When Joe Maddon agreed to become the 54th manager of the Chicago Cubs in November of 2014, there weren’t a lot of people that understood how big of a deal that was. The Cubs were coming off yet another last place finish in the division and although the team seemed to be trending upward, Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein, was still looking for the perfect person to lead the team during their last stage of the rebuild.
Enter Joe Maddon.
When Epstein found out that Maddon had recently become a free agent, the Cubs front office pounced. In 11 seasons as manager at that time, Maddon had compiled a 781-729 record, including a trip to the World Series in 2008 with the Tampa Bay Rays when he won the American League Manager of the Year Award. He also won the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2011 which is even more impressive when you understand Maddon accomplished all of this with the second lowest payroll in baseball.
Maddon brought a new outlook to the Cubs when he assumed the reigns in 2015. He brought with him all of the quirkiness that made him such a sought after manager at the time and his outlook on the game of baseball seemed to fit the Cubs absolutely perfect in 2015.
As we all know, the entire culture of the Chicago Cubs has changed drastically since Maddon took over in 2015. They were no longer the lovable losers and quickly became the team to beat in the NL Central. A LOT of that had to do with Joe Maddon establishing a winning culture in the clubhouse, getting to know all of his players, and finding the right way to keep big league players fresh and interested.
“I think that’s one of the things that makes Joe such an unbelievable manager is that you never know what you’re gonna do,” Kris Bryant said. “You never know what to expect in the clubhouse and I think more guys should be like that.”
In addition to all the new school aspects Maddon brings to the game, the thing that I think he has become most known for is his team’s second half success. Since taking over the Cubs, Maddon has gone an astonishing 151-75 during that three-year window and we’ve seen time and time again, the Cubs consistently separate themselves from the rest of the division in the second half.
With that said, there has been a growing contingent of Cubs fans who have seemingly become tired of having Joe Maddon as the Cubs manager (Yes, I don’t know why either.) They’ll tell you he was handed the keys to a Porsche in 2015 and “anyone could have stepped in and managed a team with all that talent.” While I will not deny the fact that he walked into a great situation, people don’t realize his second half success isn’t unique to his time with the Cubs.
So let’s look at a quick snapshot of Maddon’s time in Tampa Bay with a roster that was no where near as talented as the one he took over with the Cubs. From 2010-2014, with a payroll that always was in the bottom third of baseball, Maddon’s Rays teams went 199-155 with a World Series appearance sprinkled in there as well.
So what’s the secret?
What makes Joe Maddon’s teams so damn good in the second half?
Maddon, on Cubs good 2nd half record under him. Rest being the key: "That's always been the sheet of music that I've worked from. To not beat up guys early. "
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 20, 2018
The ironic thing of rest being the reason that Maddon claims as being the key to second half success is that it is also the reason why a lot of anti-Maddon fans are becoming fed up with him — giving players off days to rest. Once again, he knows what he’s doing. As of today, there are only two Cubs players that rank in the top 50 in the NL in games played (Baez, Almora) and outside of Willson Contreras who leads all NL catchers in innings played, the team doesn’t have a player ranked in the top four of innings played at their respective positions.
So next time you start complaining about not seeing Kris Bryant in the lineup, please refer back to this article and the fact that giving players rest days will keep them fresh for yet another run at the postseason in 2018.