Maddon: Optimism 'very high' for new contract
CINCINNATI -- It is the underlying storyline that has been thread throughout this season for the Cubs. Manager Joe Maddon does not have a contract beyond this year, and there remains no clear sense of where the front office stands on the decision to bring him back.
Sitting in the visitors' dugout at Great American Ball Park on Sunday morning, Maddon took on the latest wave of questions about his uncertain future with a smile. And the accomplished manager expressed that his optimism remains high that the Cubs will re-sign him when the time comes to make that call.
"It's very high, yeah," Maddon said. "Very high. Very, very high. I'm operating in that I believe we'll be together for a couple more years at least."
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein made it known during the GM Meetings in November that extension talks with Maddon were going to be tabled until later this year. That came after Chicago's offense went dark over the final two months of 2018, leading to a division lost in Game 163 to the Brewers and a one-and-done National League Wild Card Game defeat to the Rockies.
Still, the Cubs piled up 95 victories and reached the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. Maddon became the first manager in franchise history to accomplish that type of streak. Maddon's 387 wins across the 2015-18 campaigns marked a club record for a manager's first four seasons. Entering Sunday, only the Dodgers (457) had more wins than the Cubs (450) during Maddon's tenure.
Those notes are worth mentioning, because Maddon does not believe the decision on his future in Chicago will come down to wins and losses.
"I think it has nothing to do with wins and losses," Maddon said. "If that's the case, I would've signed the contract at the end of last season, if it came down to wins and losses only. Our success even to this point today -- August whatever it is -- it's been pretty good. ... To just reduce it to wins and losses, that makes no sense at all."
Maddon was reminded about the fact that he referred to himself as a "free agent" when his lack of contract was brought up during the Winter Meetings in December. In theory, that means the manager could opt to test open waters, even if the Cubs come calling with an extension offer.
That might be true, but Maddon said he wants to stay with the Cubs.
"I'm not going to sit here and proclaim that I'm looking to go elsewhere. That's not true," Maddon said. "It's about where both sides want each other, really. It's a marriage, in a sense, that the group would want me to be here and I'd want to be here also in return. And that would be the reason why you'd stay. It has to be mutual."
And, in Maddon's opinion, the decision will come down to interaction and communication.
"It's about the ability to work together," Maddon said. "For me, too. Understand [that] I want to be somewhere where I want to work, too, and that I enjoy the exchange, which I do. Everything about what we do at the Cubs and where we do it at is -- you can't beat it. It's impossible to beat it on every level. So that's the allure for me."
Heading into Sunday, the Cubs were in first place in the National League Central with a 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Brewers. The Cardinals and Reds were not far behind, but Chicago is in position to reach the October stage for a fifth consecutive year under Maddon's watch.
There have been injuries and inconsistencies all season, however, plus a puzzling road record (22-35 entering Sunday) that threaten to hold the Cubs back down the stretch. Maddon said he does not believe his players are not piling any additional pressure on themselves given the manager's unclear status after this season.
"I hope they never do. I don't necessarily get that from them," Maddon said. "We have a lot of respect flowing back and forth. My interaction with the group this year -- it's always good -- but this year I've taken it to a different level regarding the methods, the communication, how often we communicate and the coaching component of it's been greater than, intentionally.
"So I would never want players to even think that for a second. I don't think they do. At the end of the day, I don't think a player does. He needs to take care of himself and how to be part of the team and play to win, not play to win for the manager."