By: Nick Roark
Ever had that 2:30 feeling? Chances are if you’re a Chicago Cubs fan, that fatigued, disheartening and overwhelming feeling came over you many times this season; 96 times to be exact.
It is no secret that the Cubs need a jolt of energy. And while Chicago president Theo Epstein is looking for a new skipper following the firing of Dale Sveum, many of those thirsty Cubs fanatics are looking for a pick-me-up in a grande-sized cup of Joe.
Joe Girardi that is – current New York Yankees manager and catcher on two separate for Chicago from 1990-1992 and 2000-2002.
But as the Northsiders’ brass try to gauge the interest of the Peoria, Ill. Native (whose contract with New York expires after Oct. 31), perhaps the Wrigley faithful should turn towards another Joe.
This Joe holds two AL Manager of the Year honors, a franchise-record six consecutive winning seasons, has sent his current team to four postseason berths and is currently as trendy as a pumpkin-spice latte.
Chicago should make a serious run at Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Fresh off their fourth straight losing season, the Cubs need a passionate spark from the managerial position to match the energy that will soon be coming from top prospects such as Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant. And not to mention, a manager who will help secure wins by simply out-managing opposing skippers is a plus.
“We’re at a critical point in our building process, where our very best prospects are soon going to be young big league players,” Epstein told MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. “And it’s absolutely imperative that we create the best environment possible for young players to come up here and continue to learn and develop and thrive at the big league level, and win ultimately.”
Who would be better than Maddon to create the best environment possible for future Cubs prospects? Wins are not the only things Maddon can bring to a clubhouse. He also delivers penguins and 20-foot pythons. (If you want to see how top prospects react in high-pressure situations, just have Maddon order up a python for a clubhouse visit.)
But look no further than the 59-year-old’s Tampa track record to see his ability in developing young talent.
The black-rimmed, glasses wearing Maddon took over for former Cubs skipper Lou Piniella in 2006 and endured losing campaigns in his first two seasons, finishing 61-101 in 2006 while improving to 66-96 in 2007 (Coincidentally, those efforts identically match what Sveum recorded during his two years as Chicago manager). But the native of Hazelton, Pa. brought along the young bats of players like Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton in 2008 and delivered an A.L. pennant en route to a World Series defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The unconventional skipper would nearly be classified as a savior if he could theoretically take Chicago to a World Series next season, but the point is this: Joe Maddon seemingly gets the best out of young talent and turns underachieving players into overachieving difference makers (look no further than Delmon Young).
I realize bringing Maddon to Chicago is a virtual long shot. Tampa Bay has its manager locked up through 2015 after Maddon signed a three-year extension in February of 2012, thus meaning Cubs management must be granted permission to speak with the respected skipper. And if permission is theoretically granted, Maddon may not be interested.
But if you are Theo Epstein, isn’t Maddon worth at least picking up the phone for? Perhaps the snake-handling, penguin-loving manager has grown tired of Tampa Bay’s frugal payroll and lack of fan support despite continued success. And what about the continual relocation rumors that surround the Rays’ inability to build a new ballpark in Tampa?
Maddon would almost certainly relieve Cubs’ fans of the sorrow 2:30 they have felt the past four seasons, and while he is no pumpkin-spice latte, this cup of Joe would provide North Chicago with one big spark.