LONG BEACH, Calif. — Joe Maddon settled into a small Italian deli bordering the Pacific coast Friday, only a block from the high-rise condominium that housed him for the past month, and instantly felt regret. He wished he had spotted this place sooner. The next day, on the morning of his 66th birthday, he would depart for Arizona to begin his new job as field manager for the Los Angeles Angels and hit the ground running on another long, arduous baseball season. He had discovered something appealing at a time when he could no longer truly enjoy it.
“Such is life,” Maddon said between sips from the black Yeti Rambler that held his coffee.
This offseason offered few other disappointments. Maddon usually spends the bulk of his offseason in Pennsylvania or Florida, but he made it a point to descend upon Southern California early and attack the remaining weeks with purpose. He arrived by Jan. 15, his target date, and spent the next 22 days getting reacquainted with the place that precipitated his greatest professional growth.
He forged a stronger relationship with the Angels’ general manager, Billy Eppler, who is entering the final season of his contract and would have had every reason…