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Searching For Why Joe Maddon Left The Tampa Bay Rays

By Drew Jenkins
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The Tampa Bay Rays franchise took a big hit when Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman left for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now another man who helped build their franchise is gone in Joe Maddon, who opted out of his contract on Friday. This was certainly a puzzling move, as it seemed like Maddon and the Rays were likely to strike a contract extension. So what are the potential reasons why Maddon suddenly left?

Contract Issues

With Maddon’s contract set to expire in 2015, and with him having an opt-out this offseason, the Rays and his agent, Alan Nero, locked into contract discussions. At first it seemed both parties were more than willing to reach a new deal, but suddenly it did not happen. New President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman told Marc Topkin that he thought the Rays’ offers were “very generous”, but Maddon told Topkin “we were still too far apart.”

Of course, both of them could simply be saying this to hide another underlying cause, but it is possible that money was the biggest issue. Maddon was reportedly asking for a five-year, $25 million deal. Maddon has taken the small-market Rays and has helped lead them to years of success, and there is justification for him to be paid like one of the best managers in the league. The Rays, meanwhile, are coming off a record payroll year and already have little, if any, spending room this offseason. This could very well have been the reason why Maddon left.

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Maddon Wanted The Challenge Of Another Team

Maddon has been the Rays’ manager since the 2005 offseason, and it is understandable if he simply wants a change of scenery. Whether you are in the business world or in baseball, there are people who simply do not want to hold down a certain position for more than a few years. Maddon has shown himself to be an adventurous person, and thus he could just want to move on to another team.

Maddon knows that a manger job will be there for him eventually given his success for the Rays, even if that is next offseason instead of this one. This also could have gone hand-in-hand with his contract, as Maddon could have simply demanded the best deal possible with the knowledge that if the Rays did not give him a big contract, he would be happy moving onto another franchise.

Maddon Wanted A Bigger Say In His Team’s Operations

In talking to people around baseball about the Rays, I have heard (unconfirmed) rumors that the Rays front office is heavily involved in the on-field managing of the club, even down to details like helping set (or actually setting) the lineup each day. While I cannot attest to that being 100% true, it is clear that Rays executives have large control over the day-to-day operations of the team.

Joe Maddon could want to be the to be someone making analytical decisions himself, not just the someone who is the face of the analytics used by the team. Thus Maddon could explore other options that would allow him to take a bigger role in the organization, particularly in the baseball operations side of things. Mike Scioscia, a mentor of Maddon, has such an arrangement with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Maddon could be looking for a similar role.

The New Regime Wanted To Bring In Their Own Manager

Of these reasons, this is the most unlikely, but it is still plausible. Often new regimes simply want to take an organization and turn it into their own. This can involve purging a coaching staff, though admittedly it is less common if a team has a manager as highly regarded as Maddon. Nevertheless, Matt Silverman might want to leave his own mark in the organization, and thus he could have low-balled Maddon in contract negotiations, or “strongly encouraged” him to opt out. Silverman did actually tell Maddon that the opt-out clause in his contract came into effect when Friedman left.

There are multiple ways to interpret that last piece–was Silverman being a nice guy, attempting to push Maddon out, or making a critical mistake when he told him that? In any event, the public comments of Silverman and Maddon indicate that both parties had every intention of agreeing to an extension before things went wrong. It is possible that the Rays are not telling the full story out of respect for Maddon, but this still seems improbable give Maddon’s reputation.

In the end, the fact of the matter is that the Rays lost the only manager who has ever led their franchise to success. We will likely never know the true reason that Joe Maddon decided to leave the Rays, and in all likelihood, it was due to some combination of these listed reasons and other underlying ones as well.

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