The Tampa Bay Rays have won 90 games or more in four of the last five seasons in one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball with one of the lowest payrolls. So I ask you…is manager Joe Maddon the reason for the longevity of their success?
Aside from baseball success, Maddon appears to be one of the coolest soon-to-be 60-year-olds on the face of the planet, sporting the spiked hair, stylish glasses, and a distinguished swagger.
Maddon played in the California Angels farm system from 1976 through to 1979, never advancing higher than single-A during his playing career. Maddon soon realized he had more to offer as a manager, and that is when his journey in professional baseball truly began.
The Rays’ manager has only managed in the American League, but his baseball IQ and style may be best suited for the National League. For instance, Maddon has led the American League in pinch hitter usage the last five seasons – in 2012, he employed a pinch hitter 156 times.
He used a different lineup 151 times in 2012, leading all major league managers in that category. However, the line-up tinkering and player jockeying does not end there – Maddon and the Rays led the American League in stolen base attempts with 178, with his personal best being 255 attempts in 2009.
His aggressive style of managing is not only confined to the base paths, as Maddon has led the American League the past four seasons for using relievers on consecutive days, with 123 in 2012.
The Rays enjoyed a 90-win season in 2012. However, they achieved that without a 30-home run hitter, and the team leader in run batted in was B.J. Upton with 78 – hardly the offensive output one would think is needed to compete in the American League East.
There is always the age-old adage that managers should not be credited for their team’s success in baseball, especially when managing in the American League.
That may be true – unless you’re Joe Maddon.
Clayton Richer covers the Toronto Blue Jays for Rant Sports. Follow and interact with him on Twitter at @MLBHotCorner.