By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) Cubs manager Joe Maddon came as close as he ever has to an admission when he told reporters Thursday he felt he had to mislead them about the fate of his coaching staff when asked about it while still in the playoffs, even as moves were in the works for a shakeup. His stated expectation of his coaches returning turned into most of them leaving, and it all left Maddon on the defensive in explaining why.
On one hand, he correctly trumpeted the team’s accomplishments Thursday.
“We’ve done pretty well over the last three years, actually,” Maddon said. “First World Series in 108 years, I’ll take it. Three times to the championship series in three years, I’ll take it. If we start looking past that as being successful, then we have to re-evaluate how we look at the world in general.”
He’s entirely right about that. But when there’s a sweeping purge of his staff — and that’s what it was, no matter how Maddon and Theo Epstein tried to explain it as some kind of passive evolution that just happened on its own — there has to be a reason why players need what Maddon called a “different voice.” He can’t then on the other make it clear that his team needs new people in charge to help them do better.
What’s more, Maddon claimed that the “availability” of “impact coaches” necessitated the dismissals but then insisted that his old buddy Jim Hickey being a free agent had nothing to do with the exit of pitching coach Chris Bosio.
Huh? Which is it?
Maddon is in a tough place, certainly, not wanting to say anything bad about friends as they depart the Cubs and search for new MLB gigs. But it all comes off as a little ridiculous when the scope of the moves is this large and so soon after Epstein had been pointedly critical of some shortcomings.
“Systemic” and “unacceptable” were two words he used to describe the Cubs’ walk rate, so a change of pitching coach is clearly the team following through after he told the Bernstein and Goff Show last week, “We have to find a way to address that going forward.”
In all, it has been an uncharacteristically clumsy PR period for a leadership group known for transparency and clarity more than obfuscation. Not that swapping out most of a coaching staff is easy or can be done without raising eyebrows or questions, but this caught Maddon scrambling to tell us how and why it happened.