Tag Archives: Joe Maddon

Ben Zobrist Traded from Tampa Bay Rays to Oakland A’s

Over the weekend the Tampa Bay Rays continued their A to Z roster rebuild by trading long-time fan favorite Ben Zobrist to the Oakland Athletics.

The Zobrist trade is the latest move in a busy offseason for the Rays.

Since October the Rays have had to find replacements for president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and manager Joe Maddon, who is now manager of the Chicago Cubs.

After nine seasons with Tampa Bay Ben Zobrist became a member of the Oakland A's this weekend. Zobrist is just the latest of many players to be traded by the Rays as they retool their roster. Photo R. Anderson

After nine seasons with Tampa Bay Ben Zobrist became a member of the Oakland A’s this weekend. Zobrist is just the latest of many players to be traded by the Rays as they retool their roster.
Photo R. Anderson

Friedman and Maddon were the two people who were most often credited with the turnaround of the Rays. Under their tenure the Rays experienced their first winning seasons in team history along with some trips to the playoffs including a World Series appearance in 2008.

With the departures of Maddon and Friedman a sort of free for all trading of players ensued as the new president and manager sought to put their stamp on the franchise.

In addition to Zobrist, the Rays have also parted ways this offseason with their 2014 Opening day right fielder, left fielder, second baseman, catcher, shortstop along with six pitchers. By any calculation that is a very busy two and a half months.

With months to go before the start of the season it is entirely possible that even move roster moves will be made before Opening Day.

The only safe player on the roster appears to be Evan Longoria at third base but something tells me that the Rays would even entertain offers for him if they felt they could get enough prospects in return.

If recent history is any indication Alex Cobb will be the next pitcher to be traded by the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo R. Anderson

If recent history is any indication Alex Cobb will be the next pitcher to be traded by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Photo R. Anderson

While each of the moves have stung to varying degrees, the Zobrist trade is perhaps the most puzzling.

By all account Ben Zobrist was one of the most popular members of the Rays organization having spent his entire nine-year career as a super utility player filling whatever spot in the infield or outfield needed him.

Off the field he was involved in numerous outreach programs within the committee showing that he was more than just a player there for a paycheck.

Speaking of that paycheck though, Zobrist was due to be a free agent at the end of the 2015 season and was certainly due for a raise in salary.

While the baseball economists will say that small market teams like the Rays need to trade players like Zobrist to get value in return instead of watching them depart in free agency.

The business model the Rays seem to embrace is shedding some salary and gaining some prospects in return that they hope will turn into Major Leaguers that they can sign on the cheap and then trade away when they are due for a raise. Lather, rinse, repeat and hope all goes to plan. That is far from an ideal way to run a fan driven business.

The Tampa Bay Rays made their first and only World Series appearance in 2008. That season also marked the first winning season in franchise history. If things do not turn around the club may be headed back towards their losing ways. Photo R. Anderson

The Tampa Bay Rays made their first and only World Series appearance in 2008. That season also marked the first winning season in franchise history. If things do not turn around the club may be headed back towards their losing ways.
Photo R. Anderson

Despite the focus on television contracts and corporate sponsorships as revenue streams the fact remains that teams still need fans to be successful.

Most fans understand that baseball is a business and roster moves need to be made from time to time but when fans continue to see their favorite players traded year after year they can start to resent the organization.

In college athletics, especially basketball and football, turnover is extremely high as players leave college early to start their professional careers.

In the professional ranks however fans do not want to have to learn an entire roster every year.

Of course fall out from trading popular players like David Price last year and Ben Zobrist this year are far from the only issues facing the Rays who seem one the cusp of returning to their devilish losing ways.

Before when the Rays made their famous midseason salary dumping trades there were still enough key pieces left on the roster to absorb the losses. History also showed that the traded players seemed to struggle after leaving the Rays leading to the belief that the trade worked out in favor of the Rays.

But as the trades became more frequent, the remaining roster was left weaker and the returns diminished.

Instead of a team poised to win the American League East Division year after the year, the Rays find themselves once again as sellers among a retooling division that is adding pieces at a breakneck pace.

