TORONTO — Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis had surgery on his left shoulder and will be sidelined 16 to 20 weeks.
Toronto said Travis was operated on Tuesday to treat a condition in which one of the four growth plates of the acromion bone, which extends over the shoulder joint, fails to fuse and causes an extra bone. The condition was discovered when Travis was placed on the disabled list this season with shoulder inflammation. Toronto said the condition, known as os acromiale, did not contribute to the injury.
The procedure included inserting screws to stabilize the extra bone in his shoulder.
Travis was placed on the disabled list twice in 2015 with left shoulder inflammation and didn’t play after July 28. He had exploratory surgery on Sept. 23, and the team said at the time that nothing significant was discovered.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 17, 2015
Rosenthal said it wasn’t an unreasonable request. Well …
Pollock 2015 WAR: 7.4
Miller 2015 WAR: 3.6
Pollock 2014 WAR: 3.9
Miller 2014 WAR: 1.6
Pollack 2013 WAR: 3.5
Miller 2013 WAR: 3.4
So actually .. yes, it kind of was a little silly. If the proposal did happen, it shouldn’t have taken the Diamondbacks more than a few seconds to hang up. Pollock is the much better player. Both have three years remaining of team control, so that wasn’t a factor. The Diamondbacks do need starting pitching, but Pollock has become one of the best all-around players in the game; he was just as good in 2014 but he was injured and played 75 games, so we didn’t realize he’d had a breakout season a year ago.
Maybe you don’t believe the power spike in 2015 was real, except he’s slugged .498 each of the past two seasons. Maybe you think his Gold Glove was a fluke, except his defensive metrics have been excellent in all three of his seasons in the majors. Maybe it 2015 will be his peak season, but he should remain excellent for several years. He’s increased his walk rate while cutting his strikeout rate. He catches the ball. He has pop, with 65 extra-base hits. He’s absolutely for real.
Miller is a nice pitcher. But there a lot of nice starting pitchers these days. Among qualified National League starters, Miller ranked 12th in ERA, eighth in innings, 15th in batting average allowed, 35th in walk rate and 29th in strikeout rate. He’s been durable in his three seasons, is still young and give him credit for remaining mentally strong even though he received such little run support that he went through a 24-start winless streak before finally winning his final start. Don’t get me wrong: I like Miller.
Anyway, the trade proposal points to something else: The Braves realize that maybe you actually do need to field a lineup with eight position players. And also that they’re not necessarily planning the next potential Braves playoff rotation to be constructed around Miller. They’ve built a stockpile of pitching prospects, but because the team is unlikely to be competitive until at least 2018, if you do trade Miller, wouldn’t you want to trade him for players with more years of team control?
The Braves have already traded Andrelton Simmons. They could be trading Freddie Freeman — as Buster Olney wrote today, “The Houston Astros have been digging into the market for first basemen, and have checked in with the Braves on the availability” of Freeman. Heck, they might as well start shopping Nick Markakis as well.
All the better to ensure that No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
The trade: The Tigers acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez and a player to be named later from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for minor league second baseman Javier Betancourt and a player to be named later.
The reason: Detroit is a club that has been aggressive in scouring the market for cost-effective pitching — players who can help round out the starting rotation and bolster a suspect bullpen. Among the most pressing needs for the team heading into free agency was adding a bona fide closer, especially with the lack of strong internal candidates to fulfill the role (Remember the abrupt dismissal of Bruce Rondon, anyone?). The Tigers expressed interest in former closer Joakim Soria — though a source confirmed to ESPN.com that a formal offer was never made — but then opted to address the void via trade instead.
The impact: K-Rod, 33, might not be the best closer available — especially with an increasingly robust market developing since last week’s GMs meetings — but he remains a reliable option to lock down the ninth inning. Though there are two pieces in the deal that have yet to be determined, one MLB scout told ESPN.com he really liked the return for the Tigers, considering they’ll get a proven closer for a minor-league second baseman. There are also some who believe Rodriguez has had a renaissance of sorts in Milwaukee. Yes, his fastball velocity has dipped, but he has relied much more on his changeup recently — according to Fangraphs, he threw it 42.6 percent of the time — and has found that to be effective. From a cost perspective, he’ll come cheaper than other closing options — he is slated to make $5.5 million next year with a 2017 option and $4 million buyout — which is essential considering the Tigers still need to add starting pitching and potentially a left fielder in free agency.
