DETROIT – The gimmicks didn’t get old for David Price, who remembered Joe Maddon coming up with “Pajama Day” when the Tampa Bay Rays did one of their cross-country overnight road trips.
“I had a onesie on,” said Price, who is 6-foot-6, 210 pounds and a Cy Young Award winner. “That is hands down the most comfortable flight I’ve ever been on.”
As Price kept talking about the importance of having fun and being yourself, you immediately thought about Maddon’s anti-rules philosophy, the completely different vibe the star manager has brought to the Cubs.
And how the idea of playing again for Maddon must be appealing to the Detroit Tigers ace, who’s positioned to become a free agent after this season and command a $200 million contract.
“He’s a very unique manager, and I think he was perfect for our team in Tampa,” Price said. “It’s kind of the same way in Chicago right now. We were an extremely young team. We had a ton of talent when Joe came to the Rays. He does a really good job of just making sure that everybody in that clubhouse is comfortable and loose and relaxed.
“Whenever you have young guys, that’s what you need. You want those guys to be comfortable coming to the field. And when they’re comfortable at the field, in the clubhouse and in the dugout, you’re going to get the most production out of those players.”
There are already enough reasons why the Price-to-Chicago rumors make sense, but Wednesday night’s 12-3 victory at Comerica Park couldn’t have hurt the perception that the Cubs are a team on the rise.
“He knows what we did down there,” Maddon said. “He’s watching what’s going on right here, right now, and he knows how I like to do things.”
Will your relationship matter in free agency?
“I don’t know,” Maddon said. “David and I are friends. I’ve often said in the past he’s probably one of the best teammates I’ve ever been around. It’s just something that’s a process that has to be worked out, and I just wish him the best with it because he’s a unique individual.”
With the Tigers already in Chicago to face the White Sox last weekend, Maddon pointed to Price driving down to Champaign on Sunday to watch his old team – Vanderbilt University – eliminate the University of Illinois on Monday and advance to the College World Series.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Maddon said. “I’ll just say he’s a great teammate.”
Whatever Price ultimately signs for, that number will follow him for the rest of his career. Maybe a familiar face like Maddon could help deflate some of the pressure with some zoo animals in the clubhouse and bigger and better team-building stunts.
“Not everybody enjoys it or wants to do it, but everybody does (it),” Price said. “Whenever we were in Tampa, we would always pass out awards for best dressed and stuff like that. Guys would definitely pull out their wallets to make sure that they had the best-dressed (look). They went above and beyond.
“That’s what it’s about – it’s fun. You get to laugh at each other. It pulls that team a little bit closer, and I think Joe understands that. That’s why he does it.”