PITTSBURGH – Joe Maddon knew Bryan Price before the Cincinnati Reds manager went viral with a bleeping meltdown that dropped 77 F-bombs on reporters.
The Cubs didn’t give Maddon a five-year, $25 million contract just to manage the team for nine innings at a time. They also needed a ringmaster for the Wrigleyville circus.
The Cubs wanted someone to be a public face of the franchise, selling their vision to the fans. A big personality could entertain the easily distractible Chicago media, deflecting pressure from young players already viewed as saviors.
Maddon isn’t paranoid or defensive and his freewheeling style appears to be working for a team that left for Cincinnati after Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
“At the end of the day, we’re not trying to conceal weaponry being sold to Iran,” Maddon said. “I don’t view it that way. I hope I never do.”
Maddon did grunt work for decades before morphing into a celebrity manager. Price played for Maddon in 1985 and 1986 in Midland, Texas, at a Double-A affiliate for the California Angels.
Price went to the University of California, Berkeley. He never pitched in the big leagues before becoming a pitching coach with the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks.
“‘BP’ — when I had him — had a great pickoff move, because a lot of guys got on first base,” Maddon joked. “But even back then, he was a joy to be around. Very bright, analytical in a way. Great conversationalist. Very funny. So whatever motivated that, I’m sure we’ll talk about it at some point.”
Maddon called to say congratulations when Price got promoted from Cincinnati pitching coach to replace Dusty Baker, who had just guided the Reds to 90 wins in 2013 and their third playoff appearance in four seasons.
The pressure points are obvious inside a news cycle that goes 24/7/365. The Reds lost 86 games last season and Price only has one more year left on his contract after this season. Cincinnati had lost seven of its last eight games by the time Price blew up during Monday’s pregame media session.
“It was kind of amusing in some ways, but don’t be deceived,” Maddon said. “It could happen to any one of us.
“Don’t think you’re immune. I’m totally aware of that.”
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Maddon also clearly loves the attention and the interaction. He doesn’t look at it as a chore. He also has instant credibility after his successful run with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I enjoy it,” Maddon said. “Sometimes, you ask me (bleep) that I haven’t thought about. And that’s a good thing. Then I’ll have to give you an answer that glosses over it. But I’m thinking to myself: (Bleep), I got to think about that a little more.”
Instead of doing it behind closed doors, Price unloaded on C. Trent Rosecrans, a respected Reds beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer, in a rant that lasted almost six minutes.
Last weekend, Rosecrans had reported All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco wasn’t with the team during a game in St. Louis and unavailable to pinch-hit against the Cardinals. The news outlet had previously reported Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart were on the same flight as an Enquirer reporter. Meaning Price felt like he didn’t get a chance to tell catcher Kyle Skipworth that he’d be returning to the minors before the Barnhart news broke.
When dealing with sensitive information, Maddon said: “That’s up to me to not give you something that I don’t want to reveal."
“If you get it on your own, then what am I going to do?” Maddon said. “My job is to not give it up. Your job is to find it out. And that’s cool. At the end of the day, what does that mean? I keep going back to the barroom. It’s great barroom banter, man.”
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Maddon said he first started his personal Twitter account to promote the Rays — not himself — and he’s now up to 229,000 followers. We can all agree that social media’s relentless nature — and the obsession with what’s next — would drive anyone crazy.
“At some point, it’s oversaturated with nonsense,” Maddon said. “How much nonsense do you want to hear? I don’t really want to know about everybody else’s thoughts all the time. I really don’t. That would be the next level, like if I eventually become a mind reader.
“That would really suck. Because if you know too much, man, that would be awful. It’s good that you don’t know everything. So all this stuff is getting to the point now where I don’t even know: What would be the next level of communication?
“Is it possible, outside of reading someone else’s mind? I don’t know. And I don’t want to read any of your minds at all under any circumstances. Because once you get in there, you may never get out. And you could be contaminated for the rest of your life.”