Cubs fire Joe Maddon? If they do, they’ll simply be making him their scapegoat


It’s time, isn’t it?

Time for the Cubs to show us what they’re made of, for better or worse.

Time for their star players to act the part or curl up into the fetal position.

Time for the team’s “October begins in March” rallying cry to be tweaked to “Any chance October will begin a few days early?”

Time for all involved to rise like champions or sink into the abyss.

Oh, and another thing: It’s time for Theo Epstein, and anyone else who might have a say in Joe Maddon’s managerial future with the Cubs, to get a grip.

I’m going to break out the S-word here. Yes, I realize it’s a family newspaper, but circumstances demand it. So here it is:

Scapegoat.

That’s what Maddon will be if he’s fired at the end of his fifth season.

Is Maddon, the most successful manager in Cubs history, in his 11th hour with the North Siders? Has his particular brand of winning every year run its course? Has the culture he created — involving such concepts as treating players well and having their enduring respect in return — become antiquated?

The 2019 Cubs are an imperfect lot, to say the least. Is Maddon to blame? Or is it the front office that has committed a fortune to free agents who’ve done little or nothing to raise the bar on the field? Is it a family of owners who’ve all but publicly pulled lint out of their pockets despite ever-increasing revenues? Is it a farm system that has failed — in eight years of the Epstein regime — to develop a single pitcher who has spent a full season on the roster or delivered a playoff pitch?

Fans can whine about Maddon all they want. Members of the media can share all the strange, middle-of-the-night videos of themselves tearing into Maddon that they want. Has anyone bothered to think about who the next manager should be? Is there really any reason to think someone else is better prepared for this complicated Cubs job moving forward?

I’m still waiting for the first convincing argument, and don’t give me that nonsense about the way he handles his bullpen. Five years in, the pitchfork-wielding “Joe must go” mob can’t decide whether Maddon has too itchy a trigger finger with relievers or sticks with them too long. Meanwhile, the reality is there isn’t a manager, pitching coach, self-help guru or Talmudic scholar alive who could make sense of this ragtag Cubs ’pen.

The mob isn’t changing reality one bit. Here’s a dose of the real stuff for you: Maddon’s résumé puts those of damn near every other manager in Cubs history to abject shame.

Are the Cubs really going to fire — make that scapegoat — this guy?

Just take a step back and drink in the absurdity of it.

JUST SAYIN’

Congrats to the 2019 NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals.

What, too soon?

Yes, the Cubs technically still have a chance to catch St. Louis, which they trailed by four games entering play Wednesday. In theory, the seven head-to-head games between the teams represent a giant opportunity for Maddon’s team.

But what more do the Cardinals have to do to convince people it’s their year? They’ve won nearly two-thirds of their games since the end of June. They’re in a 23-8 sprint, with a league-low 2.87 ERA in that span and showing no signs of slowing down.

Did you know Mike Schildt, who replaced the fired Mike Matheny heading into the 2018 All-Star break, has the best winning percentage of any NL manager over the last two second halves?

It’s pretty much wild card or bust around here.

• I can’t be the only one who sees 22-year-old Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner’s face and wants to tell him: “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.”

Sorry, kids. It’s an ’80s reference.

• Speaking of Hoerner, what happens to injured Javy Baez now that he’s been Wally Pipp-ed?

• No, I still don’t understand why the Bears passed on Deshaun Watson and drafted Mitch Trubisky instead in 2017. What was it, exactly, about the way Watson carried Clemson to the national title, beating Alabama by himself in the finale and putting his clutch gene on monumental display, that soured the Bears on him?

A total puzzler.

Yeah, yeah — Patrick Mahomes. Of course we’d all rather have him. But that’s too easy.

• Bears 24, Broncos 3. And everyone will feel better … for one week, anyway.

• Northwestern-UNLV vs. Illinois-Eastern Michigan.

Winner meets either watching paint dry or rearranging your sock drawer.

Discuss.