Joe Maddon’s time with the Cubs may be over, but the memories made in his five years on the North Side will live on in Chicago sports lore forever. No matter how frustratingly his tenure may have ended, the outpouring of support and appreciation from management, fans and players alike throughout the process of Maddon’s departure are evidence of that.
“I love him like a dad,” Anthony Rizzo said.
“I personally never could have imagined having such a wonderful partner,” Theo Epstein later added, standing beside Maddon as they delivered joint reflections on the end of the era.
Maddon touched the lives of so many within the organization and without in his time with the Cubs, but not many more so than catcher Willson Contreras, who burst onto the scene as one of the best young sluggers in baseball under Maddon’s guidance. Maddon — a catcher himself in his short time as a player — never shied away from criticizing Contreras in times he thought it earned, but it’s clear that the two forged a real bond over the last four years.
Sunday afternoon, artist Austin Ploch revealed that Contreras reached out to him shortly after the end of the 2019 season to commission this heart-warming piece, commemorating the mutual respect and adoration between mentor and pupil:
New painting! After their final game this year Willson reached out and asked me to paint this for him. Pretty clear how much Joe meant to these guys. pic.twitter.com/e2hps28edA— Austin Ploch (@PlochArtwork) October 20, 2019
The painting is derived from a photo of the two that Contreras posted to his Instagram account after it was officially announced that Maddon would not return as the Cubs manager:
View this post on Instagram
Socio was my pleasure to play for you and i cannot thank you enough, Was really special to have you as my 1st MLB Manager. Thanks for all the advices that I will never forget. You will always be remembered everywhere but The city of Chicago will always love you 🙌 #WorldSeriesChamps2016 #GreatHumanBeing
Ploch has commissioned work for Contreras before, but now Willson will have a tangible memento to remember his first manager (along with his 2016 World Series ring). We’re not crying, you’re crying.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.
Astros bench coach Joe Espada has two days off before Houston hosts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but it looks like some of that time will be spent in Chicago.
According to multiple reports, the Cubs will interview Espada a second time for their managerial opening. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the interview is happening on Sunday.
Joe Espada is on his way to Chicago for a second managerial interview with the Cubs, per a source. Cubs were clearly impressed with what they heard last week from the Astros bench coach.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) October 20, 2019
Joe Espada. Astros bench coach, has 2nd interview today with Cubs. Coveted candidate. Also in mix for SF and PITT. @Feinsand 1st— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 20, 2019
Espada is one of the more sought after managerial candidates this offseason, as he's spent the last six seasons with two of baseball's leading franchises. The 44-year-old has been Astros bench coach since 2018, and prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Yankees — 2014 as a front office assistant, 2015-17 as third base coach.
David Ross was the presumed favorite for the Cubs' opening, when the process got underway. However, by landing a second interview, Espada has clearly given the team something to think about. In fact, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan reported on Thursday the Cubs came away "exceptionally impressed" from Espada's first interview on Monday.
MLB prefers teams not to make managerial announcements during the World Series. So, it might be a few more weeks before the Cubs announce their decision, unless they do so on Sunday or Monday.