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Joe Maddon will return as Cubs manager for 2019

The Cubs dropped their last three games to end their 2018 season on a low note, and there may be dramatic changes needed on the North Side to get them back to World Series form.

Bob Nightengale reports that Joe Maddon will continue to be the Cubs manager in the 2019 season. That this is news and not an obvious proposition requires a bit of backfill.

Ken Rosenthal wrote a story this morning about the possibility -- speculation and tea leaf reading, not really explicit information -- that Maddon and Cubs president Theo Epstein aren’t seeing eye to eye these days. That, while generally complimentary of one another, Epstein was critical of how Maddon had handled certain things this year, particularly with respect to the bullpen, his use of Brandon Morrow in the runup to his season-ending injury in particular. Rosenthal also sprinkled the article with some references to Maddon being a “celebrity manager” and a guy who is not as controllable by the front office as some of the more “mallable” -- Rosenthal’s words -- managers in the game.

At no point did that lead to him or anyone else saying “Maddon was on the hot seat” but the suggestion was at least there. A suggestion that someone in the Cubs front office is blowing off some steam about Maddon or laying some groundwork for . . . something. A suggestion that might seem a bit more real the morning after a disappointing playoff exit which at least some people are calling a collapse.

As Nightengale notes, and as Rosenthal suggested could happen, Maddon’s contract is not being extended at this time and, barring a change in the offseason, he’ll enter 2019 as a lame duck, finishing out the final year of a five-year, $28 million deal that makes him the highest paid manager in baseball. Rosenthal says that, for his part, Maddon is not himself asking for an extension yet. Why that is is unclear, but it could be that he feels his negotiating power is at an ebb right now and that he’d rather try to get one following a more successful season. Or maybe he wants out of Chicago. Who knows? Either way, it does suggest that a lot is riding on the Cubs’ offseason and how things get going in 2019.

My gut tells me that this is all just a lot of late season pessimism at the end of what turned out to be a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign. Maddon had a lot to deal with injury wise in 2018 and while his high profile means that his nits are picked a bit more readily than other managers’, the consensus remains that he’s still one of the best skippers in the business. Unless there’s something we don’t know about how he relates to the front office, it would seem rather short sighted to part ways with Maddon at this juncture or to put him on a particularly hot seat next year.

Then again, no one figured he’d leave Tampa Bay either, so maybe some craziness is in the offing.

Follow @craigcalcaterra