After seeing shortstop Brandon Crawford deliver a career year at the plate and in the field in 2015, you can’t be too surprised that the San Francisco Giants decided to strike early and circumvent arbitration by giving him a multi-year contract extension. Sources indicate he’ll be sticking around for $75 million in the next six seasons. But you also might be asking whether they went too far.
Let’s start with the big question: Did the Giants pay too much for a player coming off a big season, or did they wisely invest in a guy coming into his own?
Crawford’s power spike in 2015 may seem unusual, with his ratio of home runs to fly balls more than doubling from his previous career rate of 4.4 percent to 11.1 percent. That fueled him more than doubling his previous career high in homers, with 21 last year after 10 in 2014. However, players are supposed to peak in their late 20s. Crawford’s power numbers have gone up every year he has been in the league, and his 2015 season was not simply a big first half with 12 first-half homers — his Isolated slugging percentage after the All-Star break was actually higher, going up to .208 from .203. Another positive indicator was his career-low rate of infield fly balls, which he cut in half to seven percent from the 14 percent clip he had in the first half.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Crawford’s improvements have mostly been about increasing his performance on hammering hard stuff; his OPS against fastballs of every stripe went up to .887 in 2015, after a previous career rate of .766. Against breaking stuff, he continued to struggle, only improving to a .559 OPS from .523. But to his credit, Crawford has struck a better balance at the plate. He offered on the first pitch more often, swinging on a career-high 41.7 percent of first pitches, belting six homers and delivering an OPS of 1.151. Simultaneously he worked deeper into the count by seeing a career-best 3.87 pitches per plate appearance, hurting people late as well as early and helping himself get the fastballs he can hammer.
Is all of that merely a function of luck on contact and numbers-related noise, or a function of better execution from a fly-ball hitter who, earlier in his career, was more passive at the plate? Having seen Crawford’s consistent improvement, the Giants have obviously placed their bet.
Second, Crawford is a premium defender at shortstop whose improving defense generally has tracked with his offensive improvements, leading to a career-best 20 Defensive Runs Saved and a Gold Glove in 2015 (pulling off the near-impossible feat of besting Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons).
When you consider who might have been available in 2017 and beyond, you’re not going to find a guy who can do those things. Given that Crawford is a Californian, a guy who grew up in the area and went to UCLA, if anything he was perhaps ready and willing to strike a deal quickly, carrying him not just beyond 10-and-5 status with the team but reportedly providing him with full no-trade coverage in the meantime. That sounds like a guy motivated to stay home, and a club sensibly appreciating what they have as well.
Perhaps the other key element to keep in mind is that Crawford wasn’t the only core player on the Giants headed for arbitration and committed for just two more years before hitting free agency. First baseman Brandon Belt is more than a year younger than Crawford, and is coming off a year in which he set career highs in homers and walks. On the negative side, Belt saw his season end early with a new concussion to add to the post-concussion symptoms that hampered him in the second half of 2014, and he also needed knee surgery to boot. Whether or not the Giants identify Belt as a reliable fourth building block alongside Crawford, catcher Buster Posey (committed through 2021) and ace lefty Madison Bumgarner (through 2019) remains to be seen, but he may be their next major action item before hitting the market to shop for the starting pitching they’re expected to make a priority this winter.
Would all of that price the Giants out of getting the two free-agent starters they may need to return to the postseason? Crawford’s deal is back-loaded at $15 million in the last four years (the years he’d have been earning money via free agency), which means that its impact on the Giants’ hot stove shopping will be relatively slight the next two years. If Belt were amenable to a similar set-up, Giants execs Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans would be that much better set up to spend their winter hunting for the arms — and a center fielder to replace Angel Pagan — they need to win now and over the life of their commitments to their Core Four of Bumgarner, Posey, Crawford and Belt.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.
NEW YORK — Major League Baseball’s minimum salary will remain at $507,500 next year because of a lack of inflation.
The sport’s collective bargaining agreement called for a cost-of-living adjustment based on the yearly increase through October of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, rounded to the nearest $500.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Tuesday that measure decreased over 12 months. Baseball’s labor contract said the 2016 minimum cannot be lower than the 2015 figure, and MLB and the players’ association confirmed the amounts Wednesday.
The minor league minimum for a player signing a second major league contract remains $82,700 and the minor league minimum for a player signing an initial big league contract stays at $41,400.
In a video posted on The Players’ Tribune website on the same day he celebrated his 40th birthday, Ortiz said he felt it was time to experience the next chapter of his life.
