We threw the question in there, fastball, letter high — What do you think of Joe Maddon now? — and readers crushed it, tape measure after tape measure, all kinds of takes on Joe Ma in his new life with the curse busting Cubs.
Tried to get as many in here as I could, and some are at their full length, because they fascinated me.
Anyway, here's a good, long taste …
"As an original Devil Rays fan who attended the inaugural game in 1998, it was a very sad day when Joe left for Chicago. But, how can you blame him? In St. Pete, Joe did the impossible, turning the perpetually down-and-out Devil Rays into a World Series contender. He built a culture that still permeates the organization that we have today.
"I am just grateful that we had Joe for as long as we did and wish him all of the success in his second World Series. In many ways, Joe's success with the Cubs will be partly our success too in Tampa Bay. I am sure that Joe hasn't forgotten the Rays and what he learned during his nine seasons at the Trop, and we Rays fans shouldn¹t forget him, either." — Drew Newman
"In short, I wish Joe nothing but the best. He is everything a good manager should be: great motivator, great communicator and good tactician" — Tom Brey
"Ever since Maddon left, I have been actively rooting for him to fail. I've been hoping the Cubs lose 100 games and the entire Chicago media gets fed up with his "antics". He doesn't deserve to win somewhere else when he was so close to winning in Tampa. Maybe things would be a little different if the Rays had hired Dave Martinez instead of Cash, but I am bitter. I hope Maddon reads this article you write and after his fifth glass of wine and his fifth million-dollar check clears and he feels a little bad for ditching us." — Matt Hewitt
"How do I like him now? Still love him. He was, and still is, one of the most inventive managers in baseball. He makes the game exciting. Sure, I wish he was still here with our Rays, but can you blame him? What an opportunity to get involved with a franchise as storied as the Cubs! And he still keeps the home fires burning by staying involved with the Tampa Bay area. I wish nothing but the best for him. Go Cubs!" — Marilyn Thomas
"I don't blame Joe or dislike Joe. I blame and dislike Rays ownership. They wouldn't pay Joe what he was worth. Professional team owners never make enough money. They aren't sportsmen, they are investors. The Rays owners weren't going to pay Joe because they need a new stadium, attendance stinks, etc. Bottom line: They don't make enough money. Just ask them." — Marty Ademy
"We are happy for Joe and disappointed that he wasn't afforded the opportunity to take the Rays to a World Series. Unfortunately, with the Rays, you get what you pay for!" — Rick Hancock
"Maddon did what he could here with the tools he had. I truly believe he didn't have the help from ownership to get the job done. He was a great manager here and will always be welcome to the area. Our lack of production comes from the top. Sternberg is not a great owner. You look at Jeff Vinik and his family and what they have done for the Bay area in the little time they have been here. On and off the ice. Then look at Stu. Night and day difference. Sternberg talks the talk. Vinik walks the walk. …
You put the best hitters in the game out there and you will see nothing but quality production. The Bolts are a perfect example. Number one franchise in all of sports! If Stu opens up his fat purse and dumps some actual love into this area, the Rays would be the second overall franchise. Joe did not get the help he needed from the front office. Nothing but respect and love for Joe and BenZo. I hope they win it all." — Nate Snyder
"I'm rooting for him. Good guy, great baseball mind. … Crumby Tropicana, low payroll, weak fans. Can't blame him. Stu shoulda locked him up for 10 yrs." — Trevor Davis
"He has deserved it - but so have we as fans - he's done nothing more than he did here, the difference is the Cubs ownership brought in players while this bunch kept losing them somehow. Perhaps you could put together a "mock lineup" of players that are on other teams _ that used to be in the Rays organization - that made the playoffs and put it side by side with the Cubs and Indians lineups and see what it looks like. Include David Price, James Loney, Asdrubal Cabrera, B.J. Upton, Brandon Guyer, Ryan Hanigan, Ben Zobrist, Andrew Toles, Matt Moore and their stats. All the good ones we got rid of. Just a thought." — Dave Culbreth
"I'm a student at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, but I am from St. Pete, Florida. … I'm a diehard Ray's fan, but I'm excited to watch Joe Maddon continue his magic in the World Series. We were very fortunate to have him for several years with the Tampa Bay Rays, including 2008, when he led us to our only World Series appearance to date. Our school is four hours away from Chicago, thus there are many Cubs fans that attend my school. Many of my friends are Cubs fans, and it is exciting to get to cheer with them for the Cubs that not only have our former manager, but they also have Ben Zobrist and Jason Hammel (Who didn't make the World Series roster). … Although I miss Joe Maddon as our manager back home, I'm excited to see if he can lead the Cubs to their first World Series win in 108 years." — Zach Moore
"I miss Joe Maddon is spring training when he has a corny theme for the season (9=8). I missed him big-time this June when the team was in a spiral, desperate for penguins in the clubhouse or a pajama themed road trip, and instead I got Kevin Cash's monotone over 22 losses in 24 games. He's a self-promoter and probably a bit arrogant, but for a team and area like the Rays and Tampa Bay, that was sorely needed.
