Will Maddon magic be enough in Cubs’ 2nd half — or too much?

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If the Cubs are going to do what they plan in the second half this season it might take every trick their celebrity manager has up his sleeve.

But does Joe Maddon have another magician on retainer in case the increasing number of rookie hitters slump down the stretch? Is he poised to raid the penguin habitat at the Lincoln Park Zoo if the front office can’t stabilize the back end of the rotation with a deal by the trade deadline?

Perhaps the most intriguing question about the Cubs’ $25 million manager and his unique methods for motivating young teams is this:

In his second go-round as a manager how many times can Maddon use the tricks and gadgets effectively in Chicago that made him famous and beloved in Tampa Bay – especially after pulling out the magician thing 74 games in?

“We did a lot of things that probably won’t happen here [again] or maybe anywhere else,” said Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, talking just before the All-Star break about Maddon’s influence on the Rays during Longoria’s seven years playing for him. “But that was the beauty of Joe Maddon.

“From the beginning they were trying to change the culture of the Rays,” Longoria said, of former Rays general manager Andrew Friedman and Maddon. “So we did different things.”

Nobody in baseball has needed more culture change than the Cubs for the better part of a century, to hear multiple North Side front office regimes tell it.

And perhaps nobody in baseball needed the “beauty of Joe Maddon” more than these Cubs at this time.

“It was the best move that they could possibly have made,” said Rays ace Chris Archer, the one-time Cubs minor-league, pointing at the youthful direction the Cubs are taking. “Joe knows how to get the most out of his young talent, and he does that by getting out of the way.”

But some of Maddon’s most publicized methods for motivation-through-distraction also seem to have a shelf life.

When he employed a magician in the clubhouse in New York in response to a five-game losing streak two weeks ago, it caught many players off-guard, inspired Anthony Rizzo to shout “It’s magic” after eluding a tag at third, and coincided with a series sweep of the Mets.

“I think for now, early, it’s great,” Archer said, “because you need the looseness. Guys who had been around longer and had seen the same thing over and over, I think it got a little overused. But you can see why he was doing it: Team’s in a little funk, you want to break up the monotony.”

Of course, there are only so many animals in the zoo.

“Exactly,” Archer said. “But right now that zoo is new. And you want to see all the acts and all the animals right now.”

Maddon has said it from the day he took over: He has no intention of changing. And the gimmicks he has employed – to augment his over-arching be-yourself, enjoy-the-moment directive – are inspired by the moment and situation, he said. They don’t come from a script or pre-contrived origins.

The Cubs might actually need all the tricks he can summon in the second half as the team gets even younger (Kyle Schwarber in the house Friday) and the front office faces a stiff challenge to make a trade splash by the July 31 deadline.

But the real trick might be picking his spots more carefully this time around.

Rays players polled by the front office after Maddon’s departure said last fall they had “tired of the antics and the sideshows” and welcomed “a more normal experience,” the Tampa Bay Times reported this spring.

The report also came with the caveat that Maddon was missed and that his influence was appreciated and respected – especially when it came to his part in turning a perennial doormat into a perennial contender that regularly beat the gilded Yankees and Red Sox.

“Winning solves a lot of things,” reliever Brandon Gomes said of the team-chemistry buy-in across the clubhouse. “It’s the whole atmosphere of expecting to win and then keeping things enjoyable at the same time.”

Younger Cubs players seem to thrive off the Maddon vibe, including Rizzo raising the show-quality and volume on the post-game smoke-and-lights victory parties in the clubhouse he started last year.

Rookie Addison Russell is poring through the audio version of a book Maddon gave him to help keep him from dwelling on baseball and refresh his mind: “11/22/63” by Stephen King. “It’s coming along good,” Russell said.

Veteran Cubs players have seemed to get more comfortable with the culture Maddon has imported the longer they’ve been around it to see the genuineness of it – and success, so far.

“You never know how to take it from the other side,” said stoic ace Jon Lester, the two-time World Series champ who looked cynically at Maddon as a division opponent in Boston.

“Especially being rivals you don’t really know if it’s unprofessional or if it’s this or that,” Lester said. “Being around him, it’s great. Especially for these guys that are young and haven’t done this, to keep it light to keep it entertaining.”

Longoria, one of the players in the Tampa Bay Times report acknowledging the shelf-life factor of penguins, magicians and dress-up themes, also acknowledged how well liked and respected Maddon was in the clubhouse.

“That is kind of the trademark of his managerial style,” Longoria said. “It’s just eccentric, quirky and trying to convert that energy and that vibe into wins and performance on the field. He saw it work here, and I think that’s what he’s trying to take over there.

“They have all the ability in the world over there. I think the Cubs have a ton of young talent. If you want to try to build a solid franchise and a dynasty they have the pieces in place.”

Ultimately, that’s what’s going to determine whether the Cubs succeed under Maddon. His arrival with the Rays in 2006 coincided with a gushing flow of talent rising though that farm system – in particular a disproportionate number of playoff-caliber starting pitchers.

Rays rookie manager Kevin Cash, lauds Maddon for the strength of the clubhouse he left behind, and said that’s why succeeding the two-time Manager of the Year wasn’t the hard act to follow that it might seem.

“What Joe did obviously worked. But you have to be true to yourself,” Cash, 37, said. “Anytime there’s change, there’s an opportunity for [a fresh perspective]. Some of that stuff just wouldn’t be natural for me to do. It worked for Joe and the guys that were here playing for him.

“You can kind of look sideways at it all you want. But it helped create a lot of success in this organization.”

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