2016 will be my final season. Thanks for all the memories https://t.co/RhJHcu4bKw
— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) November 18, 2015
“I would like people to remember me as a guy that was just part of the family, you know, a guy that was trying to do the best, not just on the field but with everyone around him,” Ortiz said. “Baseball is not just based on putting up numbers. This is our second family. Whoever is around you on a daily basis is like a second family, and I always had good thoughts for everyone around me. Baseball, besides God, it just helped flip my whole life over, not just mine, my whole family, you know what I’m saying, because I see how people struggle out there. I struggled before and I know how hard it is to make it to the top. It’s something you’ve got to thank God every day for.”
Ortiz’s plans were first reported by Fox Sports on Tuesday.
Ortiz, a nine-time All-Star and a six-time Silver Slugger Award winner, finished last season with a .273 average, 108 RBIs and 37 home runs — his most for a season since 2006 when he set the team record with 54 homers.
He has hit 503 homers in his career, including 445 during his 13 seasons with the Red Sox, the third-most in franchise history behind Ted Williams (521) and Carl Yastrzemski (452). He ranks 27th on the all-time home run list, just one away from tying Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.
Only 10 position players in Red Sox history have played past their 40th birthday, and only three have played in as many as 100 games past that age: Carl Yastrzemski, who played 446 games; Ted Williams, 216; and Bing Miller, 109.
“I’m really proud of what I had accomplished through the years,” Ortiz said. “I’m very thankful for having fans like you guys who have supported me through my career. I wish I could play another 40 years to have you guys behind me, but it doesn’t work that way.”
Primarily a designated hitter in his career, the debate going forward will be whether Ortiz’s numbers are worthy of Cooperstown. He has the most career home runs as a DH with 447 — well ahead of Hall of Famer Frank Thomas (269), who ranks second on that list, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
His ranking in Red Sox lore, meanwhile, never will be questioned.
After playing six semi-productive seasons with the Twins, who released him after the 2002 season, Ortiz came to Boston as an unknown platoon first baseman, found a spot at designated hitter and emerged as one of the best sluggers in baseball history.
Affectionately known as “Big Papi,” Ortiz led the Red Sox to three World Series championships in 2004, ’07 and ’13. He’s starred in October, owning the best World Series batting average (.455), on-base percentage (.576) and slugging percentage (.795) for players in the Fall Classic (minimum 50 plate appearances). He was named MVP of the 2013 World Series.
“It is difficult to adequately convey what David Ortiz has meant to the Boston Red Sox,” owner John Henry said in a statement. “For his teammates, he has been the one constant force underpinning what it means to play for this organization and making it fun. For the fans, he has been the one consistent force behind three world championships, lifting all of us on his broad shoulders exactly when we needed it. For the community, he has been the hero providing leadership off the field in ways that consistently make a difference often completely unseen. And for those of us who have had the honor of knowing him all these years, he has been exactly what you hope to see in a man who has been the face of this organization.
“As he concludes his illustrious career in this, his final season, we look forward to joining everyone in the game of baseball in showing him just how much Big Papi has meant to all of us.”
Another New England great, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, said Ortiz will be missed.
“He’s given all of our fans so much reason to cheer,” Brady said. “He’s been an incredible player. It’ll be sad to see him go. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and the way that he’s always brought a great leadership to his team. He’s been a great example.”
The Red Sox will be looking to rebound in 2016 after finishing last in the AL East with a 78-84 record this past season.
“After next year, time is up. So let’s enjoy next season,” Ortiz said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Joe Maddon came to Chicago last year and promised everyone a shot and a beer, but he didn’t mention the party that would rage until the third week of October.
It can be difficult to truly gauge a manager’s impact on a winning team. But in the case of Maddon and the 2015 Cubs, it’s pretty easy. After a 97-win dream season that aroused old World Series dreams, Maddon earned his National League Manager of the Year, which was officially awarded Tuesday.
With some help, Maddon created a winning atmosphere in what had been a losing clubhouse. He mixed and matched his lineups, worked in tandem with his talented coaches, whom he praised at every opportunity because they often worked in his considerable shadow, and deftly served as the voice of a team working in cramped confines. His staff taught from spring training until the National League Championship Series and you could see the results.
Managing the Cubs, as Lou Piniella once said, isn’t a push-button operation. It’s not a one-man job either, but the manager is the face of the team and Maddon’s chunky black glasses and John Slattery hair were a welcome visage every day.
