Phone calls between my father and I tend to be long and meandering. We talk weekly, more or less, touching on the same topics over and over: family, work, our favorite sports teams, a funny old story or two, and inevitably, back to sports—specifically, Joe Maddon and how overrated he is.
It's doesn't matter whether it's baseball season or not. It's like a roast but without the "Aw, shucks you know I love your work" thing at the end. We do not love his work. Talking shit about a baseball manager is not your typical family hobby but it's ours and it's way better than talking about politics.
Maddon winning a World Series with the Cubs could have been our Altamont. The end of an era of good (bad) vibes and loving (hateful) feelings. Luckily, we don't work that way. To my dad, the Cubs winning the World Series actually PROVED Maddon was overrated. He just lucked into having Theo Epstein for a boss. And so, the events of this year's NLCS have been a vindication. Thanks to Dave Roberts' excellent decision making and Maddon's petulance, people are finally seeing what we are seeing. Not everyone is tweeting for Joe Maddon to be put in a Supermax prison like I once did, but people are taking shots!
Maddon came into the series with a host of excuses at the ready. Pre-preparing your excuses is a prudent move when you're playing the team with the best record in baseball and you're also a narcissist. He came into Game 1 repeating that the long overnight flight from Washington wasn't "a big deal." Which must have been why he kept bringing it up. After the game he chose to die on the decidedly retrograde hill that catchers should still be allowed to block the plate. He did this to complain about a single run in a game that the Cubs lost by 3. He compared the play at the plate to Chicago's recently scuttled soda tax. He did it while dressed like he was trying to fit in at a scandalously younger girlfriend's gallery opening.
When he got badgered about bringing in John Lackey to give up a walkoff tater tot to Justin Turner in Game 2 he responded thusly:
"Whatever the narrative is, it's really a false narrative. (Davis) was not coming into that game until we grabbed the lead," Maddon said. "He was not going to pitch more than three outs. That's it."
He was concerned about preserving Davis' arm. Okay. That's the reason he made the wrong decision. But the thing is, that is a bad reason. And it was a bad decision. When something goes wrong, Joe Maddon wants us to squint to see the rope burns from where his hands were tied. Look at these quotes!
On being second guessed for decisions in last year's Game 7 WS victory:
"The second-guessing component, to me, is part of the game. And I do embrace it. I kind of enjoy it,"
On the Lackey decision in Game 2:
"Twitter doesn't count at all," Maddon said. "And really, as sportswriters, you should do a better job than relying on Twitter to write a story, quite frankly."
What a fraud. It was extremely gratifying to watch Dave Roberts make distinct managerial decisions that paid off in Game 3. Leaving Yu Darvish to hit with the bases loaded and drawing a walk was great. I even liked him emptying out his bullpen to nail down the 5 run win, if only for the subtextual shade it threw at Maddon's Game 2 oopsie.
Cubs fans are already restless. They tried a new drug and that drug was really good. But everybody knows the high can't last forever. Turning on a manager one season after a title might not be the most prudent thing, but it would be a pretty Cubs thing. And after spending a hundred years as an avatar for losing, Cubs fans would likely do anything (or demand anything) to avoid going back to that sad cursed place.
By all accounts, Maddon does good things with his money and his time in the offseason. I'm certainly not gonna slag him about that. If the Cubs get swept tonight (and let's draw a huge red line under that if, this is the Postseason Dodgers after all) he'll have a lot of questions to answer over the winter as well. At least we already know the answer to every one will be "It wasn't my fault, I HAVE A DENIM JACKET."