While the Cubs all have been able to enjoy satisfying their long quest for a championship for the last 2 1/2 months, manager Joe Maddon still is being questioned about the controversial moves he made in Games 6 and 7 of the World Series.
Maddon has explained himself over and over again and said he finds the second-guessing "humorous."
But you have to wonder if deep down inside it bothers him. After all, everyone else gets credit for winning the Series, while Maddon still has to hear about nearly blowing it.
"I think it's unfair to Joe," Anthony Rizzo said Friday before the start of the Cubs Convention. "What he has created in our entire organization, he's the best Chicago manager ever, and he has averaged 100 wins the last two years. He brought a culture to this part of the city that everyone has bought into. The fans have pretty much completely shifted (from thinking the worst) now, especially after we won the World Series.
"For people to try to second-guess something he did, even though we won, you kind of just laugh at it. We ride and die on his every move, and he's the ultimate captain of our ship. Without him and the tone he sets, none of us would be doing what we do."
Maddon's moves, particularly after Aroldis Chapman blew a three-run lead in Game 7, were easy to pick apart. And many people did. Perhaps the harshest criticism came from Giants analyst Mike Krukow, who called Maddon "arrogant" the next day on San Francisco's KNBR-AM 680.
"The Cubs won this thing despite overmanaging from Joe Maddon," Krukow said. "It was awful. It was awful. It was the arrogance that he was trying to put his signature on what was going to happen."
Krukow pointed to the Game 7 decision to take out Kyle Hendricks for Jon Lester, then inserting a "tired" Chapman for Lester and having Javier Baez attempt to bunt on a 3-2 pitch.
Photos from Game 7 of the World Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland on Nov. 2, 2016.
"You're going to be smarter than the game?" Krukow asked facetiously. "I was so outraged at what I was watching. … Look, he has done a great job, granted. I mean, come on. He has done a great job. He was the guy who kept them going down three games to one. … But at some point in time, you cannot be arrogant enough to think you have to put your signature on the game.
"And to me, that's what he was doing. It didn't make sense. He was not reading the room. He was not managing this game as it should have been managed. I just wanted to slap the guy. As it turned out, they won despite him, despite his overmanaging. And it'll be forgotten by a lot of people, but it won't be forgotten by me and a lot of people."
We'll find out when the season begins. But Hendricks said Friday that taking him out was an easy decision. Some believe the plate umpire robbed Hendricks on a 2-2 changeup to Carlos Santana. A called strike would have gotten him out of the inning. He didn't get the call, and then he walked Santana, leading Maddon to call on Lester.
Hendricks said the changeup was a bad pitch and that Santana "might have hit it a long way" if he would have swung.
"You have a Game 7, and you have Jon Lester ready and Chapman coming out of the bullpen," he said. "If you can get four innings out of me, that's the game these days. That's just how it works. I'm a competitor, but in the scope of the game, that's the right move because you have those guys behind me. … If I would've been left in and given it up, people would've criticized him for that. Winning the game was all that mattered."
Cubs fans are forgiving, and though many questioned the moves themselves, they weren't going to turn on him like Red Sox fans did to manager Grady Little in the 2003 American League Championship Series. Little was vilified after leaving in starter Pedro Martinez late in Game 7. When Martinez gave it up, the Red Sox lost and then-general manager Theo Epstein fired Little after the season.
Maddon won, so he was able to celebrate his championship despite the critics. But then Chapman signed with the Yankees and told the media in New York that Maddon was "wrong" in how he handled him.
"He abused me a bit on how much he made me pitch, and sometimes he made me pitch when I didn't need to pitch," he said.
Photos of former Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman later added, "Thank God I was able to do the job," though he gave up an RBI double to Brandon Guyer and a game-tying two-run homer to Rajai Davis.
I asked pitching coach Chris Bosio if he was disappointed to hear Chapman throw Maddon under the bus.
"No, because there are always going to be little things that come out," Bosio said. "You just take it with a grain of salt. 'Chappie' is a warrior. He did everything for us, worked his tail off and is a big part of what we accomplished. Everyone had to man up, up and down the roster. The bottom line is we got it done. You can't fault anybody or pick anybody apart when you win it all, especially with what we had to overcome."
Maddon will survive, but whether the criticism will leave scars remains to be seen. Epstein agreed Maddon has taken an undue amount of heat considering how the World Series turned out.
"A little bit," Epstein said. "Listen, the great part about the game is everyone manages along with the manager, (and) second-guesses. Everyone 'GMs' along with the GM and second-guesses. Ultimately, you do a great job and win. That speaks for itself. He has the ultimate defense.
"No one is perfect. I've messed a lot of things up. Our players mess up from time to time. A manager is not going to get everything right, or certainly is not going to make decisions that please everyone all the time.
"But in a great organization, people pick each other up to get to the point where you can win. That's what we did. The players have picked me up a lot over the years when we haven't gotten things right, and the whole postseason everyone was picking each other up. What matters is where we got in the end."
Photos from the 2017 Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.
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