I can’t profess to understand everything a manager does, but I remember realizing how good Piniella was at this job late in the 2007 season, the year before he won the manager of the year award. The Cubs were a middling team until, all of a sudden, they weren’t. They clicked late and won the NL Central with 85 wins.
Maddon’s Cubs were just hanging around the wild-card race when August hit and they took off for an epic two-month stretch. To me, that’s the sign of a good manager, when everything comes together late and your team looks unbeatable as fall ball beckons.
The 2015 season is just a memory now, ending in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Mets. Maddon is an enjoy-the-journey type of thinker, and so am I. This Cubs season was heaven-sent for fans who were studying Baseball America prospect lists with Talmudic intensity in the past few years.
But now comes the hard part. I used to say that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau earned his coach of the year award in his second season when the lockout robbed the Bulls of a training camp, but the team still had the best record in the Eastern Conference because of the foundation he built.
Thibodeau’s Bulls never reached the heights of that first season for obvious reasons. Derrick Rose‘s knee injuries robbed them of a chance at greatness and now they’re trying again with a new coach in Fred Hoiberg.
Maddon’s Cubs have the future in front of them and seemingly a floor-to-ceiling window of contention. Kris Bryant was just named the NL Rookie of the Year and the latest Bill James projections of his 2016 stats were so complex you need an advanced degree from MIT to make sense of them.
But here’s the thing: The Cubs will be hard-pressed to match last year’s run and everyone knows it.
“I think we were pretty confident that we were going to get there, that we’re going to have a real core and sustainable success,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said to me in Milwaukee on the last day of the regular season. “But we didn’t know when. This was honestly the best-case scenario in terms of the timetable.”
Not only do a lot of things have to go right — like say, Jake Arrieta’s Cy Young season (I’m guessing he wins it Wednesday) and the energizing call-up of Kyle Schwarber — but the Cubs need help in the outfield and starting rotation. Bullpens are always mercurial from year to year. The Cubs had very few injuries in 2015.
Epstein has money to add talent, but not a blank check. Fan expectations will outstrip any internal projections. Wrigley Field gets very, very confined, and not so friendly, when fans expect a Cubs team to be great and it doesn’t happen.
But if any guy can handle the circus, it’s Maddon. We can scoff at the magic shows and traveling zoo exhibits, but what that does is allow players to clear their minds, if only for a half hour or an hour. A great manager knows how to communicate with his players, and it’s not always with words. He is a perfect blend of poet and scientist. Maddon was more prone to talk about baseball magic around reporters, but he’s also an information junkie. The perfect manager today can’t be all heart or all brain. He has to be both, and Maddon is.
With better talent, the Cubs improved by 24 wins from 2014 to 2015 and won a playoff game (four, in fact) for the first time in three playoff trips since 2003. And, yes, talent trumps any manager’s impact. As another Chicago manager of the year, Ozzie Guillen, liked to say, good players make a good manager. So how many of those wins belong to Maddon? Someone smarter than me could probably come close to figuring it out, but what’s the point?
“Sometimes, I think in today’s day and age, we try to quantify too many things instead of just appreciating the essence of them,” Epstein said when Maddon was introduced as manager at the Cubby Bear in November 2014. “What does it mean to have a dynamic manager? I think it means you have the potential to have an edge in everything related to the events on the field. … It’s hard to quantify. How often does it show up? There are some games it never shows up. In other ways, it shows up every single game. It’s really a hard thing to quantify.”
Hard to quantify, but easy to embrace.
Major League Baseball announced its manager of the year winners on Tuesday, rewarding a pair of managers whose teams made major improvements in 2015.
AL manager of the year: Jeff Banister
Jeff Banister is the third Rangers manager to win the award, the first since Buck Showalter in 2004. The other was Johnny Oates, who shared the award with Joe Torre in 1996.
The Rangers were 43-49 and nine games out of first place on July 20 but went 45-25 the rest of the season to edge the Astros out for the AL West title.
Among the improvements under Banister were differences in run creation and run prevention:
The Rangers went from 10th in the American League in runs scored in 2014 to third in the league in runs scored in 2015. The team’s OPS also improved from .689 to .739.
The Rangers finished with minus-32 defensive runs saved in 2014. They improved to 13 runs saved in 2015.
Banister is the first rookie manager to win the award in the American League. It’s the second straight year a rookie manager won, but last year’s NL winner, Matt Williams, was let go after his second season with the Nationals.
