Former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, widely regarded as one of the best skippers in the game, is a free agent.
Freed from his glass prison in Tampa, where he was forced to play in horrific Tropicana Field with a payroll that was barely higher than most WNBA teams and the specter of losing every single good player on his roster every time their salary reached double-figures, Maddon exercised a clause in his contract which allowed him to leave the Rays with one year left on his deal. As such, he is now free to sign with any team in baseball.
On Friday, general manager Ruben Amaro was asked if the Phils might have any interest in contacting Maddon's camp about managing the Phillies. What he said wasn't exactly a robust, "no."
"We have a manager," Ruben Amaro Jr. said this afternoon. "Ryne Sandberg is our manager."
So no plans to speak to him?
"Like I said, we have a manager," Amaro said. - quote per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.
That's what we call a "non-denial" denial, folks.
You would think if the Phils truly had no interest in talking to Maddon, that if they were truly satisfied with Sandberg and didn't see Maddon as an upgrade, a simple "no way, we love Ryne," would have sufficed.
Instead, we got Captain Cryptic.
It's interesting if nothing else.
When last we saw Sandberg, he was directing the Phillies to a 73-89, last place season, although the talent from which he had to work with was certainly not ideal. He lost Cliff Lee for most of the season, had his #3 starter pitching with a hernia all year, and watched some of his younger players fail to produce at the levels expected of them.
It's too early to say if Sandberg is a "good," "mediocre," or "poor" manager. We just don't know enough about him. What we do know is that he is a traditional manager. He goes by the book. He believes in discipline, in defined bullpen roles, in not using your closer in a tie baseball game on the road. He overworks his starters, Cole Hamels in particular, and sometimes fails to take advantage of lefty-righty splits in the bullpen.
He is not an outside-the-box thinker, and he made numerous missteps along the way this season, perhaps many of which could be chalked up to first-year mistakes. Or, it could be this is the manager he's going to be going forward.
Maddon says he wants to manage next year. The smart money would be on a team like the Cubs, with a slew of young talent, a brilliant GM in Theo Epstein, and the opportunity to do something no one has been able to do since 1908.
Lead the Cubs to a World Series title.
It's unlikely Philadelphia would be a desirable destination for Joe. Pat Gillick said on Thursday the team is at least two years away from being competitive. Ruben Amaro, the man who previously would break out into scurvy whenever the word "rebuilding" was used, is now talking about the "rebuilding process" like it's been part of his lexicon all along.
The Phillies ain't gonna be good for a while, so if "winning" was a big priority Joe, keep on movin' down the line.
The Phils have a lot of old players on big deals, with no real superstar young talent. At least, not on the level of Chicago's. There is the pesky matter of Ryne Sandberg, the team's current manager, who is signed through 2016. Oh, and there's this.
Joe Maddon explaining "themed costume road trips" to Chase Utley who is literally quaking with rage— Just Sin Klughcifer (@justin_klugh) October 24, 2014
However, Amaro did not dismiss the Maddon possibility out of hand, even though it may sound like he did. Read between the lines, parse the words, and bask in the "non-denial" denial-ness of it all.
Anyway, it's probably all a moot point anyway. Have fun in Chicago, Joe!