Joe Maddon And The Importance of Walking

By Robbie Knopf

It’s frustrating to walk. Our natural inclination is to do everything we can to make things happen. But sometimes, that isn’t the right approach. We have to just take what we’re given and let things come to us however they come.

Wait- are we talking about baseball or life here?

For Joe Maddon, the answer is both. After graduating from Lafayette College, Joe Maddon waited and waited for a call from a major league team. The Angels came through. For four years, Joe Maddon tried his best to get past A-ball, but he just couldn’t do it. Maddon’s career as a professional player never did go anywhere. But his experience playing for four years helped give him the perspective he needed to go into managing, beginning in 1981 at Rookie ball at the age of 27.

For the next 6 years, Maddon managed in the Angels’ system, having a losing record each season. Despite the lack of the success, he persisted at managing, working his way up to Double-A as the Angels liked the way he worked with players. Maddon then transitioned to a roving hitting instructor from 1987 to 1993. Then in 1994, at 40 years old, Maddon was promoted to bench coach of the big league team. Just 2 years later, Maddon got his first look as a big league manager, serving as interim manager for the Angels at the end of 1996 as the team went 8-14. Then in 1999, Maddon took over the Angels’ reigns on an interim basis and captained the team to a 19-10 finish after they been 31 games under .500 under Terry Collins. But following the season, the Angels hired Mike Scoscia and Maddon was back at bench coach again. For 6 more years, he stayed there. In 2004, he was a finalist for the Boston Red Sox manager position before it went to Terry Francona. Finally in 2006, Maddon got his chance as he was hired by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Maddon’s managing tenure with the Devil Rays did not begin well. The D-Rays went just 61-101 in 2006 and then 66-96 in 2007. We all know what has happened since- Maddon has led the Rays to a magical 2008 run and 3 playoff appearances in 4 seasons. Maddon’s journey to the success he has seen in recent years has been long and grueling, but he refused to give up and has become one of the top managers in baseball. Maddon knows how important patience is to success, a lesson he has imparted onto the Rays.

Patience isn’t something that can only be applied on a large scale. Patience is important even for the briefest moments, like at-bats. Over the course of his minor league career, Maddon walked more than he struck out. And while his teams haven’t been quite that good, they have always been patience and walked a ton. In 2006, the D-Rays ranked just 12th in the American League in walks. In 2007, they jumped to 5th. And seen then, the Rays have never finished below 3rd in the AL. The Rays have never be a great offensive team and have needed to do everything they possibly can to push across runs. Patience has been one way that they have been able to do that.

We live in a world where we want immediate results and panic if we don’t get them. But do yourself a favor and relax and have patience for once, including with this Rays team. Even when things aren’t going so well whether in an at-bat, a game, or even a stretch of games, have faith that Joe Maddon and the Rays will be able to turn themselves around.