Maddon unquestionably the game’s best

Posted: April 4, 2012 by centennialsports in Baseball

By Emma Marshall

Maddon as the best manager in baseball is not up for debate

Though once thought of as a baseball abyss by both players and coaches, the Tampa Bay Rays have become a perennial contender under the league’s most valuable manager Joe Maddon.

Unlike his predecessors, Maddon has instilled a confidence in his team that continues grow year after year.

Within three years of his appointment, Maddon led the Rays to not only their first winning season and playoff appearance, but all the way to the World Series.

Since its World Series debut, Tampa has made the playoffs in three of the past four years going toe-to-toe with American League powerhouses such as the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers. With the outspoken Maddon leading the charge, the Rays believe they have the talent level and ability to outduel these teams, something that would never have been claimed prior to his arrival.

This newfound confidence and success has led to greater expectations, something few would have anticipated prior to Maddon’s hiring.

The attitudes of the players on the field and in the club house have changed over the six years under Maddon. In previous seasons the team has been searching for an identity or attempting to piece together a line-up, for the first time in their history the Rays are focused solely on winning and believing that they have a significant opportunity to win the World Series.

Much of this success has had to do with Maddon’s coaching method. Though most baseball managers are interchangeable with their strategies and style, Maddon prefers to be a think-outside-the-box, risk taking bench boss.

In the final game of the 2011 season, with the both the game and the playoffs on the line, Maddon elected to use Dan Johnson the third string catcher, batting only .167 on the season, as the pinch hitter. Many baseball fans and critics alike shook their heads and thought, “maybe next year,” until Johnson hit a 2-2 pitch over the right field fence to tie the game and keep the playoff drive alive.

Though Maddon is responsible for the on field performance of his players it is Andrew Friedman, the Vice President of Baseball Operations, who is largely responsible for the group of young talent that the Rays produce annually. Under Friedman the Rays have drafted talented pitchers such as David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore all of whom are projected to be starters in the Rays rotation this upcoming season.

As the Rays are constrained by an extremely low salary cap, Friedman has had to be creative in the players he has signed and traded for. Friedman has been able to trade current stars for lesser known players with significant potential such as Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Gomes.

Friedman can be applauded for drafting well but ultimately it is Maddon who is responsible for getting the rag-tag group of players to compete and win.

Perhaps Maddon’s greatest attribute as a manger is his ability to believe in his players and get the most out of them.

On a near yearly basis, the Rays are made over to maintain a low pay roll. This was never as evident as it was at the beginning of the 2011 season that saw vital team members such as Carl Crawford, Matt Garza and the entire bullpen including set-up man and closer Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit depart Tampa.

Though Tampa struggled at the outset of the season, under Maddon, the group found itself and started winning. Many critics did not believe the Rays would be able to compete with perennial championship contenders the Yankees and Red Sox. Maddon’s confidence and belief in his players was a major difference maker.

Carl who?

Cast-offs such as Casey Kotchman and Kyle Farnsworth both had career years under Maddon. While rookie Desmond Jennings helped fans forget about Crawford.

Even after starting the season with a 1-8 record, Maddon continued to believe in his team and publicly decried reports of the demise of the Rays.

Instead of condemning his team, he toasted them as the best 1-8 team in major league history with an expensive bottle of whiskey. The Rays then went on to win 8 of the next 9 games.

As Tampa enters the 2012 as a legitimate contender, the Rays will need Maddon to continue his effervescent managerial style to challenge for the American League east title. Even if the team is fails to win the division, with Maddon at the helm it can be safely presumed that the Rays will continue to challenge for several seasons to come.

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