Ask Gary: Rays let Maddon go to fame and fortune

by Gary Shelton on October 1, 2016 · 3 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Bucs

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Was the term "escape clause" of a contract coined after manager Joe Maddon's adept move out of his contract with the TB Rays and into a contract with the Chicago Cubs?

Howard Powders

No. But the movie remake of "The Great Escape'' is dedicated to him. I think he went over the barbed wire on a motorcycle.

Seriously, a lot of successful managers have switched teams. Billy Martin, Tony LaRussa, Lou Piniella. Bobby Cox, etc. So I don't know if you could say that Maddon invented it. But he certainly read the tea leaves well.

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In Tampa Bay, his salary had a ceiling. No question about that. And the Rays had lost so many players, and they were looking at losing more. When Andrew Friedman, who Maddon worked so well beside, left, Maddon exercised an option that made him a free agent.

He wound up with the Cubs, a free-spending team with a ton of young talent. It's perfect for him.

So Joe Madden is apparently the toast of Chicago. He has his face on the iconic Wrigley Field stadium and is managing the hottest team in baseball. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who came to success so late in his career. Why do you think it took so long for an organization to give him a manager’s gig? What was your relationship like with him when he was here with the Rays?

Larry Beller

I think success came late to Joe because he's a different cat. When he was with the Angels, a lot of people wanted to dump praise on Mike Scioscia so that a guy underneath him tended not to get noticed.

I had a great relationship with Joe. We did tussle in his second year when I wrote "last year he proved he was a nice guy, but this year, we find out if he's the right guy." He didn't like that line after a year of trying to change things in a losing locker room.

But Joe and I talked music, and books, and movies. We trusted each other. I got a kick out of the penguins in the clubhouse and his other pranks. I ate it up when he talked about swing planes, and about encouraging switch-hitters to bat righty off a certain right-handed pitcher.

That was the thing about Joe. He always had time for you. I'd listen to one of his press conferences, and I'd ask for a moment aside. I'd push him and ask blunt questions, and he seemed to eat it up. I once did an entire column with fans questions to him, and it was quite apparent he didn't stay up nights worried about what a guy in row 132 thought about his job performance. Joe knew he knew his job better than that guy, and at times, it ticked the guy in the stands off. But Joe was right, and he was right to follow his convictions.

I've always thought he was the Rays' version of Tony Dungy. Smart, confident, stubborn. He took over a bad franchise and gave it its best run of success.

Put it this way: If Maddon wins the World Series, I'll smile.

Do you think coaching-managing is in Evan Longoria's future after his playing career? I heard him interviewed the other week after a game and he seems to have great insight and sounds like he'd be good in that role.

Rick Martin

That's a good question, Rick. I certainly think that Evan is smart enough. He has a great perspective about his team and his own play. He's a grinder, which a coach-manager has to be.

But, you know, great players don't always make great managers. I was reading something on John McGraw, the old Giants manager, the other day. It had a line saying that the best players aren't always the best managers.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller October 2, 2016 at 9:08 am

I think the team will improve some in 2017 also but even if they improve by 10 games they still will be in last place. Let’s face it with ownership’s lack of financial commitment this franchise has very little hope of becoming anything more than a doormat for the free spending, talent rich AL East.

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Larry Beller October 1, 2016 at 8:21 am

I used to love to hear Joe Madden interviewed on talk radio shows. He gave such thoughtful, intelligent answers and sounds so engaging. His charity work in the area is well documented. You are right, he and Tony Dungy did what very few managers or coaches have ever done here. Turn losing franchises around. Both are amazing people. I’m rooting for the Cubs to win it all this year and every year Joe is there.

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Rick Martin October 1, 2016 at 6:44 am

I’m extremely happy for Joe Maddon. I’ll be pulling for him in the post-season. I thought it was time to move on when he left. I have full confidence in Kevin Cash and expect the team to improve in 2017.

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