So, you want to become a fan of a major league baseball team? Excellent! And, you have chosen the Tampa Bay Rays as the team that you are going to follow, whatever the reason may be. You will live by them and die by them. They are a team on the rise, and you want dibs on the fandom ship before it sets sail. There are several good teams to choose, and the Rays are certainly one of them. Well then. Everything is set! But, there is one problem…you don’t know anything about the team!
Well, you know something. Obviously, the name, and hopefully you know enough about baseball in general to know they’re an American League team and are in the East division. Most likely, you know David Price as the face of the franchise, and Wil Myers is the small-market Bryce Harper or Mike Trout. While those are two great names to know, there is a little more you need to know in order to begin your fandom. In a poll I took of the other Rays Colored Glasses writers, most of them agreed that if someone is learning this team, the place you have to start is with the head man, Joe Maddon.
Before becoming a manager, Maddon was drafted by the California Angels as a catcher, but would never advance past single-A, spending one year with the Quad Cities Angels of the Midwest League, and his middle two seasons with the Salinas Angels of the California League, and he rounded out his playing career as a member of the Santa Clara Padres, also a Cali League member. When after his playing career came to an end following the 1979 season, Maddon turned his desire and focus to what he now does best: managing.
He managed in the minor leagues from 1981-86 with the Idaho Falls Angels, two years with the Salem Angels, a single season with the Peoria Cheifs and ended his minors managing tenure with two seasons at the helm of the Midland Angels. Over his tenure, Maddon never eclipsed a winning season, and went a total of 279-303 in farm system managing. He would manage two stints with the big Angels, first in 1996 where under his tenure, they went 8-14, and again in 1999, where the Angels went 19-10 with Maddon at the helm. But it was only seven years later that he finally got his chance to manage full-time.
Joe Maddon’s first full year of managing would finally come with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006, and the rest, as they say, is history. Still at the helm, Maddon has turned a team that has only been around since 1998 into one of the most successful clubs in all of baseball over the past half decade. The Rays lost 197 games in Maddon’s first two seasons with the Rays, but since, have made the playoffs four times, twice as AL East Champions. He led them to a trip to the World Series in 2008, and have strung together six straight winning seasons, including three straight 90-win seasons each of the past three years. For his efforts, Maddon has garnered two AL Manager of the Year distinctions (2008 and 2011) and, most of all and most importantly, a wel-liked man.
Maddon is a successful manager because, as seriously as he takes the game he loves, he doesn’t do so too seriously. He allows his guys to have fun (after all, baseball is a game), and even plans for planned travel days, like letterman jackets and plaid blazers. On the field, Maddon doesn’t always convene to the traditional style of managing. He doesn’t care about righty/lefty matchups and he likes to experiment with his batting order, regardless of how well someone is doing in a specific spot. Among everything you’ll read and hear about Maddon, there is one constant: he stays true to himself.
His philosophy on the game is one of “anything goes,”–he completely throws the unofficial managerial rule book out the window, and plays each pitch by the situation. He has a knack for plugging players into situations where he sees they’ll most succeed. He does what he sees necessary to win, and that is what makes him one of the game’s best.