The Cubs’ cold-blooded sacking of Rick Renteria for the new-school/old-school wisdom of Joe Maddon is not unprecedented in the hardball world, not even close.

In fact, if this works anything like the Tigers’ cold-blooded sacking of a man named Les Moss for the instant gratification of Sparky Anderson, the untidiness of this soon will be forgotten, and the Cubs will be completely vindicated.

Come back with me, for a moment, to 1979: The Tigers had given a baseball lifer a huge break when they hired Moss to manage after Ralph Houk retired. Moss was 54, had been named the Triple-A American Association’s manager of the year in ’78 and was hired to help develop, among others, young Tigers Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish and Jack Morris.

Much like Renteria was tasked last year with developing Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.

Under Moss, the young Tigers were 27-26 on June 12 when Detroit stunned the baseball world: The Tigers fired Moss to hire Sparky.

At the time, Anderson was fielding offers while broadcasting for the Angels after the Reds fired him in ’78. His intent was to sit out a year before returning.

So why did the Tigers move so suddenly and treat Moss so cruelly?

Because word reached then-Detroit general manager Jim Campbell that Sparky was deep in conversations and close to an agreement to manage in 1980 with…

The Chicago Cubs.

What goes around comes around in this game, again and again, if not now, then later. The Cubs lost their man in 1979 and got their man in 2014. Already, the charismatic Maddon is talking playoffs and a World Series, possibly even in 2015, and even if that doesn’t happen, given who he is and what he’s done, credit the opportunistic Cubs for making their move now.

Club president Theo Epstein was right when he told reporters in an introductory news conference Monday:

We were caught with a dilemma on our hands. … We had to think, ultimately, what my responsibility is, and that’s always to do the right thing for the Cubs’ organization as a whole. We owe it to our fans…. It is a very unique opportunity when someone like Joe Maddon becomes available, and I don’t think I would be doing my job if I didn’t pounce on that. … We were caught in a situation where we couldn’t do the right thing for the Cubs and the right thing for Rick.

Anderson already had won two World Series titles and four NL pennants when the Tigers hired him in 1979 (and memorably had quipped, upon being fired by Cincinnati, “I’ll never make the mistake of finishing second again”). Maddon has zero rings but did what Larry Rothschild, Hal McRae and Lou Piniella couldn’t before him: He made winners of the Rays, leading them to the 2008 World Series and into the playoffs four times.

Now, he steps into what has been, for more than four decades, a managerial graveyard: Not since Leo Durocher left in 1972 has a manager lasted more than five years in Wrigley Field. And only two of the 21 men to manage the Cubs since Durocher (not including Renteria) have gotten out of Chicago alive enough to manage again in the majors: Dusty Baker and Jim Riggleman.

“Beautiful,” Maddon told reporters when the subject of the Cubs’ not having won a World Series since 1908 was brought up Monday, and he was absolutely sincere.

Nobody in the game views things from quite the same perspective as the funky, new-age, optimistic and exuberant Maddon. He’s always welcomed a challenge, and he promised he will spend plenty of time talking to his players next spring about the playoffs and the World Series. As in, yes, 2015.

“Put players in an environment where they’re not afraid about making mistakes,” Maddon said. “That’s the most important thing for me. The worst thing you can do is coach the aggressiveness out of a player and coach fear into a player.”

Maddon is innovative and fun, knowledgeable and quirky. He can talk double-switches, vintage wines, classic rock ‘n’ roll and literature (he loves Pat Conroy) with anyone. He will win with the Cubs. He will become a rock star in Chicago. Anyone with a passion for baseball in Chicago will love him…and those who don’t care two whoops for the sport will find him intriguing as well. And he will love Chicago right back.

“Your city’s wonderful,” he gushed. “I love Chicago. I’ve been here sporadically as a visitor. I like the energy. I like the vibe.”

He talked about living downtown, and feeling that vibe, not in a gated community or country club. He will ride his bike to work, where he will carry “a card in my back pocket dripping with analytics every day.”