NL manager of the year: Joe Maddon
Maddon is the seventh manager to win three manager of the year awards and the seventh to win one in each league. He’s the fourth Cubs manager to win, joining Jim Frey (1984), Don Zimmer (1989) and Lou Piniella (2008).
Maddon skippered a team with a lot of young talent, including NL rookie of the year Kris Bryant, to the postseason by way of the second wild-card spot. It’s the first Cubs postseason berth since 2008.
The Cubs finished with 73 wins in 2014 but matched that total by Aug. 25. Maddon’s philosophy was “Respect 90.” “Respect the 90 feet between the bases, and the respect will come back to you.” In terms of executing that, the Cubs improved their stolen-base total by 30 (from 65 to 95) while reducing their times caught stealing by three (from 40 to 37).
They led the NL in walks, which allowed them to finish fifth in the league in on-base percentage despite ranking 13th in batting average. The Cubs went from 12th to sixth in runs scored from 2014 to 2015 and from 13th to third in ERA.
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Maddon is the 12th manager to win manager of the year in his first season with a team but only the second to do so after managing a different team the season before. The other was Torre with the Yankees in 1996.
There are many reasons why Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon won the National League manager of the year award on Tuesday, but one nugget from ESPN Stats and Information sums it up best: The Cubs were the first team to start four position players in their age 23 seasons or younger in a playoff game since the 1966 Baltimore Orioles.
Very young teams simply don’t win often in baseball. The grind is too long and the learning curve too tough, but the young Cubs thrived under Maddon. It was never just about the message he delivered to his team; it was about how he delivered it — right down to the vocabulary he used. He set the tone last November when he was hired by predicting a playoff run in 2015, but even he admitted late in the season that’s just something any manager would declare in the winter. No one knew for sure he could pull it off — not even him. But Maddon has a way about him — a combination of being laid back yet focused. It’s the same attributes he wants from his players. And it helped win them a lot of games.
It starts with a relaxed tone, which benefits young teams in particular. Maddon was fortunate, of course, to have several very mature rookies to work with. He gained their trust and the trust of his veterans quickly, as his reputation from his days in Tampa Bay preceded him. It didn’t hurt that leaders such as David Ross and Jon Lester saw firsthand what Maddon was capable of as they battled the Rays for years while playing for the Boston Red Sox.
“His teams were always ready to play,” Lester said in spring training.
It sounded like a cliché, but it wasn’t. Maddon pushed the envelope with his young team, asking more of them as the season progressed. He kept the Cubs in the race as his rookies learned what it took to succeed — and when they were ready for more the team took off.
His signature moment came when he benched 3-time all-star Starlin Castro. It seemed like an easy decision, but those moves are never as simple as they seem on paper. He was straightforward to Castro and the public, not allowing his words to be spun. When he rightly pulled pitcher Jason Hammel early from several starts he again tested his ‘player’s manager’ label. But they were the right moves and they further earned the trust of the rest of the team. Even in dealing with Lester’s throwing issues to first base, Maddon navigated around the obvious while showing respect to his veteran star.
Over and over again the Cubs manager proved he knew what buttons to push, even when they seemingly weren’t there to be touched. For example, closer Hector Rondon was taken out of his role midseason when Maddon sensed he needed a mental break. When Rondon returned to being a closer he was lights out the rest of the season. Maddon’s innate ability to know what’s best for his team and players before things go bad on him might be his best skill. He avoided some potential pitfalls with an early sense when a change had to be made. How many times do we lament a manager leaving his pitcher in a game too long? For better or worse Maddon was never reactionary.
He also knew his players. Dropping 3-year collegiate players Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber in the middle of the lineup in a pennant race wasn’t an issue, but the younger Addison Russell needed a little more of a softer landing. Batting Russell ninth turned out to be sheer brilliance. It provided the 21-year old with a chance to see better pitches than he would batting in front of the pitcher while keeping pressure to a minimum, as the No. 9 hitter is often overlooked. Slowly but surely Russell improved, looking most comfortable when moved back to shortstop. Russell wasn’t ready for the majors when he came up, but Maddon found a unique way to get the most of out of him. Batting ninth was the best thing for him.
Off the field we all know what Maddon brings to the table, and his philosophies about the game might be a perfect fit for the Cubs. Often seen as the worst team in the league when it comes to their schedule, Maddon did away with normal procedures. The Cubs went nearly a month without taking batting practice at one point. He allowed his team to show up 90 minutes before first pitch several times, which is unheard of. If anyone can overcome the deficiencies of the Cubs’ day-game heavy schedule, it’s Maddon. In fact, he already has overcome them as his team flourished in the dog days of August. They carried that momentum over to September and October and finished the regular season on an 8-game win streak.
