ST. PETERSBURG — Joe Maddon is managing just fine in his first summer without pro baseball in 47 years.
Sure, he will miss being at Tropicana Field with the Angels this week, visiting old friends from his 2006-14 tenure leading the Rays, catching up with other bay area buddies, grabbing lunch or a late dinner at the Ava restaurant in South Tampa that he co-owns.
But Maddon made it clear in a phone conversation Friday night that he does not miss the game — or at least not the analytics-driven, front office-run version it has become in most places — and would have to find an “absolutely correct” situation to manage again.
He also said his unexpected June 7 firing as Angels manager, with a 27-29 record amid a 12-game losing streak, ended his relationship with the organization he called home for 33 years, including his first 30 before returning as manager in 2020.
“It’s like, once that happened, I dissolved my affiliation with them,” Maddon said. “There’s no emotion anymore. There’s no anything. It’s like to me they don’t even exist, organizationally.
“I still text with a lot of the players, I text with a lot of the staff. One of them called me (Friday). So we’re staying in touch.”
He said the Angels having a worse record since his firing — 25-38 through Friday — doesn’t impact his perspective.
“It doesn’t make me feel better, it doesn’t make me feel worse,” Maddon said. “Organizationally, I’m kind of numb to the whole thing. Because when you wish them badly, I’m wishing really good friends badly — and I can’t do that.”
Seeking the right fit
That the Angels are heading to an eighth straight season of missing the playoffs and seventh straight losing record, despite having one of the game’s best players in Mike Trout and another in Shohei Ohtani (the past five seasons) is “strange” and “frustrating,” Maddon said.
It’s also indicative of the issues within the Angels organization.
“The infrastructure needs to be improved. There’s a lot of things that need to be improved there,” Maddon said. “These guys can’t do it alone, obviously. It’s the non-sexy stuff that has to get better. It’s not just bright, shiny objects — they have that.
“They need to do the infrastructure better in order to get to where we had been in the past. That was my goal, to get the Angels back to where we had been in the past. That was it. Nothing but pure intentions. I was an Angel. They had every ounce of me. And now that’s done.”
At 68 and in good health — playing lots of golf during the unexpected free time he is spending mostly in his hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania — Maddon said he definitely would be interested in managing again. He has compiled a 1,382-1,216 (.532) record over parts of 19 seasons with the Rays, Cubs and Angels, winning the jinx-breaking 2016 World Series with Chicago.
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But he wouldn’t take just any job, given his disdain for how many teams are currently structured, insisting on having mutual trust with his boss — “You just can’t shut it down because you go through a losing streak,” he said — and a commonality of purpose.
“I would only go into that marriage really feeling good about that I’m philosophically aligned with whomever I’m going to work with,” he said. “Meaning, it has to be a balance, it just can’t be lopsided analytically. Baseball operation has to be one that understands both sides and understands it well.”
Maddon said he definitely wouldn’t take a job as what he calls “a middle manager,” where the general manager and staff make the bulk of the decisions for the field manager to carry out, a “prominent” setup around the game.
“When people keep blaming the dugout for a lot of the things they’re seeing, they need to understand they shouldn’t be doing that,” he said. “Because the manager has so many voices in the back of his head by the time the game begins, it’s not his game like it had been. It’s absolutely the front office’s game.”
It isn’t just an issue in Anaheim, Maddon said.
“It’s at the point where some GM should really just put a uniform on and go down to the dugout, or their main analytical membrane, he should go down to the dugout,” he said.
“That’s something that should be done. Because they try to work this middle man kind of a thing. And what happens is when the performance isn’t what they think it should be, it’s never about the acquisitional process. It’s always about the inability of coaches and managers to get the best out of a player. And that’s where this tremendous disconnect is formed.”
‘I feel like a teenager right now’
Maddon said he hasn’t given much thought to what he’ll do next if it’s not managing, noting his days are filled with fun: “I’ve got the three G’s — golfing, gardening and grilling.”
He did say there are “a couple guys” running teams — he wouldn’t say who — that he appreciates and respects for having the kind of “strong balance between the old and the new” that he finds appealing. And if one of those teams offered him a special assistant, advisor or other type of job — with a “significant” voice — he would be interested.
But he insists he is in no hurry, saying, “right now I need to get tired of what I’m doing in order to want to do something else.”
Maddon said he is going to bed earlier (9-9:30 p.m.), getting up earlier (5-5:30 a.m.) and making the most of each day as “a civilian.” He is spending time with his soon to be 90-year-old mother, Beanie, who is in an assisted living facility, and still cracking jokes.
He is improving his golf game, shooting 79 Thursday, hosting his Try Not to Suck (in the Valley) Golf Classic, benefiting his Respect 90 Foundation, and playing in recent events with former Indians and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and NFL Hall of Famer Joe Namath, who has become a good friend.
“I’m having — I don’t want to say the best time of my life — it’s just something I have not done,” Maddon said. “I mean, I feel like a teenager right now. I feel like I’m on summer vacation out of Lafayette College.
“My days are absolutely jam-packed with things that I want to do and enjoy doing. I’m around family and friends. And I’m in a Pennsylvania summer right now, which is magnificent.
“So it’s all good. I’m not lamenting anything. I’m not upset. I’m not angry. I’m having a blast.”
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