Joe Maddon has received accolades for his 'outside-the-box' thinking and his ability to lead men while maintaining a loose clubhouse. His methods have largely paid off, with the Rays earning 3 playoff berths in the last 4 years despite a low budget and a high roster turnover.
Now that Maddon is at the top of his profession (2 AL Manager of the Year awards since 2008), he is raising the stakes. In the past week, we have seen Maddon turn into a master recruiter of talent. Take note of these recent well-calculated quotes. As the Rays prepared for their bow-tie/nerd trip to Boston, Skipper Joe made the following statement: "...I think it's fun. And beyond that, I'm poking fun at the group that insists on wearing $3,000 suits on chartered airplanes. I've never understood how that related to winning in any way, shape or form." http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1189744/index.htm
That statement speaks volumes. There are many players around the league who are not under contract in 2013. Maddon is speaking to the players who will not earn the multi-million dollar, multi-year deals in the offseason. Maddon is speaking to the men who won't stick with their prior teams and are desperately seeking an opportunity to earn a spot on a 25-man roster. This message is for the players who are undervalued due to injury (See Joaquin Benoit, Luke Scott) or poor performance (See Fernando Rodney). Maddon is sending a message that Tampa Bay has a relaxed clubhouse and offers opportunities for playing time, even for the non-roster training camp invitees (See Will Rhymes and Chris Gimenez). Fancy threads are unnecessary. All that matters is building an atmosphere conducive to winning.
Joe Maddon took it a step further this weekend by speaking indirectly to the Boston Red Sox players. According to Marc Topkin's Tampa Bay Times article, Maddon made a point to mention 10 times that he had a lot of respect for the Boston Red Sox players. http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/tampa-bay-rays-manager-joe-maddon-boston-red-sox-manager-bobby-valentine/1232300
This 'respect' statement also speaks volumes. Though many of the Red Sox players are currently out of the Rays' price range, they might be looking for jobs in the twilight of their careers. As Joe Maddon continues to gain respect around the league, St. Petersburg could become a prime destination for those hungry, flawed players who are looking for an opportunity to rehabilitate their value and reputation.