Already dealing with enough Cubs problems, Joe Maddon insists no ‘ill will’ toward Rays

Already dealing with enough Cubs problems, Joe Maddon insists no ‘ill will’ toward Rays

The lead sentence in a Tampa Bay Times story previewing this Cubs-Rays series mentioned how the Joe Maddon photos have been erased from Tropicana Field.

Radiating positivity to his players, distracting the media with zoo animals and dress-up trips and translating for a data-heavy front office, the force of Maddon’s personality helped turn the Rays into a small-market miracle. 

Winning at least 90 games five times – as well as the 2008 American League pennant – apparently wasn’t enough to preserve the images of a star manager. 

“Oh, really?” Maddon said before Tuesday’s 6-5 loss at Wrigley Field. “I don’t blame them, seriously. No, I don’t think it’s awkward at all. There’s new people in place. Then you have to put the new folks – whoever they are at that time – (up) on the walls. Now I’m not ready for that black-and-white photo – that iconic photo – that’s placed in a hallway next to a trophy. I don’t think I’m that guy.

“Otherwise, I have no ill will whatsoever. Personally, I prefer when my picture’s not displayed somewhere, especially in post offices. 

“You cannot walk away from that one. So, no, it doesn’t bother me in the least.”   

Nothing seems to bother Maddon. While that upbeat attitude and breezy confidence clicked with the 2015 Cubs during a transitional year that led to 97 wins and the National League Championship Series, it doesn’t seem to be working that well with the defending champs. Strengths – stubborn beliefs in players and decisions and a laissez-faire attitude toward the clubhouse – can slowly turn into potential weaknesses.  

Where Maddon just about reached his shelf life with the Rays after nine seasons, he listened to rounds and rounds of Game 7 strategy questions and second-guessing, months and months after the Cubs won their first World Series title in 108 years.  

Two-and-a-half seasons into a contract that will pay him in the neighborhood of $28 million, team president Theo Epstein implicitly criticized Maddon while explaining the decision to DFA veteran catcher Miguel Montero last week, saying things like: “Wins don’t just happen because you’re talented and you show up.” 

[MORE CUBS: Kyle Schwarber Watch: Cubs getting close to making a move]

Where Epstein ominously called out the lack of “edge” in the 2017 Cubs – “You can be kind of striving for an identity or a chemistry all year and not find it” – Maddon points to injuries and how the team has hung around .500, stayed in the division race and gotten in position to make a post-Fourth of July push.   

“I’m one of those guys that believe you create chemistry and then it turns into wins,” Maddon said. “Other people believe you have to have wins to turn into chemistry. I always believed that you mock what you don’t understand. 

“Being with the Rays for several years, the winning wasn’t there, so you had to create something other than that in order to have the winning be the residue. I’m a big believer in that. 

“How do you do it? I’ve talked about it a zillion times. It’s about relationship-building and trust first. And then you got to have the guys in the room being aligned with your belief system organizationally. And then you have to have people that are kind of fearless within the clubhouse, guys that are purely Stage 5 players that are trying to win and not just there to try to survive. 

“All those things matter. (But) you can intentionally attempt to create that kind of momentum in your clubhouse by how you react, manager’s office, coaches’ room, et cetera.” 

The Rays reacted by pushing Major League Baseball to launch a tampering investigation after Maddon used the escape clause in his contract that triggered when Andrew Friedman left to run baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 2014 season.

Except for bench coach Dave Martinez, none of Maddon’s coaches followed him to Chicago. Neither did David Price, Tampa Bay’s homegrown Cy Young Award winner, who followed the money as a free agent and took $217 million guaranteed from the Boston Red Sox.

The Rays did what all teams looking for a correction do, hiring a young, low-key manager with the opposite personality (though it’s not like there are many Maddon clones out there). Kevin Cash oversaw an 80-82 campaign in 2015, last year’s 94-loss, last-place season and a 44-41 run before the All-Star break.  

“I’m just curious to see where they’re at right now,” Maddon said. “More than anything, it’s just about saying hi to people. I swear that’s probably my most pressing need right now – just to make sure I connect with these guys.”

Cubs chairman Tom Rickets gave David Ross the coolest decoration for his office

Cubs chairman Tom Rickets gave David Ross the coolest decoration for his office

There are cool office decorations, and their office decorations that blow casual ones out of the water.