And on his daily lineup card, as always, will be this: “Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.”

Maddon doesn’t. He came to this managing gig relatively late, at 51, when the Rays became the team brave enough to think outside the box when hiring a manager.

He spent 31 years in the Angels organization, the last 12 of those as a coach on the major league staff. And in 1996, looking for a new manager, then-Angels GM Bill Bavasi had a wonderful, visionary idea: He wanted to hire Sparky Anderson, who had just left the Tigers. His plan was to have Sparky manage the Angels for two years, with Maddon working and learning under him…and then promote Maddon to replace Sparky.

When ownership wouldn’t sign off on Sparky, who was 62 by then, Bavasi wound up hiring Terry Collins. Maddon was unaware of this when I passed it along to him two summers ago.

“Everything always works out for a particular reason,” he told me then. “I couldn’t be more grateful, sincerely, for how things have worked out for me in my baseball career. I’ve always been a big believer in not having anything happen to you before its time. In other words, I had to earn this opportunity, and I felt like I did by 2006.

“Having said that, when you get a chance to work below the best professor and earn your doctorate degree with this kind of Aristotle, or Socrates, whoever this man was as a baseball manager, it would have been outstanding.”

In his own way, Maddon, who will be 61 on Opening Day, will bring some philosophy to Wrigley. And some wins. And with Rizzo, Castro, Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and the rest, look out.

This is going to be some kind of fun.


2. Why the DH Is Unfair: Hot Stove Edition

To those of you who prefer to see the American and National Leagues actually operate under the same set of rules, we know how unfair it is during interleague play when one team must adopt a different league’s rules, and during the World Series.

Now, free agent Pablo Sandoval is the latest Exhibit A of how things go funky in the winter too: The Giants have made it clear that they are reluctant to go beyond two or three years with him on a new contract. His body type makes it a suspect investment (though Kirby Puckett sure managed to overcome body-type stereotypes for many years, didn’t he?).

The Boston Red Sox have two needs: a third baseman now, and a DH replacement for David Ortiz, who turns 39 this month, in a year or two. Because they have the DH to consider, the Red Sox can offer Sandoval, say, five years with far more ease than the Giants because it won’t affect them nearly as much if the Panda adds weight or if his body deteriorates over time.

Food for thought.


3. Free Agent Rankings

My weekly take as agents bluster, suitors cluster and bean counters muster the courage to write those checks:

1. Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in 2014): You’ll have time for a loooong winter’s nap before Scherzer signs. With Scott Boras as his representative, he’ll let others set the market—then look to exceed it.

2. Pablo Sandoval (.279/.324/.415, 16 homers, 73 RBI): Panda Market is hotter than ever after the World Series. Burning question: Do the Panda Heads relocate if their guy does?

3. Jon Lester (16-11, 2.46 ERA, 1.10 WHIP): A Lester-Theo Epstein reunion in Wrigley Field makes more and more sense.

4. James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP): How about a Shields-Joe Maddon reunion in Wrigley? The possibilities are endless. (Just keep Manny Ramirez and Maddon separated, all right? Manny burned ol’ Joe once already in Tampa Bay.)

5. Ron Gardenhire: Alas, will the hottest free-agent manager remaining on the market spend life as a talking head this summer?


4. Worth Reviewing

Clearly, the Cubs are primed to make a big splash (or two or three) in the free-agent pitching market this winter. They’re stocked with young, talented position players but don’t (yet) have the pitching to match.

With Maddon rumors swirling during the World Series, B/R asked Shields about the possibility of a reunion with Maddon in Chicago.

“Obviously, I don’t know what’s going to happen with me,” Shields told me after Game 5. “I’ve enjoyed my time in Kansas City. It’s been a great two years.”

The Royals on Monday made a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer to Shields, per Dick Kaegel of He is not expected to accept the formality, which at least assures the Royals of draft-pick compensation if he signs with another team before June 8.

Shields has until Nov. 10 to accept. Over the past two years, none of the 22 free agents to receive qualifying offers has accepted.


