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.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.