TAMPA – The red T-shirt was a little bright, but Joe Maddon thought the color looked good on him.
Having signed on a couple weeks ago to return to his baseball roots in managing the Angels, Maddon was back in the Tampa Bay area to promote a cause he had long held close, helping the homeless.
Wednesday, that meant he and wife Jaye hosting a Thanksmas event to serve meals and provide backpacks and socks, to about 200 adults and children at Metropolitan Ministries through their Respect 90 Foundation, the 11th year they’d held similar events in the Tampa Bay area.
“To get back here and get Thanksmas rolling again is pretty cool,’’ said Maddon, 65.
Always thoughtful and gregarious, the former Rays and Cubs manager had plenty to say about baseball as well, praising former bench coach Dave Martinez’s work getting the Nationals to Game 7 of the World Series, and on other topics:
On signing with the Angels without talking to any other teams with openings:
“I wanted the Angels to know in advance when this all became ready that I would like to go there, and I also wanted the other teams to know I don’t want to interview unless this doesn’t work out because I thought it would be disingenuous to both sides. … I didn’t know how the end of the season with the Cubs was going to work out either. Everyone thinks they knew, but they didn’t, and I didn’t either. When it got down to the last couple days it was really obvious to both sides. I didn’t want to be back either. It was more of a bilateral than a unilateral decision.’’
On the Rays success this past season:
“When you have that kind of pitching you can take anybody to the limit. It’s hard to do what they do regarding the consistent bullpen machinations … and get it all the way through and get guys to be fresh enough to be that, but they took it as far as they could with a glut of good arms. They have some nice starters obviously, but primarily you’ve got to figure it out among the masses. The Rays are kind of the envy of the industry based on so many good arms with so much good stuff and they seem to be able to handle high leverage moments. … Nobody develops and executes pitching as well as they do, and that’s a big part of their success.’’
On plans for his Tampa-based restaurant (Ava) and home, given the new gig in California:
“Ava has been flourishing, and there’s one going up in Charlotte (N.C.) and we’re talking about putting one in Lakeland. … And we’re keeping the house. We’re still Florida residents.” (Jaye Maddon also will keep open her Tampa-based Epic fitness and boxing studio. Also, Maddon said he and his partners plan to keep open their recently opened restaurant in Chicago adjacent to Wrigley Field called Maddon’s Post, though said they are hoping business picks up. “I’ll put our food up against anybody’s,’’ he said.)
On the Rays’ ongoing quest for a new stadium:
“The Trop is not a major-league facility; it has nice air-conditioning. … If you want this team to prosper for the next 50 years or more, we need a new facility here, there’s no getting around it. … I’m not trying to dis on anybody. … You want to see it thrive, it’s not going to survive at the friggin’ Trop. You’ve got to put the ballpark on (the Tampa) side, close to the population where it’s easier to get to end of the work day. You’ve got to facilitate it. The Lightning put in 20,000 people a night, and with a tightly jammed parking lot. They play 41 games, so you double that down in a grand facility that has all the amenities, I believe fans in this area will support it. … The right ballpark in the right location with real baseball fans, which I think exist here, you’ll find the folks to show up.’’
On the Cubs hiring David Ross to replace him, and all the current talk of needed accountability:
“I love that David’s there. I spoke with him the night before his press conference and we had a great conversation. All these other semantics and descriptions, I don’t necessarily agree with all that. We’ll see how it all works out. But I’m really into David being really successful. I do want to play them in a World Series, because it would mean both sides are successful. And I want us to win the last game, which I think is only appropriate. … I love David, I think he’s going to do a great job actually, and I love a lot of the players there. I’ve got more thought- provoking, tear-provoking outreach from some (Cubs players) at the end of this season than I’ve ever gotten before.’’
On Chaim Bloom leaving the Rays to run the Red Sox:
“For Chaim, I think it’s going to be great. He’s going to have the opportunity to demonstrate all that he’s about. … I’ve always thought Chaimer probably had the most common sense in any room. He was able to drill through issues and really reduce them and I always appreciated that. We’d be sitting there talking about a bunch of stuff, there’d be a break, Chaimer would come back with the right answer. … He’s going to take a situation like Boston, he’s going to simplify it. He’s going to drive probably the same thing, pitching and defense. In a big market he’s probably going to utilize small market efficiencies. He’s going to be considered one of the best in the next couple years. I feel the same way about (Rays GM Erik Neander), I have a lot of faith in him, too. …. When I was here, I loved working with both of them. They were both ahead of their time.’’
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.