The staff here at TBOH bringing you Philadelphia Phillies coverage year-round was polled for their choices on the biggest awards in Major League Baseball for the 2015 season, and our consensus selection as the National League Manager of the Year was Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon.
Much as with the TBOH staff choice for AL Manager of the Year, A.J. Hinch, Maddon finished as a runner-up in The Sporting News vote to New York Mets manager Terry Collins, who received the support of two of the TBOH voters. Maddon received the votes of our other four staffers.
A native of Hazleton, Pennsylvania about 100 miles and a two-hour drive northwest of Philadelphia, Maddon is a graduate of Lafayette College. He first entered professional baseball in 1975 when he signed as a catcher with the California (now Los Angeles) Angels.
He was never able to advance beyond four seasons in A ball before retiring as a player, after which he went to work in for the Angels organization. He held various roles there for more than three decades, including as a scout, hitting instructor, and a longtime manager at various levels.
In 1994, Maddon was finally called to the big leagues, and over the next 12 seasons would serve the big league club in various capacities, including as the first base coach and bench coach. Three different times, Maddon was given the shot as interim manager, including during a suspension of Collins in 1998 and on his departure in 1999.
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In 2000, Maddon finally settled in as the bench coach under Mike Scioscia, and was his primary aid as the Angels won the 2002 World Series. By that point, Maddon was one of the most respected assistants in the game, and a perennial managerial candidate.
The Tampa Bay Rays would finally give him the chance to run a team as the top field general, hiring Maddon as their manager in November of 2005. He helped a young team, not unlike his current Cubs squad, develop and emerge as a contender in the tough AL East division.
The Rays won the 2008 AL East crown under Maddon’s guidance, defeated the rival Boston Red Sox in a dramatic, hard-fought ALCS, and advanced into the franchise’ only ever World Series appearance. There they lost to a powerful Phillies squad in five games, four of which were close affairs that could have gone either way.
For that performance, Maddon won the AL Manager of the Year Award, and was selected as the Chuck Tanner Major League Manager of the Year as well. Over the next five years, Maddon would lead the Rays to more than 90 wins on four occasions, and to the postseason another three times, but they would not return to the World Series.
In the 2014 season, the Rays suffered a number of key injuries, lost ace David Price to a trade deadline deal, and finished with their only losing season under Maddon’s stewardship. GM Andrew Friedman left for a job with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that activated an opt-out close in Maddon’s contract, which he chose to exercise despite Tampa’s strong efforts to keep him.
In less than a month, during which there were repeated hot rumors of it happening, Maddon was hired as the Cubs manager. He would guide the club to 97 wins, their most since 2008, and to the playoffs for the first time since that same season. During the year, Maddon registered his 800th managerial win in the big leagues.
In the playoffs, the Cubs shut the Pittsburgh Pirates out in the NL Wildcard Game behind a dominating performance by ace Jake Arrieta. Then after losing the opener of the NLDS against their arch-rivals, the Saint Louis Cardinals, the Cubs stormed back to win four straight and take the series over the NL Central champs.
That series victory moved Chicago into the NLCS, where they would be dispatched in a four-game sweep at the hands of Collins’ New York Mets. Of course, Phillies fans remember Maddon well from that 2008 World Series victory over the Rays, and Tampa was a frequent opponent in both spring training and during the regular season during his run with the team.
Despite the fact that the Cubs were a 97-win playoff team and the Phils had the worst record in Major League Baseball, it was those Phillies coming out on the winning end of the season series, taking five of seven games over Chicago, including Cole Hamels‘ swan song no-hitter in late July.
With young studs such as our TBOH NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, 1st baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Jorge Soler, powerful Kyle Schwarber, and an aggressive front office led by Theo Epstein, the Cubs should remain a strong contender under Maddon for years to come.
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