Maddon was brilliant down the stretch. He took advantage of a loaded roster by resting his regulars, rotating them in and out of the lineup. When the Cubs got swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS it wasn’t because they were out of gas. He kept a young team fresh and ready for seven months of baseball. They nearly played that long.
Both of the other finalists for the award, Terry Collins of the New York Mets and Mike Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals, did masterful jobs as well this season. But the Cardinals weren’t the first team to overcome injuries, while the Mets got an infusion of talent at the trade deadline in the form of Yoenis Cespedes. Maddon got Tommy Hunter and Dan Haren.
Considering all the elements, from being a first-year skipper in Chicago to managing a very young roster to overseeing a team of extremes — the Cubs struck out the most and walked the most — Maddon navigated through a season in which a .500 record would have been considered successful. The Cubs were much better than that, earning Maddon his first NL manager of the year award in his very first try in the league.
He deserved it.
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon won his third Manager of the Year award after guiding the Cubs to a 97-65 record and a berth in the National League Championship Series.
Maddon, who also won the award in the American League with Tampa Bay in 2008 and 2011, got 18 first-place votes, for 124 points, from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in balloting announced Tuesday.
“It’s really good to know that what you believe in works in other places,” Maddon said during a break from his pizza-and-wine celebration with family and friends. “I didn’t tweak anything. It was the same approach.”
Only Hall of Famers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, each with four, have won the award more than Maddon, who tied Lou Piniella, Buck Showalter, Dusty Baker and Jim Leyland with three.
The Cardinals’ Mike Matheny came in second in this year’s balloting, with nine first-place votes and 87 points, followed by Terry Collins of the Mets, who was listed atop three ballots and had 49 points.
Texas’ Jeff Banister was given the AL honor and became the fifth first-year big league manager to win the award.
Maddon, 61, expertly guided a team loaded with talent but not much experience. After hovering just above .500 for more than half the season, the Cubs took off in August and September, finishing 19-9 each month. Maddon deftly handled the promotions of top picks Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and newly minted rookie of the year Kris Bryant by giving them major responsibilities but keeping the pressure at a minimum and maintaining a relaxed locker room.
The Cubs improved by 24 games over the 2014 season — tops in the majors.
“To be the steward of this wonderful group of young players, I feel very fortunate,” Maddon said on MLB Network.
Some of those players took to Twitter to congratulate Maddon on his honor.
Congratulations skipper! Well deserved, you’ve led us since day one! @CubsJoeMadd
— Anthony Rizzo (@ARizzo44) November 18, 2015
NL Manager of the Year, congrats to @CubsJoeMadd! An absolutely incredible guy to play for!
— Kris Bryant (@KrisBryant_23) November 18, 2015
His best move came in handling All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro, who struggled mightily for most of the season. Castro was benched in favor of the 21-year-old Russell, then moved to second base. Whatever buttons Maddon pushed with Castro worked, as he thrived at the plate and at his new position in the final weeks of the season. The Cubs picked up their play after Maddon’s delicate handling of the situation.
Maddon’s reputation as a players’ manager came with him from Tampa Bay. In Chicago, he instituted pajama night on an overnight flight, brought zoo animals to the ballpark for players’ families and stressed a “less is more” attitude about the game. He often canceled batting practice, citing it as the “most overrated” part of the game.
Maddon set the relaxed tone in spring training but also demanded attention to detail, especially when it came to fundamentals. He famously called out his team after a series of gaffes in the spring. Days later, the Cubs were playing better baseball, which carried over to the regular season.
“Overachieving would indicate that we really did not have that level of talent, and I don’t think that’s true,” Maddon said. “I believe what occurred eventually was that we kind of realized our potential.”
The Cubs finished April four games over .500 but easily could have been four games under, considering Maddon’s unfamiliarity with his bullpen and a lineup that didn’t feature any stud rookies to open the season. That first month set the tone for the whole year and set up Maddon to win Manager of the Year in his first season as a Cub.
Awards week is shaping up as a huge one for the revitalized Cubs. Bryant was voted NL Rookie of the Year on Monday, and ace pitcher Jake Arrieta is one of three finalists for the NL Cy Young Award to be announced Wednesday.
“Obviously, the spotlight is shining from Wrigley Field,” Maddon said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.