ANAHEIM, Calif. — A day after David Ross got the OK to redecorate his former Clark and Addison office, Joe Maddon put on his sunglasses and slipped on his old No. 70 jersey and was announced as the new manager of the Angels.
“Good afternoon,” Maddon said, Santa Ana winds blowing through his hair, 90-degree heat warming his face. “How cool is this?”
Plenty has happened since Maddon and Cubs president Theo Epstein faced the media 25 days ago like two exhausted climbers who failed to reach the summit. The announced end to the Maddon era in Chicago was expected and jarring at the same time.
A little more than three weeks later, Maddon has moved on. So have the Cubs. The timetable of Maddon’s return to his original franchise — he was a minor-league player, scout, roving instructor, minor-league manager and big-league coach with the Angels for 31 years — was a bit conflicting.
Angels owner Arte Moreno said Thursday that he was interested in Maddon managing his team a year ago. Maddon said the ball got rolling soon after his Cubs farewell was revealed before the last game of the season in St. Louis.
“I think I said goodbyes properly and then when I left there, [wife] Jaye and I went back, we packed the car — great place there in Chicago; downtown Chicago is awesome,” Maddon said. “We got in the car and drove east. We went to our little pad there in Sugarloaf [Pennsylvania], right outside of Hazleton, and that’s where this pretty much started.”
His return to the Angels is oddly akin to his beginning with the Cubs. When he took over the Cubs in 2015, Rick Renteria was fired after one season. Brad Ausmus also was fired after one season as the Angels’ manager.
It shows how much magnetic pull Maddon has after 14 years as a manager, reaching the World Series with two teams and winning it with the Cubs in 2016.
The Cubs’ next drive for a championship will come with Ross at the helm, and Maddon said he could not be happier, although he had not made contact with his former catcher as of Thursday afternoon.
“I actually was texting with Theo last night and told him, ‘Great choice and please tell David that I will get in touch with him soon,’ ” Maddon said. “I couldn’t be happier. He’s going to be perfect for that situation right there. He and I are still very close.”
Just because he will be a manager for the first time does not mean that Ross will be excused from a wintertime commitment he has with Maddon.
“He’s actually going to do an event for me in December, and he better not back out,” Maddon said. “David is wonderful. Everything you have read about him, that’s who he is. He’s a great leader. He’s straightforward. He’s blunt at times in a good way, and he really understands the game well. Plus, he understands pitching, so he’s the perfect choice.”
His ease in describing Ross as the voice the Cubs need right now shows that Maddon continues to be at peace with how his departure went down. Landing a new job with his former organization can’t hurt.
So what did happen in Chicago? Why was the manager who ended a 108-year championship drought no longer the right person to continue with the job only three years later?
“We had a great five years, man, and it culminated with a World Series victory,” Maddon said. “Last year, we had a good year with 95 wins. And then this year, a lot of it had to do with we were kind of banged up when we lost those games at the end. But, nevertheless, it wasn’t clicking at the end of this year like it had been.
“That’s not to say that I couldn’t have stayed there. Of course, I could have. But I have nothing but warm fuzzies about five years in Chicago. You look at the number of wins, the number of losses. Three straight trips to the NLCS mean you’re almost in three consecutive World Series. You are in one and win it. . . . This year, we just had a tough time. We were the bug, not the windshield, this year.”
If the Angels can’t win the World Series, he sounded as if he’d like the Cubs to win it. And if they met each other for a title?
“The ultimate goal — you want to talk about a pipe dream — is that we play them in the World Series and beat them,” Maddon said. “That would be my pipe dream right there.”