Maddon Wants Rays to Find “Another Way”
Since you are reading this you have probably guessed there will be no photo blog or post describing the Tampa Bay Rays first day of pitcher and catchers’ workouts. That means either I am trapped in the belly of a large whale, I forgot my camera card reader, or I decided to commit an completely spontaneous and insane act of eating way too many hot chicken wings and I decided to stay down in Port Charlotte for another great day of Rays baseball.
I decided to instead “pop up” a “rain delay” bit of Rays Renegade programming by letting you gaze at a few of the comments presented to Rays Manager Joe Maddon at his first Spring Press Conference yesterday (Tuesday). So as I try and figure out why my ears are burning while eating these succulent wings, let’s switch our programming so you can enjoy the smooth and well eloquent styling of the Rays Johnny Cash loving Manager. I hope you enjoy it.
What do the Rays need to do during (Spring) camp, and can they still compete in the American League East?
It’s obvious the biggest loss probably is the Bullpen. That kind of exodus is difficult. A lot of our young players got a lot of experience last season. Whether it is Reid (Brignac) or Sean (Rodriguez), Matt Joyce, John Jaso, etc. All of these guys got a lot of experience, and experience playing in the playoffs. So I’d like to believe that’s going to benefit them.
The starting rotation, you’re returning some really good stars…There are so many good things already in place. That’s where the optimism lies. If there’s one place that you have to have somewhat of a concern, that’s to reestablish and rebuild the best Bullpen in the league. But last year at this time when the Bullpen broke, there was no way you could have told us that it was going to be the best Bullpen in the American League last year.
Andrew (Friedman) has complied some really good arms that we-re going to look at right now and during the course of this camp, try to set them up properly going into the season and see what happens. So I see our biggest obstacle to overcome regarding repeating would be getting this Bullpen back in order quickly.
What timeline do you think it will take to solidify your Bullpen?
You’re going to have your seven guys at the end of this Spring Training, and that’s wonderful…We know we’re going to be sending guys back (to the minors) that we feel as though they can help us here sooner rather than later. But the Bullpen that breaks here is going to earn that opportunity by what they do here. However, we are going to keep an open mind about those going back and keeping a close eye on the whole thing. It’s a bit of a fluid situation right now.
Is there a process of determining who the closer will be, and the candidates involved?
It’s always nice when you have that one guy that pitched the ninth inning and you know he is going to pitch the ninth inning. It makes it so much easier to dole out the other innings. So going into this camp right now, I do not know who that’s going to be. If someone shows that they want that particular job and they are able to do it, I’d be the happiest guy in the World to be able to say ” so and so” is going to be our closer because it makes game planning somewhat easier.
Now having said that, I’m going into the season pretty much expecting to go committee-wise. We have a lot of upside names showing up. Guys we have never seen before that when you look at them on paper, they’re kind of interesting. I’m not a big Spring Training-evaluating kind of guy. However, this is going to be a different Spring for us and we have to be able to be more open-minded.
Do you see also a rebuilding of the Rays team’s chemistry this Spring?
Having a couple of veterans like Johnny (Damon), Manny (Ramirez), Kyle (Farnsworth) and Joel Peralta coming in is great. Of course we have some young guys within the group that definitely know the “Rays Way” of doing things- I’m talking about David (Price), Evan (Longoria) and B J (Upton). These guys know what is expected of them here. I want to believe that there’s going to be a nice blend where there are certain guys who are going to be apt and take more of a responsibility.
Chemistry, I’m big on…We’re not going to go out there and spend an exorbitant amount of money on one or two Free Agents. We get really good athletic young players primarily and mix them with some nice veterans. We have to play our style of baseball, we have to all buy into it, we have to believe in it. I really feel the core group gets it, and I’m really relying on them to spread the word to the newcomers.
This is what I always wanted to see happen since the day I arrived, and I think we’re at that point now where when you walk into our clubhouse from another situation, you realize quickly that this is how we do things here. I’m really comfortable with the ideas of the young bucks right now. I think that they’re going to be able to handle that load and pass the word.
On Maddon’s 2011 new mantra of “Another Way”
Regarding our play for this year, we have to do it in “another way”. We have to get back to the playoffs and its probably going to require another way. The Rays way is another way. When you just look at how we’ve gotten to this particular point over the last couple of years, the creativity with the trading and signing of Free Agents that we’re able to do, the draft things the development, all of that stuff.
The ballpark we play in is kind of different… it’s a little bit funky. And in spite of going to the World Series, it’s still difficult to attract. So there’s all of these little flaws about us, and in spite of it, we’ve still been able to overcome these things to the point that we’ve become rather successful. So this season, why not choose another way to get back to the playoffs.
That speaks to all the little quirkiness about us. I think I wanted our players to understand we’re going to have to do this in another way. The “Rays Way” and “Another Way” are synonymous terms and that kind of smacked me right in the face this past off season. Going into this year, we’re going to have to figure out another way to win, and we’re going to do that.
On the difficult nature of competing in the A L East:
We relish the challenge. In our opinion, there’s no more challenging division in all of professional sports than the American League East. Fortunately, we have had some success in the past few years that confirms a bit of the way we go about our business. But it’s really a survival mechanism. For us, we have to operate the way we do to have a chance to compete in this division Again, it gets back to knowing who you are.
We appreciate who we are, where we are in the landscape of this division in that we have to get creative and problem solve in different ways. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily changed what we knew in 2006 that this was an incredibly difficult division.
If anything, it’s probably gotten more difficult in that the other four teams are extremely well run, which makes it even more challenging. But it also makes it much more rewarding. The success we had in 2008 and 2010 was incredibly meaningful to all of us. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do and it’s something that inspires all of us.
I promise to be back in St. Petersburg on Thursday and will post both a photo blog and a review of some of the day’s activities including my first encounter with ManRam. Was a great day, but I got to go…These wings now have my feet sweating, and I am in an sir conditioned room with flip flops on….arrrg! Pint of milk….stat!!!.