Sunday, September 21, 2008

He'll sit you down and talk to you and teach you

After the post yesterday about how manager Joe Maddon handled a problem with one of his top players, I started doing some homework about him.  I'd seen where he's likely to win Manager of the Year honors after reviving the sagging Rays franchise.

And, since I make it out to a few Angels games each summer, I also knew he'd been a coach in Anaheim for a number of years.  But that was about it.

Thanks to this story in the NY Times, I know a lot more.  Here are the highlights from the article:

-- The 54-year-old Maddon, who was "recruited by Ivy League universities" out of high school, is regarded as "one of baseball’s more purely intelligent men in uniform."

-- When he took over as manager of the Rays, he "adorned the clubhouse with inspirational quotes from the likes of Albert Camus."

-- He's "the only manager in the big leagues with a cooler music collection than [his players]."

-- According to one Rays pitcher, “He’s very calm, quiet and trusting.  He allows us to police ourselves. Sometimes, you have a manager who yells at you every night, but he doesn’t do that. He’ll sit you down and talk to you and teach you.”

-- He "never travels without a book."

-- He "encourages his players to take extra bases aggressively — even at the risk of making the first or third out at third, a longtime baseball no-no."  Says Maddon:  "It’s a positive risk.  I don’t want my players afraid of making mistakes."

-- B.J. Upton called Maddon "a young team’s manager" who "allows us to have fun."

-- He sometimes uses "somewhat bizarre" drills to help players develop.

-- Before the season, Maddon had t-shirts with  “9=8” printed on them.  "He wanted not just to dismiss conventional thought but also emphasize that nine players playing nine innings could mean one of eight postseason berths."

-- A lack of effort is one of his pet peeves.  "After a win in Kansas City in late July, Maddon lit into his team for breaking just about his only team rule: continuous effort. Several Rays players said the meeting was a sign both that their one-of-the-guys manager was no pushover, and that this postseason business was real."  After the scolding his team, the Rays ticked off three straight wins.

Said Maddon of the meeting:  "The message was, basically, we’re in a position right now that’s actually very special and needs to be treated with respect.  To think that this situation’s going to come along on an annual basis, we’re foolish to think that."

-- His work ethic is grounded in his roots.  He grew up in Hazleton, Pa., "the oldest of three children in a tiny apartment atop the business started by his Italian immigrant grandfather, C. Maddon & Sons Plumbing and Heating. (The family name was originally Maddoninni.)"  His mother is still a waitress at the Third Base Luncheonette in Hazelton.

-- While with Anaheim, "Maddon helped the Angels win their only World Series after serving the organization in various minor league and major league coaching capacities for almost a quarter-century. Maddon played an integral role in identifying which young players had the skill and verve to grow into a championship club."