ST. LOUIS – After 471 wins and a World Series title, Joe Maddon is out as Cubs manager.
Maddon learned his fate in a meeting with team president of baseball operations Theo Epstein Saturday night, and the pair discussed the decision ahead of his final game as skipper Sunday.
“Joe and I got together last night back in my hotel room and split a nice bottle of wine,” Epstein said.
“Several,” Maddon joked.
Epstein and Maddon said they both came to the same conclusion, deciding to part ways as the 65-year-old manager’s five-year contract expires.
“We both agreed that it’s time and that this type of change is a win-win,” Epstein said. “It’s going to be great for Joe… It’s going to be good for the Cubs too. I think we’re at a point where we need a little bit of change and something new. That’s natural.”
“I’m really excited about the future. I’m excited for the Cubs’ future,” Maddon said. “I will remain a Cubs fan. Absolutely. The players, I’ve talked to them already. I insist that they stay in touch. I’m going to stay in touch with them.”
This season marks the first time the Cubs have failed to make the playoffs since Maddon took over the team in 2015. Since then, his record with the team has been 471-338. Of course that includes his work ending a 108-year title drought that stretched to 1908 with a World Series championship in 2016.
“Anybody that wants to denigrate anything we did over the last five years come see me at some point,” said Maddon. “There’s nothing to denigrate. There’s nothing to bemoan. There’s nothing to lament. It’s been fabulous.”
Maddon might not have to wait long for a new job. At least one team is reportedly interested in his services.
“He won’t talk about this right now but there is going to be a bidding war for his services and there should be,” Epstein said.
A few names have floated out as potential replacements for Maddon, including former Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, former Cubs catcher David Ross and current Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta.
Player reaction: Maddon ‘like a dad’ to players
During his tenure, Maddon became known to his players and Cubs fans as a master of personal communication.
After the team unexpectedly made a run to the NL Championship Series in his first year, instead of bearing the weight of history he told the team instead to “embrace the target.”
He became famous for other sayings ready-made for t-shirts, from “try not to suck” to “do simple better” to “never permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.”
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said he came to love Maddon “like a dad.”
“I love Joe, I love everything he’s done. I love what he’s done for Chicago. What he’s done for the city,” Rizzo said. “Every good story comes to an end at some point. You start a new beginning. Hopefully the next book we open up is just as good.”
Pitcher Jon Lester credited Maddon with keeping things fun as well.
“Our job can be monotonous – when you’re able to mix it up and have some fun along the way, that’s pretty cool,” Lester said.
Fan reaction: ‘I pray for him every night’
Cubs fans are lamenting the “end of an era” as they say a fond farewell to the popular manager.
Steve Goodman once asked, “do they still play the blues in Chicago when baseball season rolls around?”
For many, the blues stopped the moment Maddon’s name graced the Wrigley Field marquee for the first time in November 2014. He came to Chicago with thick glasses and clear vision to a young and talented Cubs roster.
Cubs fans embraced Maddon’s style, which melded old-school baseball sense with a new age philosophy, yielding unorthodox approaches always complemented with colorful and candid commentary.