After Joe Maddon made the difficult decision to leave the Rays following the 2014 season, and after he signed a big-bucks deal with the Cubs that immediately excited the Chicago fan base, there still was the question of how he would manage.
Pretty, pretty good, as it turned out.
After leading the Cubs to 97 wins, a wild-card spot and to the National League Championship Series, Maddon on Tuesday was honored as the NL manager of the year, chosen by a wide margin over St. Louis' Mike Matheny and the Mets' Terry Collins. Texas' Jeff Banister was the AL winner in his first year.
"It's really good to know that what you believe in works in other places," Maddon said while celebrating at his Tampa restaurant, Ava. "We put it together with ownership, with Stu (Sternberg) and everybody, down here with Andrew (Friedman, former executive vice president) and all the guys, we put together that philosophical approach that worked.
"Then you go to another market, larger market, probably a more traditional fan base and ballpark and pretty much, honestly, didn't do anything differently. … I didn't tweak anything. It was the same approach. And to know that it works there, that's the validating component for me.
"To be able to cut your teeth here (with the Rays), I was very grateful about that. … I think nine or 10 years in one gig someplace is probably plenty for both sides. Both sides more than likely need to move on at that point.
"I think what happened this year is really good for the Rays. I've got to talk to (current manager Kevin Cash) a lot. I think Kevin is going to do a wonderful job here, he already has. And other guys got opportunity because of the movement that we created. So that happened there, and then there's this new influx in Chicago which could rejuvenate that group there, too. So in the famous words of Michael Scott (lead character on The Office TV show), it's a win-win-win situation for everybody."
It was triple so for Maddon, who, after winning AL honors with the Rays in 2008 and 2011, became the seventh manager to win three awards and the seventh to win in both leagues.
Maddon — celebrating with his wife, Jaye, and friends over Tuscan wine and funghi pizza — said winning this time was "more reminiscent" to his first with the Rays, in that both teams won unexpectedly with a young, unproven core.
Banister, who led Texas to an unexpected AL West title, was the first to win the AL award in his first full season managing and fifth overall, joining Hal Lanier ('86 Astros), Dusty Baker ('93 Giants), Joe Giradi ('06 Marlins) and Matt Williams ('14 Nationals).
Around the majors
BIG DEAL FOR GIANTS SS: Fresh off his Gold Glove award last week, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford signed a $75 million, six-year contract that takes him through the 2021 season.
The team scheduled a news conference for Crawford today at AT&T Park. His new contract covers his two remaining years of arbitration and four years of free agency, and it also provides some stability for his young family right at home in the bay area. Crawford and his wife, Jalynne, have two young daughters and a son on the way.
"We are incredibly blessed to be a part of the BEST organization in baseball for 6 years! (at)SFGiants (at)bcraw35 Thank U!" Jalynne Crawford posted on Twitter shortly after the deal was announced.
A reliable glove and a first-time All-Star this past season, Crawford, 28, has shown his range at the position as well as growth on defense and at the plate. Crawford, who grew up in the area rooting for the Giants, batted .256 with a .321 on-base percentage and a .462 slugging percentage.
ANGELS: Veteran infielder Cliff Pennington became the first free agent to switch teams this offseason, signing a two-year, $3.75 million deal with Los Angeles. Pennington, 31, began last season with Arizona and moved to Toronto in a trade in August.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.
Tom Jones' AL manager of the year ballot:
1. Jeff Banister, Rangers
2. A.J. Hinch, Astros
3. Paul Molitor, Twins