Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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Maddon to the Cardinals? An interesting question
Posted Nov 1, 2011 by Roger Mooney
Updated Nov 1, 2011 at 12:48 PM
As a kid Joe Maddon walked the streets of his hometown, Hazelton, Pa., wearing a St. Cardinals cap. He spent his nights listening to Cardinals games on a transistor radio tuned to KMOX.
Every year he mailed 50 cents to the Cardinals so they would mail him the team yearbook.
He’d take Curt Flood as his center fielder over Mickey Mantle.
His heroes were Bob Gibson and Lou Brock.
He was thrilled beyond belief in 2009 when he got to manage the American League squad at the All-Star Game played in St. Louis.
Given that history, it would seem logical that Maddon would want the opportunity to manage the team he rooted for as a kid.
And now that the Cardinals managerial position has come open, well, it won’t stretch the imagination much to assume Maddon would be interested.
His name has been mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Tony LaRussa, who retired Monday morning after guiding the Cardinals to an improbable World Series championship.
When asked Monday by reporters in St. Louis about possible candidates, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said, “I wouldn’t rule out anything at this point.”
Mozeliak added, “In fairness, I think we have to be open-minded and go through the process. It’s not something we’ve done for 16 years, so looking at the potential candidates I think they’re going to come in different shapes and sizes. We’ll just have to look at what we think best fits the personality of this current club and how to make it work.”
Before Maddon can even interview for the Cardinals job two things have to happen: The Cardinals have to seek the Rays permission, and the Rays have to grant it.
Maddon has one year remaining on his contract, and while both he and executive vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman have talked about an extension, neither talked about when that extension will be official.
“I would except and assume that we’re going to work together for a long time,” Friedman said during a press conference two days after the Rays were eliminated from the postseason.
Added Maddon, “I don’t want to go anywhere else. I love it here. I’ve been given an opportunity here to do what I’m doing without the constraints, in a sense. It’s a very free environment to work within in and I need that, and I appreciate that.”
While neither side sees the need for a parting of the ways, things do change in baseball. The Cardinals could make Friedman an offer he can’t refuse – a package that would likely include a combination of top prospects and a player or players off the major a league roster – should they woo Maddon to St. Louis.
Bench coach Dave Martinez, who interviewed for the Blue Jays managerial position after the 2010 season and was a candidate for the White Sox job last month, seems a logical replacement for Maddon in the Rays dugout.
And would Maddon change his mind for the opportunity to work for a team with a little more spending money? He does not hide the fact he loves the National League game more than the American League style of baseball. And you have to think he wouldn’t mind working in a division that does not include the Yankees and the Red Sox.
As is their way of operating, the Rays won’t comment on this speculation.
Again, it all starts with the Cardinals.
Hiring a manager who grew up in Yankees and Phillies territory rooting for the Cardinals will be a huge story in St. Louis. But that doesn’t mean Maddon is the right fit at this time.
The Cardinals are also believed to have interest in former Red Sox manager Terry Francona and former Nationals manager Jim Riggleman.
There are also in-house candidates in third base coach Jose Oquendo and bench coach Joe Pettini.
The belief is Albert Pujols would be more inclined to resign with the Cardinals if Oquendo is hired.
Also to be considered is Maddon’s interest in the job.
Managing the Cardinals might have once been his dream job, but is it still his dream job now that he’s enjoyed so much success with the Rays? Would he want his next stop to be closer to his Pennsylvania roots? Or would he seek one of the plum jobs in New York or Los Angeles?
Also, does Maddon want to replace a hall of fame manager and take over a team that just won the World Series?
We may never know since Maddon is smart enough to not talk about his future except when it concerns the Rays.
We’ll have a better idea once Mozeliak publically begins his search for his next manager.