Maddon’s Meticulous Mistakes
Opening day has come and gone, and the excitement and build up for the Chicago Cubs’ “reckoning” was in full swing on Thursday. The Cubs came out on top to start their season with a statement of a win, beating the Texas Rangers 12-4. Every single starter contributed to the win, and the team seemed fresh and ready to compete. Javy homered twice. Kris Bryant knocked a KBoom, relieving fans that believed his shoulder might still be an issue this season. The bats were alive, and Lester had a strong start. In the grand scheme of things, Mike Montgomery giving up a two-run home run in the ninth inning was just something to brush off. The Cubs had that game in the bag.
Fast-forward to Sunday afternoon’s game, and Montgomery is put in to relieve again. Specifically, Montgomery is put in to face Nomar Mazara, the same Ranger that he gave up the home run to in game one. Mazara took advantage of this matchup again and hit a game-tying triple. The Cubs went on to lose the game 11-10.
Joe Maddon loves his matchups. He is a strategic manager and a numbers guy. He has this quirky managing style that has appeared to work very well with the team the last few years (World Series champs after 108 years is kind of a big deal). However, this matchup-oriented coaching style has also lead to some very questionable moves, and it has cost the team leads and vital wins. At what point do we stop appreciating his analytics and realize that he is over-coaching?
No, Joe is not fully to blame for the bullpen’s inability to perform and do what they are paid handsomely for, but perhaps if he had learned from his matchup mistake in game one, the Cubs would have won the series against the Rangers, a team predicted by many to come in last place in their division this season. Joe’s over-coaching almost cost the Cubs the World Series that he helped them get to, and now, it has cost what should have been a swept series to start off the season for the Cubs.
When you hear that the Cubs scored 28 runs in their first three games it sounds phenomenal. Their offense was doing everything that it could to create insurance for wins. You can blame the bullpen and the walks, but I am starting to lean towards blaming the man who always tinkers with the game when everything is already working just fine.
Sometimes you just need to let the players play, something Maddon has a very hard time doing. You might think that it does not matter. The season just started, and there is time to adjust. As we learned from last season’s game 163, every single win and loss matters. If Maddon continues to over-coach this season, I am fine with it being his last with the Cubs. The boys have done well with his laid-back managing style, but it might be time for a more serious manager with an urgency and expectancy to win.
I’ll leave you with this final thought: “Joe Maddon makes an easy job hard and a hard job impossible.” – my wise 17-year-old cousin