Everybody knows Joe Maddon marches to his own beat. • So it came as little surprise that the former Rays manager started his first spring training workout with the Cubs on Friday by blaring some of his favorite tunes through a speaker during stretching. From the Rolling Stone's Brown Sugar to Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gimme Three Steps to Rush's Tom Sawyer, the Cubs got loose as Maddon, 61, made the rounds, meeting some players for the first time. • "I told the boys I'm a product of the '60s and '70s, and you'll have to put up with that," Maddon said, smiling. • On the same day new Rays manager Kevin Cash and general manager Matt Silverman held their spring-opening news conference in Port Charlotte, Maddon was in Mesa, where he said he cut his teeth as a young manager and scout. With a "cheat sheet" — a roster — in his back pocket, Maddon held several one-on-one conversations, admitting it was different putting on Cubs colors for the first time after being a Ray since 2006. • "Honestly, I was more comfortable than I thought I would be," he said.
As many big moves as the Cubs made in the offseason, including signing pitching ace Jon Lester, tabbing Maddon as their manager in November is what kick-started their transformation, in their roster and expectations.
Maddon, who opted out of his Rays contract in October before signing a five-year, $25 million deal with Chicago, has given the franchise — and city — optimism that it can bring home a World Series for the first time since 1908.
"It's a complete package," said Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson, a former Ray. "You bring in Lester, a dominant pitcher. You bring (pitcher Jason) Hammel back, and you're bringing in Joe, too, to be the final piece of the formula. It's going to be interesting and a lot of fun around here."
Jackson said it was a bit of a "Rays reunion" in Arizona, with him, Hammel, Maddon, bench coach Dave Martinez and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske. Those players and coaches know what they're getting in Maddon. The other Cubs have loved their first impressions of their edgy, unorthodox skipper.
"I think it is his temperament and attitude," starter Jake Arrieta said. "It's one that meshes well with this game. He gets it in the sense that the season is so long, there's going to be high tension, going to be emotions running hot. But he's pretty much figured out how do we release some of this negative energy? The way you do that is keep it loose."
Arrieta said he loved talking cars and music with Maddon, noting he has a 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 that "will be a classic."
"We've got a lot of the same interests," Arrieta said.
Veteran reliever Jason Motte, a longtime Cardinal, said he had encountered Maddon only in passing as an opponent in recent years. But Maddon was a key reason he came to Chicago as a free agent. As catcher David Ross said, Maddon told him this is "the place to be."
"He's a good dude," Motte said of Maddon. "I told my wife, if I get a chance, I'd love to play for him. So when the opportunity presented itself this offseason, I was like, I'd love to come here and play for not only the Cubs but a guy like Joe."
Those who played for Maddon in Tampa Bay as far back as 2008 say he hasn't changed a bit.
"Joe is Joe," Jackson said.
"Same guy," Hammel said. He laughed: "His haircut has changed."
Hammel said Maddon's personality and "aura" will resonate well with a very young Cubs team, which is coming off back-to-back last-place finishes and has its fifth manager since 2010. Maddon, a two-time manager of the year, talked in his introductory news conference about making the World Series. Hammel believes the Cubs can. After all, he has seen it before, with the worst-to-first 2008 Rays.
"They've been doing a rebuild for a long time now," Hammel said. "Now you bring in certain guys and all it takes is one piece to make it all click. And usually it starts at the top with Joe. I'm very confident he's got a good thing in place and a good idea of what he's going to be doing, and we'll just follow along."
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Joe Maddon versus the four Cubs managers since 2010 (Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum, Rick Renteria):
|Joe Maddon||Cubs managers|