ST. LOUIS — Four consecutive playoff appearances and managing the Cubs to their first World Series championship in more than a century wasn’t enough for Joe Maddon to retain his job.
The Cubs and Maddon, 65, agreed to part ways as his contract expires after five seasons.
Maddon never had a losing season with the Cubs and guided them to the 2016 title, their first since 1908. They made the playoffs from 2015-18 — the four straight berths were a franchise first — but in 2018 failed to advance to the National League Championship Series for the first time under his watch. Epstein tabled talks on an extension until after the season.
“We both agreed that this type of change that it’s time, and that this time of change is win-win,” President Theo Epstein said Sunday. “It’s going to be great for Joe at a wonderful point in his life. He won’t talk, but I will. There will be a bidding war for services. And there should be. And he’s in a great position. I look forward to his next job in baseball and life.
“It’s also good for the Cubs. We’re at a point where we just need a little bit of change and something new.”
Maddon, who opened a restaurant named “Maddon’s Post” at the corner of the Cubs’ five-story offices in May, agreed that change can be good for everyone involved.
“It’s a really good day, a great day,” Maddon said while standing next to Epstein.
“Change is good, and change can be very good for everyone involved.”
In early December, Epstein declared 2019 as a “season of reckoning,” saying “October begins in March” and signaling a sense of urgency to win. Maddon heeded the suggestion of his bosses, becoming more involved in spring training with players — specifically with situational hitting.
The Cubs also made changes to Maddon’s coaching staff, resulting in their third pitching coach, Tommy Hottovy, and third hitting coach, Anthony Iapoce, in as many seasons.
But the Cubs bullpen struggled early and played a large role in a 2-7 start. The Cubs rebounded to take over first place in the NL Central and held a 3½-game lead on Aug. 9.
The Cardinals, however, took advantage of four consecutive losses by the Cubs in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to regain first place and kept it for good on Aug. 23.
“On behalf of my family and Cub fans everywhere, we would like to thank Joe Maddon for five incredible years as Cubs Manager,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “Words simply cannot describe how much Joe has meant to this team and its fans. We are forever grateful.”
Maddon thanked his players at the hotel after Friday night’s game, giving them the impression his days were numbered.
Epstein hired Maddon on Oct. 31, 2014, after Maddon exercised an escape clause in his contract with the Rays following the departure of executive Andrew Freidman to the Dodgers, raising expectations for the North Siders.
Maddon had helped turn around an organization that averaged 97 losses in its first eight seasons, managing the Rays to two division titles in the competitive American League East and four playoff berths and their first World Series appearance. He finished 754-705 (.517) in nine seasons with the Rays.
The Cubs thought so highly of Maddon that they fired Rick Renteria in October 2014 after only one season and two years left on his contract. They signed Maddon to a five-year, $25 million deal, which swelled to $6 million annually over the last three years because of the World Series title.
Maddon’s Cubs won 97 games in his first season, riding the arm of National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta to their first playoff berth since 2008. They defeated the Pirates in the wild-card game and stunned the Central-champion Cardinals 3-1 in the division series, advancing to the NLCS for the first time since 2003. They lost to the Mets 4-0.
Maddon brought with him from the Rays his slogans, spring training gimmicks and theme trips, and his “Embrace the Target” was the mantra for the 2016 season.
The Cubs sprinted to a 25-6 start and cruised to the NL Central title with 103 victories. They defeated the Giants in the division series and Dodgers in the NLCS, advancing to their first World Series since 1945.
The Cubs rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Indians in seven games, setting off a citywide celebration and ending years of heartache for their fanbase. But Maddon fell under scrutiny for his handling of the pitching staff in Games 6 and 7.
The 2018 Cubs led the Central by 3½ games on Sept. 19 but went 6-5 down the stretch, allowing the red-hot Brewers to force a Game 163 tiebreaker for the division title. The Cubs lost that game 3-1, then lost to the visiting Rockies 2-1 in 13 innings in the wild-card game.