Maddon and Renteria: Awkward spot

— -- Rick Renteria deserved better.

After 20 years of working his way up the ladder, he took over the Chicago Cubs in the 2014 season and infused energy and optimism into the fan base and clubhouse. He won seven more games than his predecessor, Dale Sveum. And now, after just one year, the Cubs are throwing him to a Waveland Avenue curb. They fired him Friday afternoon.

If it's any consolation, Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost were once told they were no longer wanted, either.

The employees and fans of the Tampa Bay Rays deserved better, too.

After a season in which their spiritual adviser, Don Zimmer, passed away, and their ace, David Price, was traded, they now have to make do without their general manager, Andrew Friedman, and their manager, Joe Maddon, who convinced the Rays to play over their heads and their mini-market payroll.

If it's any consolation, the smart people in charge of the franchise are still there.

On Monday afternoon, the Cubs will formally introduce Joe Maddon as their 52nd manager since they last won the World Series in 1908. But even before that news conference, the hand-wringing had started. One high-ranking major league executive told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News: "The whole industry is talking about what a classless act [this is]." The "act" being the filling of a job that wasn't open.

But here's the thing. Best beats better.

And there is no doubt that Cubs fans deserve the best. They have stood by their team through thick and mostly thin for 106 years and watched as arrivistes like the Marlins and Blue Jays won multiple titles. The team president, Theo Epstein, has been charged with erasing the curse the way he did in Boston, and suddenly this week he had a chance to hire arguably the best manager in baseball. Does he do the right, honorable thing by giving Renteria a little more time to prove he's the man for the job? Or does he do a smart, sensible thing by bringing in a man who already has proved he can work wonders?

Rays fans may feel betrayed by the "desertion" of Maddon, who took advantage of a clause in his contract that gave him an out if Friedman left -- which the GM did for the hefty salary and payroll that the Dodgers offered. How dare Joe leave the very people who had made him one of the most popular figures in the Tampa Bay area?

But this was Maddon's opportunity to do what was best for him and his family after he -- like Renteria -- had labored for years waiting for his chance.

And it isn't just about the money. Renteria turned down the Tigers' job last year because he saw the potential to bring the Cubs a world championship, and Maddon sees the same Holy Grail and young talent. Besides, who wouldn't rather kill before a full house every day than die among empty seats every night?

In the meantime, the blame game is already underway. As one manager told Martino: "These jobs are just so hard to find. Some s--- is going down that doesn't look good." But that's easy for him, and the moralists among us, to say. You just can't split the baby to please both sides. Epstein and Maddon had to make tough calls that couldn't be decided by a phone call to the replay officials in New York.

Baseball works in mysterious ways. Back in 2000, the Philadelphia Phillies fired their manager after he finished 65-97. Four years later, Epstein chose that manager, Terry Francona, over the untested Joe Maddon, and together they ended an 86-year curse in Boston.

Indeed, the manager who wins a title with his first club is more the exception than the rule. Think of all the World Series-winning managers in the past 20 years -- 17 of them had experience with other major league clubs.

So there's hope for Renteria, wherever he ends up. He had to notice that Sveum, his predecessor in Chicago, was at the right hand of Yost during the 2014 World Series.

Just for the delicious irony of it, the Rays' brain trust should bring Renteria in for an interview to replace Maddon. They might find him to be the right fit for a club that could use a new voice, not to mention a franchise that may end up moving across the bay to Tampa, where there are more Latin-American residents. Maybe the Rays could get a prospect or two from the Cubs for picking up his contract.

Who knows? Someday, we might have a Rays-Cubs World Series. Lose-lose could turn into win-win.