Maddon’s New Number: 177 Games = 1 Fantastic Ride
It has been quite a year for Rays Manager Joe Maddon. It all began with a small pep talk outside the Rays Namoli complex on a bright Spring day with his 2008 squad, and ended up farther into the Fall than ever before for his team.
Lost in all of the glory and pomp was the fact that in November 2007 at a rally to showcase the new logo and uniforms, you heard the words that actually started the uphill battle. Maddon talked about the spirit and the determination of this team. and that they will end up the year in better shape than ever. Now we all know he really did not envision the World Series for the team this year, but it was on his future to-do list.
So it is only fitting that the coach who led the Rays to 97 regular season wins, 27 more than the previous franchise best mark, be awarded the American League Manager of the Year award by the Baseball Writers of America today .
But Maddon has been celebrating a lot the past few days. Having just gotten married during last weekend in California, Joe and his beautiful bride are probably knee deep in a vineyard in Tuscany today when he get a call from Major League Baseball awarding him his prize.
It is only fitting that Maddon be in a vineyard during the call. Near the grapes and beverage that has given him a different persona of a major league manager. Maddon is not like your typical manager in baseball. He will not grill and castrate his players either in the newspaper or in public. He shows them respect and professionalism by doing it behind closed doors.
He is also a giving person who has made sure to make himself and the team accessible to the fans and the general public at all times. But his theories and his inventive saying and slogans will make him a legend.
9=8 will go down as one of the wildest and most accurate mathematical expressions in baseball. It is simply stated that if your 9 starters work hard for 9 innings, it will translate into one of the 8 playoff spots in Major League Baseball. The actual theory goes a bit beyond just the simple explaination, but I will save that for another time. The mathematical theory seemed a bit odd at first to not only players’ ,but to fans. Then when the Rays began winning and the tide began to turn on energy and visual committment by the team, the slogan became a novel idea.
Even on the shirts the team was wearing as the squad secured a playoff berth in September, 9=8 was a center figure in the team’s minds. The emotion and the confidence that those 2 numbers pulled out of this team will forever be an inspiration to players’ and coaches’ around baseball.
Maddon got his first piece of hardware, at the altar this weekend. But on Monday, he recieved a second wedding gift when he was named the Chuck Tanner Major League Manager of the Year.
In the second year for the award, named after the manager of the 1979 World Series champion Pirates, Maddon will join now-Dodgers skipper Joe Torre as a recipient. The award selection committee composed of former Major League players, executives and sports media, deemed that Maddon best exemplified Tanner’s managing and leadership qualities and selected him based on his accomplishments for the 2008 season.
The 2008 Rays also improved their record by 31 games over ’07’s record — the third-best improvement in AL history — and became the first AL team to go from the worst record in the Major Leagues to the postseason in one year.
The award is annually presented by the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh and will be handed out during a banquet this Saturday. Proceeds from the banquet will support the club’s humanitarian service initiatives and Rotary Foundation Programs.
Maddon will not be attending the ceremonies, however, because he will still be on his honeymoon in Europe at that point. But he has a suitable replacement.
Accepting the award for Maddon will be Scott Challis, father of John Challis. At age 16, John was diagnosed with Stage 4 of Hepatocellular Carcinoma, an adult form of liver cancer, and died on Aug. 19.
John is fondly remembered for his uplifting message of faith and optimism while battling through the deadly disease. Before he passed, John and his family created a unique bond with various sports figures, but none grew quite as strong as their relationship with Maddon, who now has a special T-shirt for sale with all proceeds going to the John Challis Courage for Life Foundation.
And it all started with a meeting the two had in Miami during a Rays-Marlins series in May. More information on Maddon’s contributions to Challis’ memory can be found at John Challis Courage for Life Foundation Web site.
Joe Maddon love for information might just be the hidden jewel of his winning the Manager of the Year award. He was into the statistics and situational hitting or pitching aspect of the game way before stepping into the Rays dugout. It is generally thought that he was one of the first to carry a chart with an individual players’ or pitchers’ tendencies for use during the game.
It brought together another huge breakthrough for situational hitting and pitching and has set up a huge debate on if it takes the guess work out of baseball. With 2009 coming up fast, after Maddon comes back from his european dream trip, the think tank of the Rays will assemble and again go piece by piece to build a 2009 model that will go beyond expectations again.
So Joe, go grab an unqiue and subtle wine today and sit either by a raging fire or sunset and just take in all the beauty that you have provided this year for the Tampa Bay Rays. Take another sip for the future of the team and how you will envision running this team for years to come…………and last, but certainly not least, take a salute to the woman on your arm who might just be the missing piece to the Rays getting back to the World Series.
9=8 Joe, and the only people not loving you right now are the Math teachers around Tampa Bay.