Sunday Notes: Joe Maddon is Optimistic About His Future, Shelf Life in Chicago Aside by David Laurila September 29, 2019 Joe Maddon has managed for 14 MLB seasons, and in nine of them his team has won 90 or more games. He captured a pennant in Tampa Bay, and most notably a World Series title with the Cubs. Four of his five years in Chicago have included October baseball. Not this year: not after a September swoon that saw the Cubs lose nine straight down the stretch. Despite having a plus-106 run differential — by comparison, the playoff-bound Brewers and Cardinals are plus-one, and plus-93, respectively — Maddon’s club is heading home after today’s game. The bespectacled and thoughtfully-loquacious denizen of Hazelton, PA was to meet with Theo Epstein last night, and not simply for a cold frosty. Speculation has been swirling about Maddon’s future — this is the final year of his contract — and in all likelihood there was some solemnity to the Saturday evening sit-down. It will come as a surprise if we don’t soon learn that the Joe Maddon era is over in Chicago. Earlier this week Maddon was asked about having used the word “optimistic” when addressing his tenuous-at-best situation. His response suggested something other than an expected return engagement at the Friendly Confines. “I did use the word ‘optimistic,’” Maddon told reporters. “But I think that was more… my intent was to indicate that, as a human being, I’m kind of optimistic about the future, period.” MLB’s longest-tenured managers going into this season have been waving goodbye. Bruce Bochy is stepping down after 13 seasons in San Francisco. Ned Yost is gone after 10 in Kansas City. Another — Clint Hurdle has spent the last nine in Pittsburgh — may or may not be back next year. Fewer than half of the 30 managers have been with their current club for as many as four years. I asked Maddon for his opinion on managerial shelf-life. “I would say that 7-to-10 [years] is probably as much as you should be at one place,” he responded. “After 7-to-10 you should do something different, whether it’s with another group, with the same occupation, or at another level within your own organizational group. If you continually do the same thing over and over again, without any kind of ascent, or with another group, there is a chance of… I don’t want to use the word ‘complacency,’ but you don’t get challenged enough.” Has Maddon’s message grown stale after just five years? And if so, would meaningful roster turnover thus be necessary if no managerial change is made? I posed those questions — not in those exact words — and the response I got suggests that the answers are “yes.” “That’s why college coaches survive so long,” said Maddon. “Football in particular, and some baseball coaches… it’s easier to maintain that energy, because you have this new group coming in every three or four years. It can work that way here. If you want to keep the same manager, rotating the crops, player-wise, might be an interesting way. If you look at a college coach who stays someplace for a long time, the business never gets old because he has a new set of ears every four years.” Epstein is likely to do some roster juggling regardless of who is at the helm next year. He recognizes that Maddon was leading a team that had flaws — despite the aforementioned statistical edge they had over the Brewers and Cardinals. “It shows what could have been,” Epstein said of his club’s run differential. “We’re all beating ourselves up for that in some way. But look, it’s not the be-all end-all. Run differential isn’t going to keep anyone warm at night, especially me. There are reasons why it can be a little misleading at times, but it’s still really important. If I could have one team stat only — one thing to look at so I can tell you how many games we won — it would be that. But make no mistake, we have shortcomings.” It wouldn’t be fair to say that Maddon is one of them. His track record alone shows that he’s been one of the best managers in baseball over the past dozen or so years. That doesn’t necessarily mean a change isn’t needed in Chicago. —— Danny Mendick nearly became a Cub. Instead he’s with the White Sox. The 26-year-old [as of yesterday] infielder was drafted by Chicago’s South Side team in 2015 out of the University of Massachusetts Lowell. And he’s exceeded expectations. The former 22nd-round pick received his first big-league call-up on September 3, and since that time he’s slashed .316/.316/.474 in 38 plate appearances. Again, he nearly ended up being drafted by Chicago’s North Side team. “The Cubs were the only team I really talked to,” said Mendick. “But then the White Sox drafted me in the 22nd round. I got a call and they were like, ‘Hey, we just drafted you; come out to Arizona tomorrow.” Mendick doesn’t recall having any conversations with White Sox scouts, although he’s pretty sure he filled out some pre-draft paperwork for them. The crosstown Cubs were another story, having told him they thought he’d go “in the back half of the top 10 [rounds].” They also told Mendick that they would try to take him with their 11th-round pick, only to select Seminole State University shortstop Mack Chambers in that spot instead. (Chambers subsequently opted to not sign.) Once the second day of the draft had come and gone, the UMass-Lowell business major decided he’d had enough. “I went golfing to distract myself,” said Mendick. “I was on the 15th hole, a par 3, and my cell phone rang. That’s when I was told I’d been drafted by the White Sox. I was pretty excited, so those last three holes weren’t played too well.” —— There was a bit of foofaraw in Texas on Thursday when Mike Minor recorded his 200th strikeout of the season one pitch after Rangers first baseman Ronald Guzman let an easily-catchable pop-up drop in foul territory. He did so with Minor vocally imploring him to do so. As you might expect, the play-the-game-the-right-way police began circling the wagons almost immediately. Chris Woodward wasn’t riding one of the horses circling those wagons, but based on his postgame comments he wasn’t far from saddling up. The Rangers manager told reporters that allowing the ball to fall was “borderline crossing the line,” and that “if [Minor] didn’t strike him out, I probably would have taken him out just because of the way it looks; I talk about playing the game the right way all the time.” To me, that could-have-been scenario is the most intriguing part of the story. Minor’s placing a priority on a personal goal is nothing to get excited about, nor is his caring so much about the