On Deflategate, Joe Maddon’s Departure, and Tampering


The New England Patriots were blowing out the Indianapolis Colts. The game had been out of reach for a long time and Patriots fans could not have been more optimistic about their team’s chances in the Super Bowl two weeks later. Then, before we knew it, everything had spiraled out of control. The Patriots’ game balls weren’t inflated enough and that quickly evolved into a scandal.

Many Patriots fans felt confused, and some even felt betrayed. For those in the latter category, the irony is that such a reaction mirrors that of fan bases on the other side of the equation. The Colts were never going to win that game, but Tampa Bay Rays fans felt like everything would be alright even with Andrew Friedman gone as long as they still had Joe Maddon. Then Maddon left them as well.

Last we heard, the Rays’ tampering case against the Chicago Cubs regarding Joe Maddon remained ongoing. Maybe the Rays will be compensated with something in exchange for their longtime manager’s move to Chicago. But is that really a likely outcome at this point? Can Rays fans really expect anything but disappointment when Major League Baseball’s investigation concludes?

After the Super Bowl, the Patriots will probably be penalized in some way. We will hear about a fine, a loss of one or more draft picks, or even both. That is what you get for cheating in a game you were going to win anyway. Meanwhile, even though the Rays’ 2015 hopes are in serious question, they will likely receive nothing. How is that fair?

The difference in the Rays’ case is that the Cubs’ courtship of Joe Maddon was not a zero-sum game. The Cubs could not have been entirely responsible for the rift that appeared between Maddon and Rays management. It’s not the Cubs fault that Friedman left and that the Rays don’t have the money to make Maddon one of the highest-paid managers in baseball.

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The Tampa Bay Rays’ complaint about Joe Maddon’s opt-out and subsequent signing with the Cubs sounds too much like the Colts’ complaint following their game with the Patriots. They have every right to be angry, but even so, would it have made a difference? Would more inflated footballs have improved the Colts’ run defense or their pass rush against Tom Brady? Would a minor leaguer or some money make it OK that Joe Maddon left?

The Rays have moved on without Andrew Friedman, Joe Maddon, and all of the players they have traded. They have hired a new manager, Kevin Cash, snubbing Maddon’s top aide, Dave Martinez, and a coach who seemed like the next Maddon, Ron Wotus. Neither candidate was even a finalist for the job. Did their rejections represent some small revenge against Maddon or simply a desire to head in a different direction?

It remains to be seen how having Cash at the helm as opposed to Maddon will change the Rays. Cash will certainly be different, but he is a bright young manager, and maybe the change will be for the better. At the very least, it is not as though the Rays are so much worse with Cash instead of Maddon. We can’t say that the Rays would be AL East favorites just because Maddon was still around.

It’s clear that this whole charade is a waste of time. The Colts gain nothing no matter what happens from here and the legacy of Bill Belichick is further tarnished even if the Patriots escape without a penalty. The Rays can’t expect to get anything and even if they did, it wouldn’t make up for Maddon’s departure. In addition, the Cubs would gladly give up a low-level minor leaguer to get Maddon. But what did the Rays or Colts have to lose?

The Colts dreamed for a few moments that they would get to face the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. At the very least, some talking heads suggested as such, and even if the odds were a trillion to one, it was worth trying. In the Rays case, meanwhile, why not angle for an extra minor leaguer? Maddon isn’t coming back, but why not see if you can get some compensation that helps your team?

It only takes a few minutes to file a complaint and the Colts and Rays were more than willing to spend it. The next step, though, is to move on. The Rays have made manifold moves this offseason in an attempt to improve their team for 2015 and beyond. The Colts better do the same now that their season is over as well.

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