George Christian Pappas, ESPN Radio His thick-rimmed glasses are a nod to rock 'n' roll icon Buddy Holly. He's a glass into a bottle of red wine and a few tracks into Bruce Springsteen's "Greatest Hits" by the time the media reaches his office for the post-game chat. And he values his own gut instincts and intuition in making decision as though they were a set of comprehensive statistics in a scouting report.
Joe Maddon might be a baseball hippie, as one professional scout called him, but he is his team's biggest fan and was rewarded, accordingly. Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that Maddon won the American League Manager of the Year Award for the second time since taking over as the Tampa Bay Rays' skipper in 2005. Maddon garnered 26 of 28 first-place votes cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The award shouldn't come as much of a surprise, after Maddon's Rays overcame a historic nine-game deficit in the wild-card race in September to supplant the Boston Red Sox and clinch a playoff berth. Tampa Bay secured a spot in the postseason in dramatic fashion in the regular-season finale, erasing the Yankees' seven-run lead in the eighth inning to be the division champions, 8-7, in 12 frames. The Rays won their last five games heading into October. The club's resilience is a testament to its manager. Despite the free-agent exodus before Opening Day and the frustrations of a dreadfully slow, 1-7 start to the regular season, the Rays' clubhouse never stopped buzzing. The players listened to their wiry-haired manager's optimism and had faith in his unorthodox strategies. Like when Maddon decided to move slumping third baseman Evan Longoria to the top of the order to revive his all-star approach at the plate. “Promise me you won’t think I’m crazy,” Maddon told him, but Longoria said he already did. Longoria's average had dropped to .209 nearing the end of May. But he rapped out two hits against the Cleveland Indians, including a solo shot, from the lead-off spot. Longoria approved of the switch in the batting order after the game. “[Maddon] usually presses the right buttons and it’s a matter of me getting into a situation where I won’t worry about trying to do too much,” he said. Longoria went on to hit .296 with 27 home runs and 87 RBI from June through the end of the regular season, including the game-winning homer against the Yankees to send the Rays into the playoffs. But the entire organization rallied behind Maddon in September, pushing for a return to the postseason for second-straight year, which, ultimately, made him shoe-in for the award.
RAYS NOTEBOOK: FAVORITE JOE MADDON QUOTES FROM 2011
One of the most enjoyable aspects of covering the Rays was the chance to listen to Maddon during his pre- and post-game media conferences. Joe is a quote machine full of quirky anecdotes and asides. I went back into my notes from covering the Rays to dig up his best lines from 2011. Some of the material is too lengthy to post. He cited Joe DiMaggio's former understudy, Sam Suplizio, in a state-of-the-game address critiquing outfielder mechanics, and decided that most players have no regard for fundamentals. He went on to say that arm strength is overrated. Some of the material doesn't have a specific time frame. I can't tell you how many times Maddon returned to his mantra, "We catch line drives," to emphasize the importance of sound defense. And I had already turned off the recorder for some of the manager's most candid storytelling moments, like the time he was heckled by Will Ferrell at Yankee Stadium, or when he won a poster of swimsuit model Cheryl Tiegs while working in the minor leagues in the 1970s. Here's a sampling of some of my favorite Maddon quotables:
“It was merely a flesh wound.”
-- May 27, using a Monty Python reference to update the media on David Price’s status after being grazed on the back of the head by a broken bat.
“We wear seat belts now. A lot [of players use maple bats.] I know the players are going to hate me for it but I don’t care.”
Maddon called for Major League Baseball and the union to outlaw maple bats for the safety of players, coaches and fans.
“A lower body injury. Thank you, Guy [Boucher]. I never knew about that until a couple of minutes ago. I really like it. I’m going to use it often. If it was his shoulder, it probably could have been an upper body injury but it happened to be a lower body injury. If he gets through the morning skate tomorrow, we’ll lace the boots up really tightly and get a nice little tape job, eh?, and take it from there.”
-- May 15, on Casey Kotchman’s injury, which landed him on the 15-day disabled list. Maddon told the media that Kotchman had sustained a ‘lower body injury’ and joked about the vagueness of the term commonly used by Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher during the Bolts’ playoff run.
“Carl’s return is not that big a deal to us. I told him I was happy for him during spring training but now he is a member of the Boston Red Sox. As a unit, we’ve moved on,” Maddon said.
-- June 14, when Carl Crawford made his debut at Tropicana Field in a Red Sox uniform. While the media and fans tabbed the Red Sox as the favorite to win the A.L. East, the Rays beat the Sox, 12-6, in the season series and edged them in the wild card.
“Helly just turned 24. He did go toe-to-toe, heavy gloves with Beckett and he did not flinch. That’s definitely something that he can put in his back pocket and know that he is capable of pitching that kind of game against this lineup.”
-- June 15, on Jeremy Hellickson’s start against the Boston Red Sox. The Rays lost, 3-0, after Josh Beckett threw nine innings of one-hit ball. But it was one of the stronger outings for Hellickson, who went on to win the A.L. Rookie of the Year.
“I thought they had the best logo in baseball. I had that thing memorized.”
-- July 1, on the St. Louis Cardinals. Though Maddon comes from Hazleton, Penn., the skipper was a fan of the Cardinals as a kid. He listened to Harry Caray’s broadcasts on KMOX on a transistor radio, and found himself sketching the Redbirds’ logo on his papers when his mind drifted at school.
“There might have been some hand gesticulations coming from our dugout.”
-- July 2, after home plate umpire Vic Carapazza, first base umpire Doug Eddings and crew chief Dana DeMuth tossed Maddon, J.P Howell, David Price and Elliot Johnson during the Rays’ 5-3 loss to the Cardinals.
“I can guarantee you I won’t be sending him a Christmas card this year.”
-- Oct. 3, after Colby Lewis threw six innings and surrendered one run, allowing the Texas Rangers to take the lead in the ALDS at Tropicana Field. Texas clinched a spot in the league championship series the next day.
George Christian Pappas covers the Tampa Bay Rays and Major League Baseball for ESPN Radio Gainesville/Ocala. He is finishing his degree in journalism and Spanish at the University of Florida. You can send him questions or comments at
Sir Charles with the slam