A souvenir in Cubs manager David Ross' Wrigley Field falls into the latter category.

Ross posted photos on Instagram Saturday revealing he has the first W flag to hang over Wrigley after the Cubs won the 2016 World Series in his office. He says team chairman Tom Ricketts gave it to him for the office.

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Now, imagine what that flag would go for on eBay.

All jokes aside, you've got to think that flag will end up in some Cubs museum one day. For now, it's in safe hands.


2020 MLB season: Tracking players who have opted out or declined to play

2020 MLB season: Tracking players who have opted out or declined to play

With Major League Baseball attempting to play the 2020 season with COVID-19 afflicting the nation, players have the option to not participate this year. 

Those considered “high-risk” for the coronavirus — per MLB’s agreement with the MLBPA — can opt out and receive salary and service time. Those who are not can decline to play but may not receive salary and service time. Teams may offer both to players who live with high-risk individuals, however.

Here is a running list of players who will sit out this season:

Mike Leake — Diamondbacks pitcher

On June 29, Leake became the first player to announce he will sit out. His agent said he and his family took “countless factors into consideration.” MLB insider Jon Heyman said the right-hander will not be paid this season, meaning he doesn’t fall under the high-risk designation.

Leake was positioned to compete for a spot in Arizona’s rotation and will become a free agent if they decline his $18 million 2021 option.

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Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross 

Zimmerman joined Leake in announcing his decision on June 29. The longtime National cited family circumstances — three kids, including a newborn, and his mother being high-risk. He made it clear he is not retiring, but he's set to become a free agent after this season.

On the same day Zimmerman announced his decision, the Nationals revealed Ross also decided not to play. The club’s statement cited “the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones” in both players’ decisions. Ross is arbitration eligible through 2021.

Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond

Desmond also revealed he won’t play this year on June 29. He posted a powerful Instagram message discussing racial inequality in baseball, from Little League to MLB. It’s heartfelt and worth a read:

View this post on Instagram

On my mind.

A post shared by Ian Desmond (@i_dez20) on

Free agent pitcher Tyson Ross 

On July 2, Heyman reported Ross joined his brother Joe in deciding not to play. Tyson Ross was with the Giants and in contention for a swingman job before San Francisco released him in late June, shortly after MLB lifted its transaction freeze.

Nationals catcher Welington Castillo

Castillo became the third Nationals player to decide to sit out. Nationals manager Dave Martinez said on July 3 the former Cubs and White Sox catcher was hesitant to play because he has young children.

Dodgers pitcher David Price

Price announced on July 4 he will be sitting out this year, saying it’s in the “best interest of my health and my family’s health.” He joined Los Angeles over the offseason in a trade from the Red Sox with Mookie Betts.

Prior to his decision, Price donated $1,000 to every Dodgers minor leaguer in June.

Braves pitcher Félix Hernández

Hernández' agent announced on July 4 the former Cy Young Award winner will sit out this year. Hernández was vying for a spot in Atlanta’s rotation. 

Braves outfielder Nick Markakis

Markakis announced his decision to sit out on July 6. He said his family, as well as teammate Freddie Freeman contracting a rough case of COVID-19, influenced his thinking.

“Just to hear him, the way he sounded on the phone, it was tough, it was kind of eye-opening,” Markakis said of Freeman.

Pirates pitcher Héctor Noesí

The Pirates revealed on July 8 Noesí elected not to play for family reasons. He was on a minor league deal.

Giants catcher Buster Posey

Posey, the Giants longtime backstop and three-time champion, revealed Friday he won’t be playing this year. The 33-year-old and his wife recently adopted premature twin girls.

White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech

The White Sox announced Friday evening Kopech will not play this year. The 24-year-old hadn’t arrived at Summer Camp due to personal reasons prior to Friday’s news.

MORE: White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech decides not to participate in 2020 season

"Michael Kopech has informed us of his decision to not participate in the 2020 season," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement. "We recognize that reaching this decision is incredibly difficult for any competitive athlete, and our organization is understanding and supportive.

"We will work with Michael to assure his development continues throughout 2020, and we look forward to welcoming him back into our clubhouse for the 2021 season."