5. Twins Tab The Ignitor

Yep, that was Paul Molitor’s nickname going way back to the early 1980s, when he was the leadoff hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Now, a Twins team that has lost 92 or more games over the past four consecutive seasons needs him to relive that role as manager.

That Minnesota has named one of its favorite sons (Molitor is a St. Paul native and University of Minnesota product) as just its 13th manager has been expected pretty much from the moment the Twins fired Ron Gardenhire.

Red Sox coach Torey Lovullo interviewed exceptionally well, according to sources, and former Twin Doug Mientkiewicz remains a hot managerial prospect. But general manager Terry Ryan has been grooming Molitor for the job for much of the past decade.

As both a roving instructor in the organization and a major league coach, Molitor has overseen baserunning, bunting, infield instruction and positioning, and he has worked with Gardenhire on in-game strategy.

He also will become only the third man ever to begin his managerial career after being inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player, following Ted Williams and Ryne Sandberg. The prediction here is that Molitor will make an excellent manager; this guy is as sharp of a baseball man as anybody I’ve ever met, and he has a quiet, unassuming way of communicating that should play with younger players.


6. Homecoming in Motown

The only thing worse than immediately following a legend as coach is becoming a coach of the team for which you were a legend. That brings us to the happy tale of Alan Trammell, who rejoined the Detroit Tigers on Monday as a special assistant to general manager Dave Dombrowski, the team announced.

Only three players have played 20 or more years for the Tigers: Ty Cobb, Al Kaline and Trammell.

You might recall that Dombrowski fired Trammell as manager following the 2005 season, just two summers after Trammell endured a 43-119 summer in his first of three seasons managing his old team. Dombrowski replaced him with Jim Leyland, who, of course, piloted the Tigers to the World Series in his first season at the helm.

The entire thing stung Trammell, as you would expect. He moved on to jobs as a coach with the Cubs under Lou Piniella and then the Diamondbacks under his old Detroit buddy Kirk Gibson.

How classy is Trammell? When Tony La Russa, Arizona’s president of baseball operations, fired Gibson and Trammell with three games left in the season, he asked Trammell to manage those three games. As if that wasn’t odd enough, Trammell agreed to do it.

Now, the offseason starts with Trammell and the Tigers patching one of the more unfortunate rifts in the game.

“Couldn’t be happier!” texted Trammell, who will assist with on-field duties both at the major and minor league levels.


7. And Then There Was One…

Open manager’s job, that is.

Where will Tampa Bay go to replace Maddon?

Well, a couple of things here. One, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is highly respected and viewed as a future manager. Two, the Rays are justifiably proud of the way they knocked it out of the park in 2006 by hiring a star in Maddon.

So will new president of baseball operations Matt Silverman settle for promoting his current bench coach? And would he even view it as settling, or does he think Martinez is a future star?

The Rays are expected to release a list of finalists this week. Among the possibilities listed by the excellent Marc Topkin, longtime Rays beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times: Tim Bogar (who managed Texas after Ron Washington resigned), Torey Lovullo (Red Sox bench coach who was a finalist for the Twins job), Brian Butterfield (Red Sox), Tim Flannery and Ron Wotus (Giants) and DeMarlo Hale (Blue Jays).


8. The Devil Went Down to…the World Series?

The greatest line in the immediate aftermath of the World Series came from this New York Times story when its author, Michael Powell, visited Kevin Bumgarner, Madison’s father, at home in Hudson, North Carolina, after Madison’s for-the-ages five-inning Game 7 relief appearance.

“I didn’t know if he had enough left tonight,” Kevin told the Times. “But I did know that boy would try to steal a steak off the devil’s plate.”


9. Then, the Devil Made a Post-World Series Deal?

Yeah, it’s been said that the Cubs over the decades have driven many a fan to drink.

Now, it can be said that their new manager bought a round: If you haven’t seen this yet, at the end of his introductory press conference Monday, Maddon offered to buy everyone at the Cubby Bear bar “a shot and a beer,” the way they do it in his native Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Cool moment:


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl.

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