Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Fennelly: Wishing ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon well, but not 'this' well

Most of us wished Joe Maddon well when he left the Rays for Chicago. Great guy.

But did he have to do this well?

Curse Busting Joe is in the World Series with the Chicago Cubs. He's the king of baseball, the miracle worker, always with a quote. Animal visits. Pajama road trips. One big blast. Same old Joe. Only now he belongs to Chicago. People there claim him as such, too. They think they invented him.

Wait.

We had him first!

All those Maddon-isms — he used them here first! We had the cockatoos in the clubhouse first! What about our miracle, that 2008 Series trip! Joe was here! This was his first working laboratory.

Now this is the place where he used to be, though Maddon still owns a home and co-owns a restaurant here. But will anyone remember his Rays managing artistry here now that he has made a masterpiece in Chicago?

They stole our Joe.

I asked readers what they thought of dear, departed Joe and got back about what I expected. Basically: How can you hate Joe? Yes, there was some anti-Maddon sentiment. But it's Joe, and it's not as if he ran off after a couple of good seasons. He helped give us baseball history that might have to last us a while. He was smart, he was fun, he was our Joe.

Now he's their Joe.

That's the hard part.

"Ever since Maddon left, I have been actively rooting for him to fail," reader Matt Hewitt wrote. "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."

But reader Marilyn Thomas wrote, "How do I like him now? Still love him. He was, and is, one of the most innovative managers in baseball. … Sure, I wish he was 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!"

Then there's Tampa attorney Ken Turkel. He hit on the problem.

Turkel grew up in Tampa and adores its teams. But this Maddon thing has his stomach in knots. He didn't want Joe to go. And now Joe is the toast of Chicagoland. It's even more complicated. Turkel's wife, Jennifer, after she worked through Joe leaving, is all about Joe again. Their daughter, Rebecca, works in Chicago and lives close to Wrigley Field. She has adopted Joe Ma's Cubs.

"How can you not like Joe? But I'm a little ambivalent," Ken Turkel said. "I don't know what it is. He's kind of our guy and now he isn't. But my daughter is up there having so much fun. She texts me all the time, all caps … CUBBIES! No, I don't want Joe to lose. After all, it's Joe. But there's still hurt. Not hate. Maybe not anger. It's more what could have been, what was.

"And now you read the articles … 'Maddon stops at the same coffee shop every day to see Sid the coffee guy' … and he's like Mr. Chicago guy. He can't be part of their neighborhoods already, can he? But how can you get upset? Joe still lives here. He serves homeless people food. But I'm sitting here in emotional turmoil."

I hear you, Ken.

Can't you see the ticker-tape parade if the Cubs somehow beat the Indians? Can't you see Maddon in the lead car, holding a black cat, sitting between a Billy goat and a Bartman?

Chicago Joe.

I remember meeting with Maddon last offseason at Ava, the Italian restaurant he co-owns on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, not far from his home on Bayshore Boulevard. Maddon stood behind a pride and joy — his restored 1972 Chevelle. He had made a few changes. He opened the trunk. Maroon carpet. And there in the middle of the carpet was the emblem: a 'C' with a bear.

"That's the emblem for the 1908 Cubs, their last Series winner," Maddon said. "This is the Cubmobile. Look at that emblem. Is that cool or what?"

But did he have to go and be this cool?

Did he have to do the coolest thing a baseball manager could do?

Love the guy. He's Joe. Love what he did down here.

Wonder when the restaurant opens up there.

Comments
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