"BUT I don't miss the bundled up playoff manager Joe Maddon, with idiotic ear flaps when its 50 degrees out as we saw last night. Can Bud Grant give him a lesson on cold-weather leadership? Or the guy writing in Kelly Shoppach's name every playoff game and never pinch hitting for the catcher (happened again in Game 1 with the bases loaded in Cleveland). That guy, who is too busy waiting for a reversion to the mean to actually help his team win the game in front of him, I don't miss that guy (we saw it for a bit in the NLCS). Maybe the Cubs are so strong that none of it will matter; but I don't think there is any way Joe Maddon is out-managing Francona to a Series win. A game day tactician he is not." — Ken G.
"My thought is to turn your question around and ask if either you or I were presented with the same situation, what would we do? If you or I were talented MLB managers as Joe is, would we want to continue working for the current Rays management and owner? A management team and owner, while having some success at assembling competitive teams on shoestring budgets in the past, has had little chance of pulling together a competitive team the last several seasons because of poor player selection and a draining of talent from the farm system and a ridiculously low personnel budget. Granted, the team should have done better this year, but was it really a playoff caliber team? I think not.
"Don't get me wrong, I love the Rays and I'm proud of what the team has been able to do with the money Stu has chosen to spend. However, if we had the opportunity to work for a guy like Theo Epstein, and Cubs ownership that can and will spend money to get and keep good players, and we really want the opportunity to compete for a championship – we'd probably do the same thing Joe did. Even if the Rays were willing to match the Cubs salary offer, why wouldn't we take the opportunity to work for a team that has a decent chance of winning?
"So I'm saddened by Joe leaving and miss him, but at the same time I respect his decision and wish him well. I also hope Joe wins a championship, if not this year (because the Indians are really a great team and I like them, too!), then eventually." — Paul Crimi
"As a guy who grew up in Chicago as a White Sox fan and am now also a Rays fan, I find myself pulling for the Cubs simply because of Joe Maddon. Couldn't be happier for one of the greatest baseball minds in the history of the game. His ability to get the most out of his guys goes well beyond the X's and O's. He's also a unique personality that the game of baseball needs to gain in popularity again.
