Maddux brings levity to managerial interview
Defers talk of brother Greg joining staff; Alomar on tap Friday
CHICAGO -- Mike Maddux did his homework before interviewing for the Cubs job by talking to his brother, Greg, who could possibly join his older sibling's coaching staff if he were hired to manage the team.
"I think this was a unique situation, the first time we ever talked about anything like this," Mike Maddux said Wednesday after his interview session with baseball operations president Theo Epstein and staff at Wrigley Field. "[Greg] gave me a little background of what's going on. It was very, very helpful."
Mike Maddux, 50, tabled any discussion about Greg's involvement until later. First, he would have to be offered the Cubs job, and second, he'd have to get his family's approval.
Maddux withdrew from consideration for the Red Sox managerial opening because of the long distance between Boston and his current home in the Dallas area. Both his daughters are in school in Texas, and the family has been together since June for the first time in three years. Why did he agree to meet with the Cubs?
"Chicago's a neat place," Mike said. "I like being in Chicago."
It is a shorter flight from Dallas to Chicago than it is from Dallas to Boston. But perhaps the Cubs' situation -- looking for that first World Series since 1908, retooling under Epstein -- was too intriguing to not explore.
Being a big league manager is not something Maddux was pursuing. He is coming off his third season as the Rangers' pitching coach after spending six seasons in the same capacity with the Brewers. The Rangers' ERA has dropped in each of his three seasons there, and this year, Texas ranked fifth in the American League in ERA (3.79), fourth in strikeouts (1,179), and second in batting average against (.244). Rangers pitchers gave up the third-fewest walks (461) and second-fewest hits (1,327) in the AL.
"I'm very happy with what I do, I enjoy what I do," Maddux said. "I'm administering to half the team in Spring Training, during the season. People have reached out to me [to interview]. It wasn't something that I've reached out to other people. I think it's kind of cool to be considered."
He showed his sense of humor during the 20-minute media session, which has been a part of each interview for a Cubs candidate.
"What would I look for in a pitching coach?" Maddux said. "Somebody who could put up with my second guessing."
How would he handle volatile pitcher Carlos Zambrano?
"I don't know him," Maddux said. "The first thing you have to do is meet him. I heard he was a big teddy bear. I might pick him up and just burp him."
"I saw Carlos Zambrano from across the field seven, eight years ago and he was the best thing since sliced bread," Maddux said. "He beat you on the mound, he beat you at the plate, he beat you in the field. He would even steal bases. He was a great competitor. He was the best pitcher in the National League. That's what I have in my mind about him. I've seen him dominate."
What was his impression of Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and the Cubs' front office?
"I can't do an impression of them," Maddux said.
There were some more laughs.
"Young, bright folks," Maddux said after pausing for effect. "Much like what I deal with in my current position. The new-age general managers, front-office guys, are highly educated, very motivated, but very true and very honest, and that's about all you can really ask for is people who are honest, people who share your passion. Even if our educations are far apart, I'm pretty [darn] proud of my high school education. I went to college, too. Very entertaining. We had a good time together, I think."
Maddux, Epstein, Hoyer and staff went to dinner Tuesday night, then wrapped up the interview on Wednesday. Maddux follows Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin and Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, who have interviewed for both the Red Sox and Cubs openings. The Cubs will next meet with Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. on Friday. Alomar, a six-time All-Star, interviewed with the Red Sox on Wednesday.
Terry Francona, who interviewed with the Cardinals on Tuesday, also has been in touch with Epstein, who hired him to manage in Boston eight years ago. However, Epstein said last week the Cubs might not be the right fit for Francona.
"I've talked to Theo a bunch, actually, which I've appreciated," Francona said. "Theo and I are always going to be friends, regardless of what happens, so that's good."
Maddux pitched 15 seasons in the big leagues, beginning in 1986 with the Phillies. He also spent time with the Dodgers, Padres, Mets, Pirates, Red Sox, Mariners, Expos and Astros. What kind of manager would he be?
"A young one," he said. "I'd be a guy who would trust his players. I'd be demanding, hold them accountable. You really have to hold your players accountable. You send the message, you give the message. You have to make sure they adhere to the ground rules."
Maddux isn't insisting that players walk a certain way or talk a specific way.
"You post your guard rails and let guys go within the guard rails," he said. "As long as you're going forward and not going out of bounds, you're OK."
Maddux is well versed on Wrigley Field's pluses and minuses.
"All the new ballparks, whatever they cost, they cost a lot of money," Maddux said. "They probably cost more money than it costs to repair this place. One thing they don't have is history. This place has history. This is what every new ballpark wants is what Wrigley has, fans who are unbelievable. They come out year after year. It's magic.
"I would say Wrigley is one of the few places in this game that's been around just about as long as the game and has kind of become such a piece of history with the game that it's unheralded in the National League."
However, there are challenges, such as day games and the lack of amenities, such as batting cages. Maddux recognizes that. What did he tell pitchers when his teams played the Cubs?
"Pitch better than I did here," said Maddux, who has a career 6.31 ERA in 18 games at Wrigley, including five starts.
Does Maddux have a theory as to why the Cubs have not won a World Series in so long?
"When I was with the opposition, I did everything I could to keep the Cubs from winning," he said. "I've never been here and analyzed it. I never played for the Cubs, always played against them. I've always admired everything -- and I despise the song 'Go Cubs Go' after they kick our butts. I've always admired this town. It's a unique, very unique setup, very historic. Whoever becomes the manager of this ballclub is in a good spot."
And as Maddux left the interview room, he struck a pose from side to side like a preening model for the cameras.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.