The Tampa Bay Rays (and Devil Rays) have had only five managers in their 20-year existence. This is a ranking of these leaders, from worst to first. It concludes today with the top spot and a man called Joe.
#1: Joe Maddon (2006-2014)
Games Managed: 1,459
Win-Loss Percentage: .517
Best Finish: 1st and the AL Pennant
Worst Finish: 5th
Owning the only winning record as a Tampa Bay manager, Joe Maddon’s place on top of the Managerial ‘High-Five’ is hardly a surprise. His nine years at the helm of the ballclub not only produced an American League pennant in 2008 but also three additional trips to the postseason in 2010, 2011 and 2013. More importantly, perhaps, Maddon’s tenure reshaped the culture of the Rays.
Lou Piniella might have brought hope to Tropicana Field, but it was Joe Maddon who delivered magic.
Tampa Bay hired Joe Maddon as their fourth manager in November of 2005. The 51-year old Pennsylvania-native had just spent 31 years with the Angels organization, both as a player and a coach. However, the Devil Rays’ job was Maddon’s first time in the managing role.
The first two years in Tampa were not a roaring success. The Devil Rays would finish the 2006 and 2007 seasons with a deflating 121-197 record. There was little reason for optimism going into 2008.
The Rays, as they were now called, still had one of the lowest payrolls in the majors. Built with young, inexperienced players that nobody but Maddon seemed to believe in, the Rays surprised the world in the fall of ’08 by barreling their way into the World Series. While the team came up short of the championship rings, the legend of their manager was born.
The Rays never reached those heights again in the post-season. However, the following years reaffirmed the team’s place as perennial contenders in the always-daunting AL East. Patience and a sheer joy of the game became the cornerstones of the Rays organization under Joe Maddon and remain so even today.
Maddon opted out of his contract after the conclusion of the 2014 season. It was a year in which the Rays finished only 77-85 and the club’s GM, Andrew Friedman, departed Tampa Bay for the Los Angeles Dodgers (the latter allowing an opt-out option in Maddon’s contract).
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Since leaving the Rays, Maddon has had a modicum of success with the Chicago Cubs, leading the lovable losers to their first World Championship in 108 years. It seems the magic follows Joe Maddon wherever he goes, including the top of the Tampa Bay Managerial ‘High Five.’