Some perspective on the Maddon Derby

The Joe Maddon situation, where a story is developing over where he will manage next year, is exactly the type of story that MLB wants to avoid right now.

There’s a World Series going on, and a really good one at that. Players can’t sign free agent contracts until the Series is over, and that’s for the best. The money will still be there when the dust has settled.

Much is being made of Joe Maddon going to the Cubs for next season. Rick Renteria didn’t set anyone’s heart to fluttering last season, and there’s a palpable sense that this team needs more in the way of on-field leadership. No quarrel is being made with that point.

But the Maddon signing seems like a bad idea for two reasons. The first is that the Cubs have signed big-name, multi-million dollar contracts with managers in the past, and they didn’t work out so well. Paging Dr. Dusty Baker and Dr. Lou Piniella!

These two were supposed to be the ones to guide the Cubs to the promised land, remember? And each one won a division title or two, so I can’t call them outright failures. But the “Cubby swagger” that Lou Piniella promised when he took over is about as evident as the left field bleachers at this time.

Which brings me to the other reason that signing Joe Maddon doesn’t make sense. In case nobody’s heard this, Maddon is thought to be wanting something like five years and $25 million for his services. It’s less than a top player could command, certainly, but it’s not insignificant, either.

The front office has repeatedly said that they have the “payroll flexibility” to make a play for John Lester and other free agents in the offseason. And they need to make a splash of some type, since they sat out the free agent market last year. But throwing tens of millions of dollars at a manager doesn’t fit with that narrative, it seems to me.

I went by Wrigley Field this morning, as the sun was coming up, to see how the construction was coming along. I saw heavy machinery and men in hard hats, and a pile of rubble that used to be the left-field bleachers. Left field still sucks, of course, but it’s no longer standing, either.

All of this construction costs money, and plenty of it. And for all of the talk about the “baseball side” and the “business side,” the money isn’t limitless. The bleachers need to be reconstructed, and the other work needs to get done before opening day next year. And it’s foolish to think $25 million for Joe Maddon and hundreds of millions in balllpark construction aren’t related, somehow.

I’m sure that the Ricketts family has some figure in mind for player acquisitions in the offseason. Whether that amount is reduced if Joe Haddon signs on to manage the team is something I’m not privy to. But I do know that money doesn’t grow on trees. Maybe it grows on Jumbotrons, but first they have to be put into place, and that hasn’t happened yet. So let’s just sit the Joe Maddon derby out, shall we?

R. Lincoln Harris is a guest contributor for Wrigleyville Nation. He also writes for BlueBattingHelmet.Wordpress.com, ChicagoSideSports.com, ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com, and FiveWideSports.com. Thanks R. Lincoln for the contribution!