Joe Maddon showed how important it is to a baseball team to have a good manager. Maddon is an excellent in-game manager that makes the right calls more often than not. And he has also learned over the years how to manage people, lead a group of players and turn individuals into a team.
Maddon and his coaching staff transformed the Cubs from a last place team that did not know how to win games to a team full of confidence that accepted and embraced the ‘We Are Good’ mantra and rode it all the way to the NLCS.
The Cubs improved in the win-loss column by 24 games from the year before, finished with the third best record in all of baseball and won 101 games between the regular season and playoffs, a total that was unthinkable a year ago. And the season that was likely would not have happened with anyone else at the helm.
For the first time, ESPN asked a group of the network’s MLB experts to pick a person of the year in Major League Baseball. ESPN wanted “each voter to rank their top 10 based on two questions: Who defined baseball in 2015? When you think of 2015, who is the person you think of?” And Maddon finished just behind National League MVP Bryce Harper in the voting.
Jake Arrieta, AL MVP Josh Donaldson and Royals’ GM Dayton Moore rounded out the top five.
Maddon preached ‘Do Simple Better’ throughout the season and kept the players at ease, a point Mike Borzello made to Buster Olney when he talked about the impact Maddon had on the Cubs.
“By putting the players at ease, Borzello thought, by relaxing them and reducing the busy work a lot of teams tend to do over the course of a long season, Maddon was able to reduce the physical and emotional pressure the players put on themselves,” Olney explained. Borzello, who was a bullpen catcher for the Yankees during Joe Torre’s time in the Bronx, compared Maddon to “a combination of Torre and Phil Jackson because of how he affected the players.”
Joe Maddon stayed positive and did not waiver throughout the season. He had “the same smile and seemingly the same cheery confidence” after the Cubs season came to an end as he did in March during Spring Training according to Olney.
Christina Kahrl stated the case for Jake Arrieta to be ESPN’s MLB Person of the Year. Arrieta was third in the voting behind his skipper. Arrieta pitched better in the second half of the season than any other pitcher in big league history had done before him.
“Perhaps no player did a better job of capturing that sense of magic by redefining himself in the last year than Jake Arrieta did,” Kahrl explained. “As the Cubs motored to an unexpected and exciting run to the post-season as part of their great reboot and rebuild, Arrieta was the ace who provided them with a sure thing down the stretch, posting the best second half on the mound in the history of the game.”
The Cubs will start leaning on Joe Maddon again and asking for a repeat performance from Jake Arrieta in a few weeks. For now, Maddon and Arrieta earned the votes they received for the impact they had on the Cubs’ magical season and for the mark they left on the game in 2015.