Will Joe Maddon’s legacy include a second term as Cubs manager?
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MESA, Ariz. — Manager Joe Maddon has a restaurant coming this year to the Cubs’ commercial and office building on Clark next to Wrigley Field.
The plans naturally call for a baseball-and-Cubs theme throughout, heavily influenced by the team’s recent run of success that includes a historic World Series title, and the restaurant will have Maddon’s name emblazoned across the front.
Talk about a legacy.
Like Tinker to Evers to Chance, the legend of Merkle’s Boner and even Harry Caray’s singing of the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field, the restaurant is almost certain to outlive its inspiration — and certainly Maddon’s managing career with the Cubs.
‘‘I haven’t thought about legacy,’’ said Maddon, who has two years left on a five-year contract that escalated to $28 million in total value after the 2016 World Series.
Good food, wine and winning more baseball games, sure. But the managing legacy he already has built during arguably the most successful three-year run in franchise history — not to mention the brick-and-mortar legacy of the eatery — is a thought that must wait.
‘‘Regardless of that, I still would want to stay,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I would never — never — try to force myself on anybody. If anybody did not want me to be anywhere, I would leave without kicking and screaming. I promise you that’s true.
‘‘But I like to believe we’ve developed this wonderful relationship that even when we’re done doing this, when the Cubs do need somebody else to manage, that there’s still going to be a strong relationship.’’
On Thursday, Maddon will open his 13th season as a big-league manager with a team that looks on paper as though it has the potential to be his best yet.
In three seasons with the Cubs, his teams have averaged 97 victories and have won six of eight postseason rounds they have played.
And what Maddon wants most is more. At least another championship and at least five more years of managing.
‘‘That’s what I’m thinking right now,’’ he said. ‘‘If it’s up to me.’’
It might be hard to believe, but the manager known for onesies, zoo animals and an ability to draw high performance from young players became the oldest manager in baseball when the Nationals fired 68-year-old Dusty Baker last fall.
‘‘It’s about remaining contemporary,’’ said Maddon, 64, who averages about 10 miles a day on his bike. ‘‘You could be 45 and be like the oldest dude on the block.’’
Maddon was asked by a fan during the Cubs Convention in January if he wanted to stay and whether he had talked about an extension with the front office. The answers remain the same on the eve of the season: Yes and no.
‘‘I can’t imagine doing this anywhere else, I really can’t,’’ said Maddon, a former minor-league catcher who managed, coached and scouted in the minors before earning a big-league coaching job with the Angels and eventually a managing job with the Rays.
‘‘I’m very loyal to groups. It also comes down to whether the Cubs want me or not, too. That’s really what it comes down to.’’
The front office hasn’t approached him yet, and Maddon said he doesn’t intend to approach his bosses. He never has when it comes to things like that, he said.
‘‘I always wanted to believe that my work would speak for itself,’’ he said.
‘‘Clearly, we’ve had tremendous success since Joe got here, and we’re thrilled he’s our manager,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said. ‘‘As with any [contract] discussions, those will always be kept internal.’’
Whatever discussions have taken place internally, Maddon remains a debated figure externally, even after three Manager of the Year awards and World Series appearances with two long-frustrated franchises.
His criticized use of the Cubs’ bullpen during the 2016 World Series remains enough of a hot-button topic that it was the focus of a nationally published excerpt this month of a recently released biography.
‘‘It really doesn’t matter,’’ said Maddon, who chalks that up to ‘‘barroom discussion’’ among those on the outside who don’t understand all the nuances involved with many managing decisions.
‘‘If you turn back the clock and look at the entire body of work [that postseason] and the fact we came from behind 3-1 [in the World Series], I mean, people have no idea how hard that is. I think everybody’s stuck on the wrong storyline from that whole World Series. But there’s nothing I can do about it, and there’s nothing I want to do about it.
‘‘Quite frankly, I wouldn’t change anything about those decisions.’’
In the end, Maddon’s ultimate response to any shade might be the glare from the 108 diamonds on his World Series ring.
Even front-office execs who acknowledged scratching their heads over some of Maddon’s pitching moves were quick to point to the final result — and to many of the other moves that led to the success.
Whether the front office needs to see more play out before deciding to talk about an extension, Maddon doesn’t show any signs of worrying about it — or of slowing down.
‘‘If it’s cumbersome and tiring to be in the dugout working with young people, that’s when you stop doing it,’’ he said. ‘‘Right now, I could not be more enthused working with this group.’’
Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.