The Cubs fired manager Rick Renteria yesterday, clearing the way for Joe Maddon to be introduced as his replacement on Monday. If you have followed this situation at all, you know that it’s been the worst kept secret in the game over the past couple of days. The Rays remain curious about how it came together so quickly, as Maddon just informed the club of his intention to step down last Thursday. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the word “tampering” continues to be bandied about.
The Rays remain convinced that the Cubs enticed Maddon to opt out of the final year of his contract last week rather than reaching out afterward. As a result, they are still considering filing tampering charges or a complaint to get Major League Baseball to investigate the matter, with any potential compensation (A fine? A player?) determined by the commissioner’s office.
Maddon was well within his rights to opt out of his contract with the Rays, but the question is whether there was any contact with the Cubs before he did so. Cubs president Theo Epstein did his part to get out in front on the situation yesterday by issuing a detailed and lengthy statement to explain why Renteria was let go. Here’s part of it:
Last Thursday, we learned that Joe Maddon – who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us – had become a free agent. We confirmed the news with Major League Baseball, and it became public knowledge the next day. We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.
The Rays may ultimately decide that it’s not really worth the hassle and the drama involved. Tampering could be difficult to prove and the potential compensation is unlikely to be significant. Still, it’s hard to blame them for feeling suspicious, especially if they know more than has been made public. Filing a complaint with MLB would at least send a message that they (and other teams in the future) won’t be taken advantage of.