Joe Maddon instilled a winning tradition with the Tampa Bay Rays before opting out of his contract and joining the Chicago Cubs. Time will tell if the Ray way can continue without its ringleader. Photo R. Anderson

Joe Maddon instilled a winning tradition with the Tampa Bay Rays before opting out of his contract and joining the Chicago Cubs. Time will tell if the Ray way can continue without its ringleader.
Photo R. Anderson

Most teams go through a natural process of up and down years so a couple of bad seasons will not necessarily spell doom for the Rays but any prolonged losing streak risks further alienating a fan base and making it more difficult to get the new Ballpark they so desperately want full of those suites for the big corporate sponsors.

There is no doubt that should Ballpark discussions continue to break down in St. Petersburg, cities like Montreal and Charlotte will be all too happy to make room for the Rays.

Montreal and Charlotte are certainly both good cities and both have a long history of supporting baseball but I do not think either of them should get the Rays.

Personally I hope that the Rays enjoy a long and prosperous run in the Sunshine State and return to their winning ways sooner rather than later. Failure to do that may mark the end of Major League Baseball on the west coast of Florida leaving the Miami Marlins as the only Florida based MLB team.

Of course should the Rays make the trek up to Montreal, I hope they put heaters in the sting ray tank and find a warm winter coat for DJ Kitty.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a new roster to learn.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Joe Maddon Opts Out as Rays Manager

It is a fact of life in baseball that managers come and managers go.

In fact next year 16 percent of the Major League Baseball teams will have a different manager for Opening Day than the one they had this year.

Usually managers leave by getting fired as was the case in Houston, Arizona and Minnesota. Occasionally managers take their own path and show themselves the door as Ron Washington did with the Texas Rangers.

Last Friday Joe Maddon joined Washington in the take your own path club when he informed the Tampa Bay Rays that he would not be back to manage the team next year.

Maddon spent nine years as the manager of the Rays and led the team to their only winning seasons in franchise history and a World Series appearance in 2008.

By all accounts Maddon planned to spend many more seasons with the Rays but a series of events changed that course unexpectedly.

The first event was the departure of Rays President Andrew Friedman who took a job with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Joe Maddon announced Friday that he was leaving the Tampa Bay Rays after nine seasons. Photo R. Anderson

Joe Maddon announced Friday that he was leaving the Tampa Bay Rays after nine seasons.
Photo R. Anderson

That first event triggered the second event which was an opt out clause in Maddon’s contract that went into effect in the event that Friedman left the Rays.

The decision to exercise his opt out clause came with one year remaining on his current contract and after negotiations for a contract extension broke down.

While the decision to leave with a year left on his contract may rub some the wrong way, it is hard to blame Maddon for not wanting to be a lame duck manager.

If Maddon knew that there was no way that he and the Rays could agree on an extension beyond the 2015 season, it really is best for both parties to start their next chapters as soon as possible.

Regarding next chapters in the near term the future looks much brighter for Joe Maddon than the Rays.

Next season the Tampa Bay Rays will be without Joe Maddon and Don Zimmer marking the end of an era and the start of a time of transition. Photo R. Anderson

Next season the Tampa Bay Rays will be without Joe Maddon and Don Zimmer marking the end of an era and the start of a time of transition.
Photo R. Anderson

Joe Maddon becomes one of the most sought after manager free agents in recent history and there is no shortage of teams that are likely to try to give him the keys to the manager’s suite.

Realistically Joe Maddon will not be managing next season and will take a season off to mull his offers which could include two thirds of the teams in the MLB.

One potential landing spot being mentioned for Maddon is the Chicago Cubs.

Wherever Maddon lands it is a near certainty that he will turn the team around much like he did with the Rays.

While the future for Maddon looks bright the Rays seemed poised for a few lean years to come.

Coming off of their first losing season since 2007 the Rays had a lot of issues that needed to be addressed even if Maddon was still the skipper.

