That’s how long it took for the Chicago Cubs to change their competitive timeline and signal the rebuilding project is entering the next phase. It was only a matter of moments from when Joe Maddon’s opt-out was announced to the Cubs being considered the overwhelming favorites to name him the 54th manager in franchise history.
Maddon is due to make $25 million over the span of five seasons. His deal does not include an opt-out clause. The Cubs have found their man and are now fully committed to him. There are also playoff incentives in deal; something tells me both Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon expect those to be paid out over the next few seasons.
At his introductory press conference, Maddon stated that he knew the situation he was coming into but believes this is a team that should be talking playoffs for 2015 and beyond. The organization has young talent and is ready to open the checkbook on some of the missing pieces. Maddon could not walk into a better situation.
Sure the Cubs already had a manager in Rick Renteria, who during his one season as the Cubs manager improved the team record by seven games and helped Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo bounce back into All-Star form, but it was a no-brainer to move on once Maddon became available. He also did an admirable job balancing the trades that saw the departure of ace Jeff Samardzija and the mass call up of the long-awaited talent such as Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks.
No one would have complained if Renteria had been the guy who solved the most complicated puzzle in all of sports, but he was widely considered a stopgap piece who could develop talent but would not be the manager of the future when the winning started.
It seemed unlikely Maddon would ever leave his comfortable position in Tampa. In nine seasons with the Rays he lead the team to six winning seasons (five 90+ win seasons), four playoff berths, and the 2008 AL Pennant. Those stats alone would be impressive for any manager.
Oh by the way, his average payroll over those nine seasons was $51,957,460 which was near the bottom of the MLB. In 2008, the team spent $165,260, 980 less than the New York Yankees. There is no such thing as tenure in the MLB, but Maddon was close as a manager can get to having it.
So the question now becomes: is Maddon the manager that will be able to lead the Cubs to its first title since 1908? Will he join the ranks of those other famous curse busters in Terry Francona and Ozzie Guilen or those who failed before him like Lou Piniella and Don Zimmer?
Well, Joe Maddon finds himself as the skipper of a much different team and organization than those who came before him. Long gone are the owners and general managers who believe that a winning team is built by throwing money at top free agents and hoping lightening catches in a bottle. It led to albatross contracts and a team with a barren farm system.
Of course, at the end of the day the manager can only do so much. The young talent the Cubs have been developing will have to continue to develop, Rizzo and Castro need to play at All-Star level once again, and there will have to be mades moved in free agency to shore up the rotation. When it comes to in-game decisions and intangibles however, Maddon is the guy any fan would want making decisions.
The hope is this marriage ends with a World Series title for the team from the North Side. There is work to be done and plenty of games still to win but the Cubs, an Epstein-Maddon marriage is the perfect fit.