CINCINNATI — As the Cubs’ road woes continue and speculation persists that his job is at stake down the stretch, manager Joe Maddon said his optimism level is “very high” that he’ll return with a contract extension next season.
“I’m operating and I believe that we’ll be together for a couple more years at least,” said Maddon, 65, who also said he could envision managing another five years.
“I know 65 is a number, but isn’t it how you feel and your energy for the day?”
Despite arguably the best 4½-year managerial run in franchise history, there has been skepticism about his job security since team president Theo Epstein said in November that he will not consider an extension until Maddon’s last contract season plays out this year.
Epstein has called this season a “year of reckoning” for many in the organization after last year’s abrupt exit in a wild-card playoff loss. The focus turned almost entirely to internal improvement largely because of little payroll flexibility to address needs from the outside.
Maddon said Sunday that he has had no talks with the front office since then about his contract, which pays $6 million this season in the last year of an original five-year, $25 million deal (which escalated by $1 million per year after winning the 2016 World Series).
Maddon, who has taken a more hands-on approach this year with coaching and general communication with players at the request of his bosses, also said he doesn’t think the final record or October results will determine whether Epstein wants him back.
“Everybody keeps talking [about that],” he said. “I think it has nothing to do with wins and losses. If that’s the case, I would have signed a contract at the end of last season.
“Our success even to this point today, on August whatever this is, has been pretty good. To just reduce it to wins and losses, that makes no sense at all.”
The Cubs have a two-game lead in the National League Central over the second-place Cardinals. Their four consecutive trips to the postseason are a franchise record, and their 451 wins under Maddon are second in the NL only to the Dodgers’ 458 during that span.
Even last season, the Cubs finished tied for the best record in the NL before losing to the Brewers in a one-game tiebreaker.
“I think we’ve been doing well,” Maddon said. “It’s about interaction. It’s about communication. It’s about the ability to work together. I think that’s really what it comes down to.
“And understand this, too, for me: I want to be somewhere where I want to work, too. And that I enjoy the exchange, which I do. Everything about what we do with the Cubs and where we do it — you can’t beat it.
“It’s impossible to beat on every level. That’s the allure for me. Again, if it was about wins and losses, this would be [resolved].”
In an era in which managers are being hired younger and cheaper, with little or no experience, Maddon’s senior tenure, senior-level salary and senior-citizen age would seem to work against him.
“I don’t know if that has so much to do with age as much as it has to do with front offices wanting somebody that can morph into their methods more easily,” Maddon said of the trend. “I think even what I have done to this point and what we’re doing right now, I think it’s easy to understand that I would easily fit into anybody’s methods or schemes right now because I’m open to all new thoughts and suggestions.”
Maddon has called himself a pending “free agent” when others have referred to him as a “lame duck.” He also is clear about wanting to stay in Chicago.
“How we’ve interacted from ownership to [front] office to us has been spectacular this year,” he said. “I feel really good about it. … It’s about what both sides want. It’s a marriage in a sense, that the group would want me to be here and I would want to be here in return. It has to be mutual.”
Players have consistently expressed support for Maddon.
“Joe has my ultimate stamp of approval every day, all day,” Rizzo said recently. “I’ll play for him any day of the week, twice on Sunday, twice on Monday, twice every day. … I love Joe. I love him like a dad.”