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Joe Maddon has a new restaurant in Wrigleyville, but not a new contract

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CHICAGO — Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s fate as the team’s skipper will be decided six or seven floors above where his new business venture is about to open its doors.

Located adjacent to Wrigley Field — and in the same building that houses the Cubs’ front office — the new restaurant, Maddon’s Post, will welcome customers beginning next week, but it’s what could happen months down the road that stands out. The 65-year-old is in the final year of a five-year deal, and the Cubs say they won’t discuss his future until the end of the season.

“I don’t believe the success of that place is dependent on me having to work for the Cubs,” Maddon said recently. “I don’t think that highly of myself.”

Perhaps that’s why Maddon teamed up with local, veteran restaurateurs including executive chef Tony Mantuano from Spiaggia, a Chicago hot spot. Maddon and his business partner, Michael Stewart, expect the restaurant to be a hit with Cubs fans whether Maddon is employed by the team or not.

“Of course, having Joe around is better, that is a given,” Stewart said. “Joe is extremely smart, has great intuition, he thinks outside the box — even with some of our entrees that he creates. Of course, having him here is a bonus.

“Having said that, I firmly believe Joe will be back. But, at some point, he will not. Whether it’s next year or five years, or whenever. We knew that going into this project.”

Stewart and Maddon say they conceived of the eatery at Wrigley Field even before he won the World Series with the Cubs in 2016. It has taken several years to come to fruition, as they’ve made sure it doesn’t require Maddon’s presence to be successful. It’s the same attitude they had with Maddon’s other restaurant, in Tampa, Florida. Ava opened in November 2014, just weeks after Maddon left the Rays for the Cubs.

“We always intended this to be about the food and experience,” Stewart said. “This is not a sports bar. … Right before we opened Ava, Joe took the Chicago job. Back then, people were asking the [same] question, ‘What will we do?’ What we did was built a restaurant around the food, the service, our staff, the location — not around baseball and its ownership.”

Ava has received favorable reviews, and Maddon’s team is hopeful it’ll be the same with his new place. As for the manager’s other team, the Cubs played their way to the top of the National League Central standings after a 2-7 start. But that hasn’t changed anything within the front office. Cubs officials say they’re focused on the field, not what goes on behind kitchen doors. When asked just about the restaurant, general manager Jed Hoyer quipped, “I’m looking forward to the friends/family discount.”

Maddon remains optimistic he’ll be back, especially after taking the team to the playoffs four consecutive seasons. He could be 5-for-5 come October.

“I do anticipate managing the Cubs,” Maddon said.

As much as the front office has a say in Maddon’s future, so does he. He often has said that 2019 is his free-agent year. Asked if he has thought about the prospect of opening Maddon’s Post and then leaving town to work elsewhere in baseball, Maddon responded: “Of course you do. You have to consider that could happen.”

Like his managerial style this year, Maddon has had a hands-on approach with the menu and decor. It has been described as full of Maddon’s childhood “likes and recipes,” with a heavy accent on his Italian and Polish heritage. (If you want to order his favorite dish, try Mama K’s Pappardelle.)

“It’s not about me,” Maddon said. “If we have a good product — as we’re going to — plus Wrigley Field, we think people will come no matter what.”

There is precedent in Chicago for a championship-winning coach to open a restaurant and then abruptly leave town. Mike Ditka won the Super Bowl in 1986, was fired by the Bears in 1993 and opened a restaurant in 1997 — the same year he was hired to coach the New Orleans Saints.

“Nobody was really happy about it, on the business side,” an employee of Ditka’s back then said. “They just started looking for space in New Orleans.”

Ditka’s remains a popular Chicago steakhouse to this day. Maddon’s Post is hopeful for a similar run, knowing the popular personality might not be around to eat there for more than a few more months.

“Ava was thriving after I left there,” Maddon said. “I don’t think that’s the connection. The ballpark, the Cubs, the iconic nature of who we are, sells anywhere. … We have sharp, wonderful people running it. Wherever I am — hopefully it’s here — it will be a great place.”

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Longtime Texas baseball writer Fraley dies at 64

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DALLAS — Gerry Fraley, a longtime baseball writer who spent most of his career with The Dallas Morning News, has died. He was 64.

Fraley died early Saturday after a two-year battle with cancer, the newspaper reported.

After covering the Braves for the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, Fraley joined the Dallas paper in 1989 to cover the Texas Rangers. Fraley also wrote about football, basketball and NASCAR among other assignments for the Morning News.

Assistant managing editor for sports Garry Leavell said Fraley’s versatility “is what separated him from his peers.”

Former President George W. Bush, who was part of the ownership group of the Rangers before going into politics, said, “It always seemed to me that baseball was his real passion, thereby establishing a kinship and a lasting friendship.”

Former baseball commissioner Bud Selig also was among those who respected Fraley’s no-nonsense approach to reporting, saying, “He was fair, honest, a great reporter.”

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Yaz’s grandson to make MLB debut with Giants

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After more than six years in the minor leagues, Mike Yastrzemski — the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski — will make his major league debut Saturday after being called up for the first time.

Yastrzemski will start in left field for the San Francisco Giants and will bat seventh against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Yastrzemski, 28, was traded to the Giants in March by the Baltimore Orioles, with whom he made his first big league spring training this year.

Drafted by Orioles in 2013, Yastrzemski rose quickly in the organization before his career stalled. Three years after he was drafted, he was playing for Triple-A Norfolk but then split time between Norfolk and Double-A Bowie, never making the leap to the majors.

“It’s all a learning experience,” Yastrzemski said in March, prior to the trade. “Everybody’s got their own path to get where they want to go; whatever path that is for me, I’m fine with it. As long as you see some light at the end of the tunnel and you put everything into it, it’s rewarding in that sense.”

In seven minor league seasons, Yastrzemski has a .263 average but has never hit more than 15 home runs or had more than 75 RBIs. He was hitting .316 with 12 home runs and 25 RBIs for Triple-A Sacramento this season.

His grandfather, 79-year-old Carl Yastrzemski, spent all 23 years of his major league career with the Boston Red Sox and retired having played the most games (3,308) of any player in major league history to that point. He was an 18-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove winner and won the Triple Crown in 1967, when he helped lead the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox to a World Series appearance.

To make room on the roster, the Giants designated outfielder Mac Williamson for assignment. Williamson was hitting .118 in 15 games this season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A’s designate reliever Rodney for assignment

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The Oakland Athletics have designated relief pitcher Fernando Rodney for assignment, the team announced Saturday.

Rodney, 42, has seen his ERA balloon to a career-worst 9.42 this season. He had returned to Oakland for 2019 after the A’s exercised a $5.25 million club option.

Rodney has pitched for 10 teams in a 17-year career and ranks 18th in MLB history with 325 saves.

The A’s called up left-hander Wei-Chung Wang from Triple-A Las Vegas. He has 22 games of major league experience, all with the Milwaukee Brewers.

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