Joe Maddon will return as Cubs manager for 2019

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Bob Nightengale reports that Joe Maddon will continue to be the Cubs manager in the 2019 season. That this is news and not an obvious proposition requires a bit of backfill.

Ken Rosenthal wrote a story this morning about the possibility — speculation and tea leaf reading, not really explicit information — that Maddon and Cubs president Theo Epstein aren’t seeing eye to eye these days. That, while generally complimentary of one another, Epstein was critical of how Maddon had handled certain things this year, particularly with respect to the bullpen, his use of Brandon Morrow in the runup to his season-ending injury in particular. Rosenthal also sprinkled the article with some references to Maddon being a “celebrity manager” and a guy who is not as controllable by the front office as some of the more “mallable” — Rosenthal’s words — managers in the game.

At no point did that lead to him or anyone else saying “Maddon was on the hot seat” but the suggestion was at least there. A suggestion that someone in the Cubs front office is blowing off some steam about Maddon or laying some groundwork for . . . something. A suggestion that might seem a bit more real the morning after a disappointing playoff exit which at least some people are calling a collapse.

As Nightengale notes, and as Rosenthal suggested could happen, Maddon’s contract is not being extended at this time and, barring a change in the offseason, he’ll enter 2019 as a lame duck, finishing out the final year of a five-year, $28 million deal that makes him the highest paid manager in baseball. Rosenthal says that, for his part, Maddon is not himself asking for an extension yet. Why that is is unclear, but it could be that he feels his negotiating power is at an ebb right now and that he’d rather try to get one following a more successful season. Or maybe he wants out of Chicago. Who knows? Either way, it does suggest that a lot is riding on the Cubs’ offseason and how things get going in 2019.

My gut tells me that this is all just a lot of late season pessimism at the end of what turned out to be a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign. Maddon had a lot to deal with injury wise in 2018 and while his high profile means that his nits are picked a bit more readily than other managers’, the consensus remains that he’s still one of the best skippers in the business. Unless there’s something we don’t know about how he relates to the front office, it would seem rather short sighted to part ways with Maddon at this juncture or to put him on a particularly hot seat next year.

Then again, no one figured he’d leave Tampa Bay either, so maybe some craziness is in the offing.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.