Did a Baltimore Orioles’ rival end up on the short end?


I was a bit amused the other day when I read Ken Rosenthal’s article regarding Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs. Maddon of course managed Tampa, a division rival of the Baltimore Orioles, for nine seasons. He opted out of his contract last Friday, and now appears destined to be going to Chicago to join the Cubs. But my question would be where’s the justice? 

This is something that should warm the hearts of Orioles fans in a sense, as a division rival will now be just a bit weaker. However I would submit that regardless of what Rosenthal or anyone else thinks, this is not a good thing for baseball. There’s no question that there was some sort of tampering going on behind the scenes with Maddon’s agent and the Cubs.

Let me be clear; what Rosenthal says in his article is a valid way to look at things. (Rosenthal’s probably forgotten more about baseball than I’ll ever know, and he’s one of the most respected journalists who covers the game.) I just disagree with him. I suspect that he’s trying to take a progressive view of things, and again that’s okay. However I would submit that once again that it’s an incorrect view point to take.

Granted, part of Rosenthal’s point is that what could have allegedly occurred is over and done – if it did occur. And the evidence that there was any inappropriate contact between Maddon (or his agent) and the Chicago Cubs is circumstantial at best. But assuming that it did happen, are we really setting a good precedent by saying that we as a society are okay with someone reneging on a contract?

Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Contracts are meant to protect both parties in business. It protects the employee from losing his job, and it protects the employer from losing their employee. At it’s core, that’s the point of a contract. So when that bond is violated, are we simply to be told that we need to be okay with that? There’s no doubt that Chicago is a much more romantic place to manage than Tampa. But that’s beside the point.

Ultimately, neither side comes off as clean here. Theo Eptstein in Chicago is to blame for having the audacity to tamper with a Tampa Rays’ employee who was under contract. And Maddon, along with his agent, aren’t clean here either. They wanted out of an admittedly bad deal with an organization that might not currently be on the right track to success. And ultimately, the only true innocent among folks here are the Tampa Rays’ players, and now former Cubs’ manager Rick Renteria. Granted Renteria was a placeholder at best, is it really fair to him to lose his job under shaddy circumstances like these?

And here’s the other side to this; are we to now believe that any manager or perhaps even player is now approachable by other teams? In this case it was kind of the perfect storm in the sense that Maddon had an opt-out clause in his deal, but the fact is that those are in all kinds of contracts all the time. I suspect that Orioles fans don’t have to worry about someone like Buck Showalter being poached, as he doesn’t have an opt-out clause to my knowledge. But it does make you think; what if a better offer came about to any manager on any team, and he tried to find a way to take it?

Ultimately I would have thought that Maddon would have had a bit more scruples than to do something like this. I respect Ken Rosenthal for the work he’s done in MLB, and I respect his opinion. But I disagree with him; nobody should be okay with turning the other way in a situation like this. I would submit that MLB needs to investigate this, and pull one of those for the good of the game deals by forcing Maddon to honor the remaining season on his contract. Not that he would have to manage, but that he couldn’t manage anywhere else. That would send a message that you can’t reneg on a contract at will, and it would send a message to the Cubs that you can’t tamper with someone else’s manager.

But I doubt that’s going to happen. Having a high-profile manager such as Joe Maddon in a place like Chicago is good for MLB. However I would ask Mr. Maddon to consider this from a different angle; when he was hired in Tampa nine years ago, he was in a similar position as Rick Renteria. He was an unknown commodity in his first managing job. How would he have felt if an experienced and tenured manager, say Buck Showalter, come along and taken his job? Needless to say, baseball history would be much different.

On a side note, today is Election Day here in the United States. I do this every year because I’m a Civics nerd and I feel it’s important. But if you’re registered to vote, get out and do so at some point today. The right to vote is gauranteed to us by the Constitution, and it’s something that we should all take advantage of. One third of the Senate, the entire House of Representatives, and numerous Governorships (including Maryland) are up for grabs today. Make your voice heard and get to the polls and vote!