Joe Maddon is the best manager in baseball coming off of his sixth season at the helm of the Tampa Bay Rays. After leading the Rays to the Wild Card in 2011, he has already been named Sporting News AL Manager of the Year. There is no question that he has done more with less than any other manager or head coach in professional sports.
Even Hollywood couldn't write a script this good.
He has led the Rays to the postseason in three of the last four seasons, including two AL East pennants. The teams he has led into battle have had a payroll that wouldn't even cover the salary of the New York Yankees infield.
Aside from the accomplishments of his team, what sets him apart is the fact that he is just a cool dude.
How many other managers truly stay even keel after a win or loss while enjoying a nice glass of wine after the game? There are also not many managers that have the intestinal fortitude to refer to the notion of banning beer in the clubhouse as "asinine."
That's the Joe Maddon that Rays' players and fans love.
That's also the reason that I don't see him going anywhere anytime soon. For most managers I believe that the prestige and allure of a managerial job with the Cardinals or Red Sox would be enough to pull them away from a team like the Rays. But with Maddon, that isn't the case. I just don't think that the front offices, fan bases, and local media in those markets would allow him the same latitude to be who he is.
In the process of winning the World Series Tony LaRussa went through hell and back in the court of public opinion and with media speculation about his personnel management decisions in games. Maddon makes some very similar moves on the field, but does so without the national media breathing down his back and over-analyzing every move.
There is no place like home, and for Maddon home is Tampa Bay. When asked about the possibility of going to Boston, Maddon told WEEI the following:
"Honestly, I love where I work and who I work with," said Maddon, whose team has won 91 or more games in three of the past four years despite carrying a payroll south of $50 million. "I did interview for the job several years ago and I was really excited about that opportunity. But right now, at this point in my life, there's no other place I would rather be than the Tampa Bay Rays. I mean that sincerely. Ownership. Front office. Players. Coaching staff. I cannot ask for a better situation. There isn't a better situation. And it isn't always about money. For me it isn't always about money. I really am humbled by that thought, but at the end of the day I am a Ray and I want to be a Ray."
The Rays need to hurry up and extend his contract past 2012 to secure the team's ability to continue to compete for years to come with Maddon at the helm.