Joe Maddon eschews pal Mike Scioscia’s thirst for power

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NEW YORK – More than 3,000 miles from where his old friend just won a cage match with the front office for MLB’s undisputed manager heavyweight title, Joe Maddon on Thursday morning enjoyed post-magician banter with writers — this week’s bottle of red wine over his left shoulder and a glass nearby.

“I only want to do my job,” the Cubs manager said. “I want to do my job and then leave and then go have a glass of wine or ride my bike in the morning and don’t worry about making a ton of phone calls and player personnel decisions or whatever.

“I believe in checks and balances.”

Whatever issues the Cubs’ rebuilding process faces through this pivot season or beyond, Maddon seems sure it won’t face the kind of manager-front office power struggle that embroiled the Los Angeles Angels until bringing down general manager Jerry Dipoto this week.

Maddon remains a close friend of Angels’ 16th-year manager Mike Scioscia – who had battled Dipoto since he became Scioscia’s third GM in 2012.

Maddon spent six years on Scioscia’s coaching staff and 30 years in that organization. He respects Scioscia. And if there is one manager in baseball who rivals Scioscia’s power and voice in the game it is Maddon.

But Maddon is not Scioscia.

And that could be as big a key for the Cubs’ success over the next few years as payroll and pitching, considering the multi-year, multi-million-dollar statures and egos now layered into Cubs’ leadership to finish this high-stakes plan.

“The least attractive item would be for me to have so much power that I would not have to listen to [others],” Maddon said.

Like his boss, Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ first-year manager does not lack for ego, confidence or strong opinions.

But he seems to have a greater thirst for synergy and fine wine than hunger for control.

That much was sorted out behind the RV on that Pensacola beach eight months ago with team president Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, over beers and baseball talk.

“I like the way we have it set up. I really enjoy the people I work with,” Maddon said. “The conversation’s always healthy. And then I get to do my job. This is my job. Even though I feel qualified to do other things, it’s not my job.”

If Maddon didn’t fully appreciate the separation of powers after three decades as a scout, instructor, minor-league manager and big-league coach, he developed an abiding faith in checks and balances during nine years of managing in Tampa Bay under GM Andrew Friedman – with a Rays organization that has long been the industry model for ownership-GM-managerial synergy.

“My take on things in our industry today is that there has to be a strong relationship between the front office and this seat,” Maddon said. “It’s changed dramatically over the last 25 or 30 years – where there was this autocratic manager whose powers pretty much exceeded everybody’s and he was almost in charge of all decision making.”

Telling Jon Lester he’s done after four innings or sending the traveling secretary in search of a magician in New York is about as autocratic as Maddon gets. So far at least.

Not to say there hasn’t already been “healthy debate” between Maddon and the front office over a handful of personnel decisions, including Javy Baez’s roster status in spring training.

“I love that. That’s healthy,” he said. “There should be disagreements.”

That’s where relationships and trust matter, Maddon said.

“So it’s not an argument. It’s not a dispute,” he said. “It’s a nice debate. And it’s not about who’s right; it’s about getting it right.”

Whether raised stakes and heat during the pursuit of Cubs grail ever escalate into bona fide conflict between the strong personalities in charge, Maddon seems confident in his lane – and in his relationships with Epstein and Hoyer in just the last several months.

Scioscia butted heads with Dipoto since the GM unilaterally fired friend and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher three years ago. More recent conflicts erupted over the communication and use of analytics.

“I love the geek department. I seek out the geek department,” said Maddon, long an advocate of more information – balanced against old-school tendencies based on a lifetime of field experience.

“I give them stuff to work on all the time. I want information.”

At best, Maddon is a coalition builder with a compassion for others’ beliefs and viewpoints. At least, he is a progressive communicator who embraces new ideas and creativity.

“I know what I think and what I believe, but then you have to hear this other opinion also to really come to the correct conclusion,” he said. “There’s so much going on out there, and there’s so many bright people out there that I want to hear what you have to say, man.”

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