hopefully I get the chance to do this somewhere else. But there's no tears shed. It's a good moment for everybody and we're both excited about our futures."
Overall, Maddon won more than 58 percent of his games in Chicago. Prior to joining the Cubs, Maddon had a highly successful run with the Tampa Bay Rays. His departure was triggered when Andrew Friedman left for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Maddon, who turns 66 next February, figures to be a commodity on the managerial market. He's already been connected to the San Diego Padres' opening, and is likely to come up in more rumors as other jobs become available.
The Cubs, meanwhile, will have the unenviable task of replacing Maddon following a disappointing season without experiencing a step back. In a sense, Chicago's situation is similar to that faced by the New York Yankees several years ago, when they ditched Joe Girardi in favor of Aaron Boone.
Whether the Cubs follow a similar path -- hiring a rookie skipper, perhaps like former backup catcher David Ross -- is to be seen. Cubs' management had previously promised changes if their team fell short of expectations. Now, it's time to see how far those changes go beyond the dugout.