opinion of an out-of-town sportswriter that he responded to a Tweet. But the idea that Minor’s manager may very well have pulled him with one to go, and his strikeout total sitting at 199? That would have taken some serious guts, given the blowback it would have elicited. Only Woodward knows if he’d have actually pulled that trigger. Another scenario is arguably every bit as intriguing. What if Guzman had ignored Minor’s shouts and caught the pop-up? Would he have been viewed as a villain for “playing the game the right way,” and bringing his team one out closer to a win? That’s a hypothetical we can only guess at. —— Quiz time: Which player with 800 or more plate appearances has the highest batting average since the start of the 2017 season? The answer can be found after the following section. —— RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS Jhoulys Chacin is 5 for 13 against Zack Greinke. Schoolboy Rowe went 3 for 3 against Wes Ferrell. Wes Ferrell went 6 for 9 against Ed Walsh. Gaylord Perry went 5 for 16 against Phil Niekro. Warren Spahn went 9 for 20 against Ruben Gomez. —— The answer to the quiz is Washington’s Howie Kendrick, with a .325 average in 864 plate appearances. —— John Means had an outstanding rookie campaign with the Baltimore Orioles. Following yesterday’s final start of the season, the 26-year-old southpaw boasts a 3.60 ERA in 155 innings of work, and his 3.0 WAR is tops among first-year hurlers in the junior circuit. As effective as he was, one American League batter in particular proved hard to solve. “[Michael’ Brosseau, for the Rays,” was Means’s answer when I asked who’s given him the most trouble. “I gave him his first and second career homers, and then he hit another one off me as well. He hit homers on a fastball up and in, on a changeup down and away off the plate, and on a slider down and in. Three different pitches, three homers. I couldn’t figure him out.” The dingers weren’t clumped together. Brosseau went deep against Means on July 3 in Tampa, on July 13 in Baltimore, and on August 24 in Baltimore. As the Orioles’ top hurler put it, “Three different series and he was always the guy that clipped me. It’s funny, because it was like, ‘OK, he’s in the lineup today; there’s no way he’s going to do it again.’ And he does; he hits one out. The dude just had my number.” All told, the Rays rookie went 4 for 9 against Means, with the three bombs representing half of his seasonal total. Given that ownership, should Brosseau be wary of a little chin music the next time he faces the 6-foot-3, 230-lb. lefty? “No, it’s not going to go down like that,” assured Means. “I’ll just try something a little different, a different game plan, in the future. Hey, how you learn is through failure. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep him off balance, and guessing a little bit, down the road.” —— Short excerpts from Alex Speier’s Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up have appeared in this space on a few recent Sundays. Here is another, this time touching on Boston’s tumultuous 2014 season, one in which they went 71-91 one year after winning the World Series. “[T]here were other problems brewing. [A.J.] Pierzynski, a longtime lightning rod, became a pariah. Many players came to avoid his corner of the clubhouse, retreating from the sarcasm that some found funny while others found brutal. Some in the organization, however, believed that the way Pierzynski was placed on an island reflected not as badly on him as it did on his teammates, who so clearly had each other’s backs the previous year. The championship environment of 2013 was proving impossible to replicate the following year.” —— LINKS YOU’LL LIKE At Beyond the Boxscore, Sheryl Ring gave her thoughts on how MLB’s domestic violence policy both isn’t working, and is working perfectly. At The Kansas City Star, Sam Mellinger told us how Ned Yost and the Royals brought out the best in each other. There were just over 1.5 million tickets sold at Comerica Park this year, a 51% drop from the 3.1 million sold in 2013. Ron Beard wrote about the Tigers’ troublesome attendance situation at The Detroit News. The Cubs are leaving WGN-TV, their broadcast home since 1948, in favor of the newly-created Marquee Sports Network. Paul Sullivan wrote about it at The Chicago Tribune. Over at The Houston Chronicle, David Barron opined that to know Larry Dierker is to know Houston baseball. ——— RANDOM FACTS AND STATS New York’s DJ LeMahieu and Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield went into yesterday having hit 136 singles, the most in the majors. LeMahieu had 61 extra-base hits, Merrifield had 67 extra-base hits. Chicago White Sox teammates Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada went into yesterday with the highest BABiPs (.403) among qualified hitters. Oakland’s Jurickson Profar had the lowest, at .221. Oakland’s Khris Davis has 536 plate appearances and a .384 slugging percentage. Cincinnati’s Jose Iglesias has 530 plate appearances and a .407 slugging percentage. In 2014, a total of eight relievers allowed 10 or more home runs on the season. This year, 51 relievers have allowed 10 or more home runs. That number could grow today, as 22 have surrounded have nine. Felix Hernandez has 2,524 strikeouts. Bartolo Colon has 2,535 strikeouts. Napoleon Lajoie recorded the 3,000th hit of his Hall of Fame career on September 27, 1914 as the Cleveland Naps defeated the New York Yankees by a count of 5-3. Guy “Alabama Blossom” Morton, who went 1-13 on the year, got the win, which was the first of 98 he recorded as a big-leaguer. The right-hander’s son, Moose Morton, appeared in one game for the Boston Red Sox in 1954. The Chicago Cubs had their club-record 21-game winning streak snapped on September 28, 1935 when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 7-5 in 11 innings. Led by NL MVP Gabby Hartnett, the Cubs finished the season 100-54, then fell to Mickey Cochrane’s Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Aubrey “Yo-Yo” Epps played his only big-league game on this date in 1935. A catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Epps went 3 for 4 with a triple, finishing his cup-of-coffee career with a .750/.750.1.250 slash line. On September 30 1962, the New York Mets lost their final game of the season to finish with a record of 40-120. In the eighth inning, in his last-ever big-league plate appearance, Mets catcher Joe Pignatano hit into a triple play. The most GIDPs in an MLB season is 3,983 in 2007. The most doubles hit in an MLB season is 9,197, in 2007.