Former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon's first victory as a Major League Baseaball manager is memorialized at Charlotte Sports Park. Photo R. Anderson

Former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon’s first victory as a Major League Baseaball manager is memorialized at Charlotte Sports Park.
Photo R. Anderson

The Rays were predicted by many to be the American League representative in this year’s World Series.

Instead through a season of injuries and trades the Rays reverted back to levels of futility not seen since the days when they were the Devil Rays.

Of course teams can have a bad season from time to time without declaring that the sky is falling but the Rays do not have the same luxury as most teams.

With national media constantly harping on the Rays for their “lack of fan support” and “outdated” stadium there is no room for error under that microscope.

With a fraction of the payroll of the other teams Joe Maddon and the Rays front office had a knack for getting the most out of their players and often exceeded expectations.

But with the purse strings getting tighter, and star players continuing to be traded, the Rays face a challenging future where a single losing season may turn into multiple losing seasons before the ship is righted.

Those losing seasons were possible even if Joe Maddon was still around but they would have seemed a little easier to take with the Mad Hatter in the Hoodie watching from the dugout.

The Rays will have a new skipper for the first time in about a decade when Spring Training starts next year and whoever his standing on that top step in the dugout has huge shoes to fill.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see how DJ Kitty is handling the news.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Don Zimmer’s Passing is a Sad Day for Baseball

Don Zimmer, a baseball icon for the past six decades as a player, manager, bench coach and most recently senior advisor for the Tampa Bay Rays, passed away at the age of 83 today in Florida.

Upon learning of Zimmer’s passing Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement stating that, “Like everyone in Major League Baseball, I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend Don Zimmer, one of our game’s most universally beloved figures. A memorable contributor to Baseball for more than 60 years, Don was the kind of person you could only find in the National Pastime.”

My first column for this site was a tribute to the late Earl Weaver and now it is time to say goodbye to another icon from my past who shaped my earliest memories of the game of baseball and was someone who I was excited to see during my most recent trip to Spring Training.

As a kid collecting baseball cards there were certain faces that jumped out of the two dimensional cards and showed a life of baseball knowledge behind their eyes.

Don Zimmer spent 66 years in professional baseball as a player, manager and bench coach.

Don Zimmer spent 66 years in professional baseball as a player, manager and bench coach.

While the logos on their hats may have changed as they moved from team to team, Don Zimmer, Lou Pinella, Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, Sparky Anderson, Joe Torre, and Earl Weaver just had the look and sound that one would expect a Major League Baseball Manager to have.

While I never had the opportunity to meet Zimmer as I did with Earl Weaver both men nonetheless reminded me of what a true baseball manager should be, someone a little rough around the edges who is willing to charge the mound or kick some dirt on an umpire’s shoes when the situation calls for it.

A moment of silence was held before the seventh inning stretch of the Baltimore Orioles versus Texas Rangers game and more celebrations honoring Don Zimmer are planned in the coming days.

The Rays will honor Zimmer with a moment of silence at Thursday’s Rays-Marlins game at Tropicana Field and will conduct a special pregame ceremony prior to the Rays-Mariners game on Saturday.

Don Zimmer (far right) served as a special adviser for Joe Maddon after joining the Tampa Bay Rays when Lou Pinella was the manager.  Photo R. Anderson

Don Zimmer (far right) served as a special advisor for Joe Maddon after joining the Tampa Bay Rays when Lou Pinella was the manager.
Photo R. Anderson

From a player who nearly died following a pitch to the head resulting in a metal plate being placed in his head, Don Zimmer used his 66-years in professional baseball to shape generations of players.

It would take days to recount all of the accomplishments from Zimmer’s career but there is no doubt that his death leaves a larger than life void on the game of baseball.

Once his playing career was over, Zim, as he was known, managed the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Zim also managed the New York Yankees for 36 games in 1999, while Torre recuperated from prostate cancer.

A frequent fixture in the dugout as Yankees bench coach, Zim left the Bronx and went home to Tampa to serve first as bench coach under Pinella and then later under Joe Maddon with the Rays.

