Joe Maddon reminisces on tenure in Tampa ahead of Cubs-Rays series


Cubs manager Joe Maddon was disappointed to learn that many of his former Rays coaches and staffers planned to pass up a dinner invitation to spend Monday’s off day with local relatives.

Nevertheless, Maddon will do plenty of reminiscing this week, when the Cubs host Maddon’s former team for a two-game series. The Rays will host the Cubs for two games in September.

Maddon reiterated Sunday he had no intention of leaving the Rays until Andrew Friedman, the executive vice president of baseball operations, departed for the Dodgers shortly after the 2014 season. After Maddon and the Rays failed to reach an agreement on an extension, Maddon exercised an opt-out clause that triggered if Friedman departed.

Nevertheless, Maddon’s roots with the Rays, whom he managed for nine years, remain deep.

“I was Evan Longoria’s first manager,” Maddon said of the Rays’ star third baseman who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2008 — when the Rays reached the World Series in Maddon’s third season. “Among the players that I’ve managed, he probably had the most significant impact on my career.”

Maddon went on to compare Longoria to the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, who also blossomed as a third baseman after a brief stint in the minors and gave Maddon a lot of flexibility.

Maddon’s thread to the Rays runs through coaches Jim Hickey and Tom Foley to pitchers Chris Archer and Brad Boxberger (whose father, Rod, pitched to Maddon with the Boulder Collegians amateur summer team). It also includes manager Kevin Cash, whose Rays have a better record (43-41) than Maddon’s Cubs (41-41).

“I’m happy for Cash,” Maddon said. “He played for me. And I’m happy for his success.”

The hiring of Cash, 39, who spent three seasons as a scout and major-league coach after his playing career ended, was seen a major change in direction for the Rays. Maddon had worked 14 seasons in the minors and 12 more on the Angels’ staff before the Rays hired him.

But bench coach Dave Martinez, who accompanied Maddon to the Cubs, said the analytical and cultural changes implemented by Friedman and Maddon remain strong with the Rays.

“I look back and even where they’re at today, it’s still a good organization,” said Martinez, who, like Maddon, still resides in the Tampa area in the offseason.

“They still got Hickey and Foley. They know what we did to be successful, and I still see glimpses when I watch TV. I keep in touch with the coaches, but my heart is here.”

Jumping from the small-market Rays to the Cubs created greater expectations for Maddon, but his style hasn’t changed, according to Cubs left-hander Mike Montgomery, who spent time with Maddon in spring training with the Rays in 2014.

“I was only in big-league camp, but his presence made everything seem lighthearted in a lot of ways but make people work hard,” Montgomery said. “It was a loose environment from where I came from in Kansas City.

“It was good for me; I thrived more in that environment.”

Maddon’s parting was abrupt but timely, considering he directed the Cubs to the 2016 World Series championship while the Rays have survived without stars players such as David Price, Ben Zobrist, James Shields and Matt Moore.

“I know Joe, and we both have heartfelt feelings for being there so long and doing the things we did,” Martinez said. “But this is our home, and we don’t look back. We look forward.”

mgonzales@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @MDGonzales



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