Even through the tough years, Joe Maddon seemed to find a way to put a positive spin on things. So it was no surprise that he didn't let any disappointment over a four-games-to-one loss to the Phillies in the Fall Classic stop him from reflecting on the Rays' worst-to-the-World Series ride. Nor did it dampen his excitement over the club's future in an end-of-the-season interview unlike any he has had as Rays manager.
Favorite moment from the season?
The whole thing. … My favorite moment is to see the faces, whether it's our players, the guys who work in our clubhouse, the training staff, the guys upstairs, the front office people who have been here for so many years. To see the look on their faces right now, and how happy they are. The fact that all the negativity has been laid to rest, we have a bright future ahead of us. I've been looking at faces a lot.
For example, the other day we ended up in Wilmington, Del., in the middle of the night after a tie ballgame. It was freezing outside. And we're all outside getting our luggage, at whatever time it was, and a significant part of the organization was there. To me, that was a great moment. That might be the one snapshot I'll take with me.
Things that will be taken from the World Series into next season?
The biggest part is the little things. You can break down those games as an example — (Jayson) Werth's two-strike hitting, again, same with (Carlos) Ruiz and (Pedro) Feliz. From our perspective, the safety squeeze that was done by Jason Bartlett, the wonderful defensive plays. … The little things — I want that to be the focal point next season. We're going to be the target — that's beautiful. For us to be able to withstand the challenge, I don't want us to play the game any better in a sense of hit more home runs, I want us to play the game better fundamentally.
What's striking about the players in the clubhouse?
The unity. The closeness. The support among each other. Again we went from a very low trust organization to a very high trust organization, built on relationships. And all the right internal workings are in place to make this successful for many years to come.
The national debate surrounding your handling of the bullpen in Game 5?
It is amusing. That's exactly how we had it laid out, it just didn't work. If they get a couple knocks, it's always going to make it look wrong. I have had so much confidence in all these pitchers all year, and that's what people have to understand. We wouldn't be sitting here right now if it wasn't for that group of people right there. Truly the bullpen probably is as important as any aspect of our game this year. And those guys have had a great year, and to say that I should have done something differently would admit that I did not have confidence in those people, which, to me, is wrong.
How different everything is right now?
It is different. It's entirely different. The whole vibe is different. We've arrived as an organization, and as a force within major-league baseball. And our guys now have a national face, and I like that. One of the most gratifying things that have occurred throughout this postseason is how well our players represented us, and I'm really proud of that.
Thoughts on the growing excitement around the area about the Rays?
It's very exciting. I was just driving over the Gandy Bridge (Thursday) and the guy on the other side just setting up shop on the grass with a table with some Rays (T-shirts), he had it advertised. I'm thinking to myself, ''Oh, my God, how has that happened?'' You're talking about arriving. I've often talked about going to Europe and I want to see some Rays gear on just anybody walking down the street somehow. And I will take a photograph. The fact people know who we were and they know how we play. I think a lot of people embraced a lot of what we're about.