ST. LOUIS - There will be a new manager on the top step of the Cubs dugout at Wrigley Field next season.
After all the speculation, the Cubs are, in fact, choosing to part ways with Joe Maddon following the 2019 season. The move was made official Sunday after Maddon and Theo Epstein met Saturday night in St. Louis.
Maddon entered the campaign on the final year of his five-year contract and Epstein said last November the team would not have any extension talks with the manager during the season, preferring to revisit the matter after the year played out.
We now know what that resolution is.
Thus ends the reign of the man who steered the franchise to its first World Series Championship in 108 years and accomplished something no other manager in Cubs history has ever done - make the playoffs in four straight seasons.
Prior to the 2015-18 stretch, the Cubs actually only made it to the postseason three straight years from 1906-08, when there were only 16 total teams in Major League Baseball.
Under Maddon's tutelage, the Cubs will have taken part in 811 regular-season games and only these last four contests this season have been played without any playoff implications.
In total, Maddon has a 471-338 record (entering Sunday) at the helm of the Cubs, a .582 winning percentage. They went 19-18 in the postseason, winning six playoff series, including that elusive title.
Over the last five seasons, only the Dodgers (484) and Astros (480) have won more games than the Cubs.
"Three trips to the [NLCS] - if you had been guaranteed that '14 going into '15 when we walked in the door, how would you feel about that?" Maddon inquired Friday. "As a fan of the Cubs, how would you feel about that? And how would you feel about last year as a Cubs fan?
"The mind once stretched has a difficult time going back to its original form, so we've stretched the minds a bit. So now, the fans are expecting more. Groovy, man."
He added a stronger assessment of his five-year Cubs career Sunday morning:
"Anybody that wants to denigrate anything that we've done over the last five years, come see me at some point," Maddon said. "There's nothing to denigrate. There's nothing to bemoan. There's nothing to lament. It's been fabulous. Anybody would take that 5-year run, including a World Series championship for the first time in 108 years. C'mon."
Epstein and Maddon spent more than a half-hour in Epsten's St. Louis hotel room Saturday night splitting a bottle of Caymus and celebrating their achievements over the past five seasons.
"We both agreed that it's time and this type of change is a win-win," Epstein said. "It's gonna be great for Joe at a wonderful point in his life and - he won't talk about this right now, but I will - there's gonna be a bidding war for his services and there should be and he's in a great position.
"I so look forward to his next chapter in baseball and in life. And it's gonna be good for the Cubs, too. I think we're at a point where we just need a little bit of change and something new and that's natural. That's the natural way of things. Change, if you embrace it the right way, is good for all of us."
Of course 2019 will go in the books as a disappointment for Cubs fans and every member of the organization. This was a team with World Series expectations and they fell short of even making it to October.
But don't forget what Maddon did to change the course of this franchise. The players in that clubhouse certainly don't need reminding.
"Man, I can't say enough positives about what Joe's done, just flat out for this organization," Jon Lester said this week in Pittsburgh. "Up until I think here recently this year, we led MLB in wins. That's a testament to him. We broke a 108-year curse, streak, whatever you want to call it.
"...He should be revered as a legend in this town for a long, long time. What he did for this organization. You talk about a rebuild, you talk about signings and you talk about all that stuff, he was the first guy to write his name on that paper. He believed. Him believing made other people believe. What he's done, not only for this organization, but for this city, it was huge."
So it's clear Maddon didn't lose the locker room. Not when a guy with Lester's pedigree says something like that.
Yu Darvish was also very complimentary, crediting Maddon as the main reason why the 33-year-old pitcher was able to get into a groove in the last few months of his second season in Chicago.
All that said, this move does make sense for where the Cubs want to go. With the way the last two seasons have gone, change is clearly needed with this club and there's no bigger change within the clubhouse than getting a new voice in as manager.
Epstein and the front office tasked Maddon with stepping up more as a coach and hands-on teacher this year and he believes he accomplished that, saying he's been more of a hitting coach this season than in his past few years in Chicago.
The Cubs falling short of expectations this year was hardly all Maddon's fault, but he's certainly not blameless, either. Nobody in the Cubs organization is.
Now, the onus of bringing this franchise back to where they want to be falls squarely on Epstein's shoulders. It will be up to him to make the right hire at manager and bring in the right person to galvanize the locker room and fill the big shoes Maddon is leaving behind.
The 65-year-old Maddon should have no shortage of job opportunities on the open market - including the enticing San Diego Padres managerial gig - and he's already been linked to the Los Angeles Angels. The San Francisco Giants will be looking for a new manager and other teams may be, as well.
When asked if he wanted to manage again in 2020, Maddon didn't hesitate.
"Oh yeah. No, I don't want to wait. I'm ready," he said.
Where do the Cubs go from here?
David Ross and Mark Loretta loom as the most intriguing names to watch at the moment, though other, out-of-house candidates are likely to emerge.
Ross is the former fan favorite catcher who rode off into the sunset of his playing career after that epic Game 7 in Cleveland in 2016 and then took a role working for Epstein in the Cubs front office. Even three years later, his leadership and counsel still resonates inside that clubhouse.
Loretta, 48, is wrapping up his first season with the Cubs as Maddon's bench coach and went to college in the Chicago area at Northwestern. He played in the big leagues for 15 seasons from 1995-2009 with the Brewers, Padres, Astros, Red Sox and Dodgers.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.