Six months after hiring their star manager, the Cubs have finally been cleared in the Joe Maddon tampering case.
The Tampa Bay Rays pushed Major League Baseball to launch the investigation after Maddon used an escape clause in his contract that triggered once executive Andrew Friedman left to run baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers last October.
“I don’t really know why it had to take so long,” Maddon said Wednesday at Wrigley Field. “We’re all glad that’s in the rear-view mirror right now.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred had anticipated a resolution by Opening Day, but there was apparently no smoking gun. Multiple Cubs officials had turned over laptop computers and cell phones to investigators. MLB’s communications department released a two-sentence statement through its official Twitter account:
“Major League Baseball has concluded its tampering investigation regarding Joe Maddon’s departure from the Tampa Bay Rays and his subsequent hiring as manager of the Chicago Cubs. The investigation produced no finding of a violation of Major League Rule 3(k) on Tampering.”
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“I suppose you could say ‘vindication,’ just because it had been a public process,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “But there was never any concern of any wrongdoing, so we did encourage a thorough process, and I’m glad they did that.”
Alan Nero, Maddon’s agent, has an office in downtown Chicago and a history of making creative deals (see the Lou Piniella trade that allowed him to leave the Seattle Mariners and go home to manage the Devil Rays). Nero had repeatedly denied the accusations from a Rays organization that had to be feeling jilted.
During the negotiating window, Maddon actually offered to stay with the Rays for significantly less than what it ultimately cost the Cubs, proposing something in the range of four years and $16 million total.
Theo Epstein didn’t hesitate once Maddon became a free agent. The team president had said last September that Rick Renteria would “absolutely” return to manage the Cubs in 2015.
Sorry, Ricky. Epstein made the cold-blooded decision to fire Renteria and made Maddon an offer he couldn’t refuse. Maddon got five years and $25 million guaranteed after making around $2 million per season near the end of his run with the Rays.
So far, Maddon has been worth every penny, creating an attitude, welcoming young players, selling the organization to the public and dealing with the Chicago media. The Cubs are relevant and will close out April with a 12-8 record.
Why did this drag out so long?
“I think it took six months because there’s a lot of data,” Hoyer said. “They had a lot of things to go through. They interviewed a lot of people and they were thorough. I’m sure they’re also probably working on a number of other investigations at the same time. So the idea that this was the only thing they had going on in a huge industry is probably false.
“We’re glad that the process is over. We’re glad that the result that we expected came through. Now we can put it behind us and never talk about it.”
Maddon spent 31 years in the Angels organization before the Devil Rays gave him a chance. Tampa Bay’s young core absorbed 197 losses combined in 2006 and 2007 before a worst-to-first turnaround that ended in the 2008 World Series. That began a run of five 90-win seasons in seven years.
“I stay in touch with a lot of different (Rays) guys,” Maddon said. “From my perspective, obviously, there’s zero hard feelings. These are my guys for many years. Without the opportunity that they gave me, I would not be sitting here right now. I’ll always be grateful for that. Believe me, man, when that reunion occurs like 10 or 15 years from now, I definitely hope to be there.”