"I could never fault Joe for leaving Tampa Bay. The opportunity that presented itself was a chance in a lifetime. Money aside, one would be foolish to pass up a chance to manage the team with the most loyal fan base of probably any sports team. …" — Chris Elam
I am absolutely rooting for Cubs, Maddon, Zobrist. How could you not? He did so much for the area, team, fans, all around great guy. Zobrist too. I respect what he did here, appreciate it. Wish him the best. I was in Chicago for a conference last week, the city is ELECTRIC! It was great to be there and see it firsthand. Sports is a business. The clause was in his contract for a reason. The parallel here" Do you think the Raiders hated Gruden because he left Crazy Al and won a SB with Bucs? Well, it was against the Raiders, so that is an unfair comparison. It's the Cubs vs. Indians, not Cubs vs. Rays. Go Cubs! Go Maddon! Go Zobrist! — Patrick Gore
"I couldn't be more happy for him. I believe he did all that he could for us when he was here and wasn't able to do anymore given the situation he was in. Go Cubs!!!" — Greg Wickstrom
" Don't begrudge Joe Maddon at all. He took the Rays as far as he could and made a shrewd business decision to position himself for an even greater opportunity with the Cubs. Good for Joe. He earned it." — Vin Mannix
"I am a third-generation Tampa native. I was there for 0-26, I was there for the Super Bowl. I was there for the "Hit Show," and I was there for the World Series. I was there at Expo Hall at the Fairgrounds, and I was there at the Stanley Cup. I am a lifelong, never-say-die Bucs/Rays/Lightning Fan, who, above everything, remembers this city as a child when we had no teams, and understands what they mean to our small big city.
"My daughter Becca lives and works in Chicago, about a mile and a half from Wrigley, as a recent UF Grad. She remembers her mom's favorite Carlos Pena T-shirt, the unconditional love for Longo in our house, and yes, our adulation of Joe Maddon. She is now caught up in Cubs' fever, and when she can't get a ticket, religiously hangs out with friends in Wrigleyville during games. I know she feels some additional connection to the team because she grew up here when Maddon managed the Rays. …
"There is probably a split opinion in our house. My wife Jennifer loved the "Maddon Rays" so much that she is 100 percent behind him, watching happily as Joe and Ben Zobrist, another one of her favorites, make their championship journey. Admittedly, it took her a year to adjust to Joe as the Cub's manager, but she has been to Wrigley, and is all in. She still roots for our Rays, but more so with a sense of "what happened," lamenting the loss of that colorful, scrappy team that was so unexplainably hard to eliminate from contention when led by Maddon. She is a Rays fan, as are we all, but it is so easy to long for the old days, when we wrangled with the best on a shoestring budget and made stars out of young players. That being said, she loves the Cubs, is happy for Maddon, and texts continuously with our daughter during these playoff games.
"I feel differently about it. I see Joe Maddon as "our guy." He got his first chance here and was provided an ideal platform to prove himself. With a minimal budget and few superstars Tampa was a perfect foundation to prove that his incredible skill set mattered, and he availed himself of the opportunity, while showing off that relaxed personality through his funky costume road trips and "no loss is bad enough for me to be depressed" attitude.
"At the end of the day he still has a house here, and still contributes to our community. But Chicago has claimed him as theirs, and I feel like that is all anyone will remember. …
"I guess the best way to describe how I feel is ambivalent. This is Joe Maddon, it is almost impossible not to root for him, he is about all that is good in the game, and always makes it fun to watch. But, when he becomes the guy who breaks a century old curse in Chicago, it will define him; we will be the "place he got his start," and it will put a nail in the coffin of his time managing in Tampa. Maybe I am just a hometown guy who wants him to be forever related to the Rays and our city, and the fact that he is doing so well in Chicago makes it less likely every day. The bottom line is that the Cubs' job is one of the best in baseball, and Chicago is a great city, so rational thought dictates that his move was understandable.
When all is said and done I will be rooting for him, with my wife and daughter, maybe with some ambivalence, but perhaps with some pride that his journey started here. It's Joe, after all.
P.S. By the way, my daughter has been prohibited from rooting for the Blackhawks. That just isn't going to happen!!" — Ken Turkel
"Love Joe! He made the Rays a good team with limited resources> how can anyone not respect that?. And now he'll make, well deserved history with the Cubs. Rooting for him and the Cubs all the way!
But Joe's restaurant, Ava? Completely lame! Incredibly sub-par! Pay top dollar for small plates of bland food. That restaurant will never survive in Chicago. Shoot, I'd be surprised if it survives in Tampa." — Mark Gaudio
"I am an unconditional Rays fan and love Joe Maddon. I was saddened by his sudden departure and, like everyone else, I questioned it. But like Joe, I have moved on and wish him well. He has given me a team to cheer for in this year's World Series. …" — Larraine Brinley