Maddon much more than your ordinary Joe

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Chicago has had some legendary coaches and managers, as we should. We deserve the best.

We probably haven’t had enough, but such is life.

George Halas, Mike Ditka, Phil Jackson and Ozzie Guillen all won something big and captivated our town with their style and/or personality.

We can go back to Cubs managers Cap Anson and Frank Chance — even if nobody alive watched them in action — and say they were among the great. Check their records.

Moreover, the best Blackhawks coach of all time is still in full swing. That’s Joel Quenneville, with his three Stanley Cup titles.

Then we have Cubs manager Joe Maddon. He appears to be one of the greatest hires in the history of Chicago sports and a man worthy of joining the legendary crew, even if he only has been here 30 months.

In two seasons with the Cubs, he has a .619 winning percentage in the regular season and a 15-11 record in the postseason and — oh, yeah — guided them to their first World Series championship in 108 years. That right there is enough for a statue. But Maddon might be a great leader for the long haul.

Organizations do win titles — to use a little Jerry Krause jargon — but individuals make the difference. And Maddon is nothing if not an individual.

He does odd things that might or might not be genius. You like magicians, sing-alongs, talent shows, funny clothes and Anthony Rizzo on the piano in spring training, singing a rock song terribly? Or do you think those things are stupid affectations?

Well, Maddon digs them, digs being different, enthusiastic, funny and wacky. But he’s also focused and serious about what is a game kids start playing when they barely can run.

Sure, Maddon had great talent last season. What a pitching staff, huh? How about youngsters such as Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javy Baez? But nobody wins without talent. And lots of coaches lose with talent.

To succeed is an art. A craft. A feel, more than anything.

Here’s something odd: Maddon won the National League Manager of the Year award with the Cubs in 2015, not last season. The Cubs finished third in the NL Central in 2015, but they improved by 24 games over 2014 and made it all the way to the NL Championship Series before losing to the Mets.

How sweet even that defeat was because the future was laid out: The young Cubs were ascendant. They would be the favorites to win it all in 2016.

And they did.

Yes, Maddon was criticized by everyone with eyeballs for overusing meteor-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman and giving the hook to starters too early there at the end.

But good ol’ Joe hasn’t gotten upset or defensive about that valid criticism, saying only that — what the hell? — we won!


GalleryMajor League Baseball has taken a goad from the political-correctness police and declared that players dressing up as women is no longer funny or respectful (of course, it isn’t!) and that teams can’t make their rookies do it anymore.

The MLB policy declares there will be no more ‘‘dressing up as women or wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristic.’’

Shazam! Try finding a costume nobody can sue you about now!

But it’s believed babies still don’t have an organized political group, even if age discrimination lurks. And dressing up like animals or, perhaps, vegetables still seems doable. The merry Maddon pranksters should continue on, if more delicately.

Still, Maddon’s alleged juvenile playfulness should be seen for what it is: a thoughtful, reasoned manipulation in a profession that saps players’ vitality and will long before it saps their physical strength. Maddon has been in the game in some manner for more than 40 years. He’s not nuts.

Remember how crazy Jackson’s meditative practices were viewed? Ozzie’s cheerful chattering? Ditka’s volcanic passion? Not anymore.

And Maddon needs to keep rolling with who he is and what he is. When, at the news conference announcing his hiring at the Cubby Bear across from Wrigley Field, he said he’d buy a shot of whiskey for everybody there — well, you knew this was different. This was not Dusty Baker or Dale Sveum.

This was Joe.

If Joe can maintain his Joe-ness, what a world the Cubs might have.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.



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