I find that folks are routinely surprised to learn that Joe Maddon is the oldest manager in baseball. He didn’t start out in the manager’s chair with the Rays at an especially young age, and he’s now been doing it with the Rays and Cubs for 21 years. Heck, he started out as a minor league manager way back in 1981.
But still, it surprises folks, I suspect, because he just doesn’t give off the “old manager” vibe. He always seems so youthful (and not just because he started darkening his traditionally white hair). His elder standing even surprised some of his own players.
To that end, there’s a great read over at ESPN by Jesse Rogers on Maddon’s connection to his players and how he maintains that youthful aura. Give it a read. It’s good.
One part that really stuck out to me had to do with the way Maddon balances so many things so well. He balances his approach to the game, he balances his managerial duties, he balances his outside interests. Of importance and utility to all of us: he simply doesn’t want to be “too much” of anything. I like that.
I won’t speak for everyone, but I’ve never gotten the sense that Joe Maddon’s “schtick” was actually a “schtick” at all – rather, he’s just a guy who is so deeply comfortable with himself and who he is that he’s gonna be his way no matter the situation. I tend to think that’s among the reasons he seems much younger than he is – not because he’s trying to seem young, but because he’s got such a naturally chill attitude about life that evokes youth. And yet, it’s also the kind of understanding of life that tends only (I suspect) to come with wisdom.
We often talk about Maddon effectively blending the two worlds of modern analytics and traditional scouting, but he also clearly effectively blends a youthful outlook with a wise approach.
Remember how “Try Not to Suck” started in the first place? It was because Maddon was speaking with a then-22-year-old Javy Baez, who had gotten his first taste of the big leagues in last 2014, and it was a humbling, strikeout-laden experience. Maddon, knowing what he does about connecting with players, and not doing “too much,” had a simple message for Baez before he returned to the big leagues in 2015: “try not to suck.” It’s not something you’d expect to hear from the oldest manager in baseball, talking to a top prospect, but Maddon had an idea what Baez needed to hear (or, more important, what he didn’t need to hear). Outside of a rehab stint, Baez hasn’t been back to the minor leagues since.
Read the Rogers piece at ESPN for more on the youngest oldest manager in baseball.