Joe Maddon has seen the handwriting on the wall for some time now. Short of winning another World Series, his time in Chicago was destined to come to an inglorious end, which is a hell of a thing to say three years removed from the biggest storybook run in professional sports history.
The Cubs' recent collapse has come with sides of nostalgia for better times and a bittersweet atmosphere. Maddon led them to the promised land and is now going to get the ax, a byproduct of his ability to fundamentally change what the franchise is-- one that now acts punitively for failing to win multiple crowns.
Maddon, a thoughtful and curious leader of sports men, has been reflective. His quest to find answers brought him to an interesting place. A place sort of odd on its face, but worth exploring.
What if, and he was just spitballing, his team had spent more time drinking beer together instead of gaming separately?
"If you want to look into it any more deeply, it may have to do with behavior before the game, what you do,” he said. “I’m not accusing them of going out at night, because I wish they would. That’s the one part of this game we’re missing is that guys don’t go out and have a beer and talk about stuff."
“That’s not (being) old school or anything. That’s just social. Everybody is more (comfortable) wanting to stay in their room and play video games. Part of it is just not to expose them to social media and the weirdness of the world outside of their room. That’s just us. I know there are other good teams that have had great road records at night. I get that."
Look, the first reaction here is say no way. But as much as I like to lampoon coaches for their stuck-in-the-dark-ages opinions, Maddon knows what he's talking about. Anyone who downplays chemistry in a locker room is not a serious person. It's not everything, but it's definitely something.
Just recently, The Athletic Chicago did an excellent piece on the 2009-10 Blackhawks who, essentially, partied their asses off en route to winning a Stanley Cup. That team was close, fed off each other, and had shared fun en route to the ultimate prize.
Maddon understands that type of situation doesn't grow on trees.
“But every team has a different personality. And I’d just love (if) our guys interacted a little bit more away from the hotel at night.”
Maddon mentioned former Cubs John Lackey, David Ross, and Miguel Montero, who all were known to enjoy a cold beverage after games.
“I’m just grasping," he said. “I don’t know if that’s the reason.”
The most likely explanation for these comments is that Maddon was just riffing. But follow me down my own personal pet rabbit hole. What if he's suggesting the next manager should be a players-first guy who inspires a tight-knit personal roster?
There's a glue guy who was particularly adept at that during 2016. He's currently in ESPN's broadcast booth. What if, and this is based on nothing, Maddon and David Ross were to switch jobs next year?
That'd be something. The kind of shocking turn you need to wash down with an ice-cold beer.