The Rays honored Zim in a truly Tampa Bay Rays way when they immortalized him with a Zim Bear giveaway. The Zim Bears were so popular that a second batch of bears was added to keep up with fan demand.

It is a sad fact that the baseball icons of my youth will all someday pass away just like Earl Weaver and Don Zimmer have.

Each generation has their favorites and it is always a little sad when they are no longer with us as it can feel like a piece of our own youth is dying along with them.

When we are young looking up at these larger than life figures on the baseball diamond it can be easy to think of them as almost immortal but as we age we realize that they are flesh and blood just like us.

Thankfully despite their passing away they will live on in the memories of fans and in Don Zimmer’s case they will live on in the form of a teddy bear with his face on it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time to reread Zim’s autobiography.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

 

Rays Finally Silence Rangers in an Elimination Game

The past two times the Tampa Bay Rays went to the postseason they were knocked out by the Texas Rangers.

So on paper when the Rays and Rangers met Monday night for the tiebreaker game to earn the second Wildcard spot and a trip to the postseason it felt like deja vu all over again.

The Rays had dropped two of three games against the Toronto Blue Jays to slip from first place in the Wildcard standings to tied for the second spot with the Rangers. The Rangers on the other hand had won 10 straight games and were hosting the pivotal 163rd game of the season.

Historically Rangers Ballpark in Arlington has not been kind to the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo R. Anderson

Historically Rangers Ballpark in Arlington has not been kind to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Photo R. Anderson

The Rangers held a four games to three edge over the Rays during their regular season meetings leading to the Rangers having home field advantage for the regular season tiebreaker.

Momentum and home field advantage were clearly in favor of the Rangers, on paper.

On paper the pitching match up also favored the Rangers as David Price, the defending American League Cy Young Award winner, took the mound for the Rays.

Despite being the defending Cy Young Award winner Price had only defeated the Rangers once in his career and in previous meetings the Rangers and little difficulty scoring runs off of him.

Before the game there were many who looked at Price’s past performance against the Rangers and said that the Rays were foolish to put him on the mound in a win or go home type scenario with the whole season on the line.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon made several player substitiutiuons that helped propel the Tampa Bay Rays into the postseason Monday night. Photo R. Anderson

Rays Manager Joe Maddon made several player substations that helped propel the Tampa Bay Rays into the postseason Monday night.
Photo R. Anderson

But Rays Manager Joe Maddon is not one of those people who does what conventional wisdom says and he put his ace on the mound despite Price only having one victory in his career against the Rangers.

Thankfully for Rays fans though Monday night was not like the previous two meetings as the Rays defeated the Rangers in Arlington to return to the postseason for the fourth time in the last six years.

As for David Price, the guy who the Rangers had managed to dominate the past few years, he pitched a complete game and only gave up two runs.

I guess one could say he balled up that piece of paper that said he couldn’t win against the Rangers in big games.

The Rays face the Cleveland Indians tonight in a win or go home Wildcard game with the winner facing the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.

Alex Cobb who finished the season with an 11-3 mark and a 2.76 ERA in 22 starts will take the mound for the Rays.

Alex Cobb will look to extend the season for the Tampa Bay Rays tonight when he pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Wildcard game. Photo R. Anderson

Alex Cobb will look to extend the season for the Tampa Bay Rays tonight when he pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Wildcard game.
Photo R. Anderson

On paper the teams are pretty evenly matched.

And once again the Rays will be living out of their suitcases as they face yet another game on the road.

Of course, the Rays seem to excel in the face of adversity and hostile crowds so I will place my money on the Rays winning the game.

While there is still a lot of October baseball to be played I would not be the least bit surprised if the Rays make it all the way to the World Series.

Don’t tell me what the odds are of that happening on paper are.

After all, the Rays have shown time and time again that just because it is the conventional wisdom, it is not the way the Rays play.

The Rays are a different team with a quirky manager that gets the most out of his players in every situation and once again they are in the playoffs.

Regardless of what happens in the game tonight the Rays will be remembered as a playoff contender once more.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to watch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson