Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

There's no excuse for leaving Rays manager Joe Maddon off All-Star staff

From left, coaches Jim Hickey and Dave Martinez and manager Joe Maddon watch the Rays’ victory Sunday.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

From left, coaches Jim Hickey and Dave Martinez and manager Joe Maddon watch the Rays’ victory Sunday.

[This column was revised on July 8, 2008]

ST. PETERSBURG — Josh Hamilton is having a phenomenal season, and was a deserving choice as a starting outfielder in the All-Star Game.

Francisco Rodriguez is on a record pace for saves and, appropriately, is an All-Star closer.

Cliff Lee was nearly unhittable for the first six weeks of the season, and so he earned his spot as one of the American League's starting pitchers.

For the most part, all of the best performers at their positions have a place in the All-Star Game.

Except for this one:

Rays manager Joe Maddon should be there.

Sure, a Rays fan could argue the cases of J.P. Howell and Dan Wheeler, but all the relievers on the All-Star roster have better numbers. And you could quibble with Joe Crede making it ahead of Evan Longoria at third base, but Crede was elected by players, and Longoria still has a chance in the final fan balloting.

In a lot of ways, Boston manager Terry Francona's hands were tied when it came to filling out the final six spots on the roster. He had to name four players to ensure every team had a representative, and he had to name an extra pitcher to make sure he had the required 12. That means catcher Dioner Navarro was his final selection, which was appropriate.

But when it comes to the coaching staff, MLB rules are horribly flawed. Francona extended invitations to New York's Joe Girardi and Detroit's Jim Leyland before the season began. Working under that kind of time frame, that means every spot in the dugout is performance-related except for the coaching staff.

And there's something wrong with that.

Seriously, which manager has had a better first half? Which manager has pushed more of the right buttons? No matter how it's measured, I defy anyone to find a more deserving candidate than Maddon.

Do you want to judge it in terms of success? Because the Rays have the best record in the majors.

Do you want to consider it in terms of improvement? Because the Rays are on pace for the greatest turnaround in major-league history.

Do you want to get inside the numbers and base it on who got the most out of their roster? Because the Rays came into Sunday's game without a single player in the top 10 in the AL in batting average, home runs or RBIs. And none of their pitchers was in the top 10 in ERA or strikeouts.

Here's another way of looking at it: You have to go back to the 1980s to find a team that had the best record in baseball at the break but was limited to two representatives at the All-Star Game.

Which means the Rays are a rare breed in this game. A highly successful team that does not need to be carried by a handful of superstars or players having career years. And I have to believe the manager has a lot to do with that.

"He understands our strengths, and he knows our weaknesses, and he puts us all in a position to succeed," outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "It's not like we have 25 robots going out there.

"Our stats stick with us, but the won-loss record sticks with him.''

From that standpoint, you could make an argument that Maddon has done his job better than anyone else in the Rays clubhouse. Statistically speaking, the thing that jumps out at you most about the Rays is their record. It's might overstating the situation to say Maddon has been the most valuable asset on the team, but it's hard to argue that he hasn't made a major impact.

Absolutely, Joe deserves it," closer Troy Percival said. "The job he has done started two years ago. He showed patience with all the kids they have here. As anyone in here would attest, they were all waiting for him to blow up, but he never did. He put in time trying to teach people how to play the game, and it's all benefitting the team now."

A few years ago, I suggested Maddon might be too soft to be a big-league skipper. That he was too concerned about building trust and a rapport with his players. I wrote that it would be nice if he would occasionally acknowledge publicly when a player wasn't performing to expectations.

Turns out, I was wrong.

Sure, it's a thankless job when it comes to managing an All-Star Game. Odds are, you're going to tick off somebody when filling out the roster, but it comes with the territory when you win a pennant.

"Maybe that's the answer," Percival said. "Maybe we'll get Joe there next year as the manager."

John Romano can be reached at romano@sptimes.com.

>>Fast facts

All-Star rarity

Not since the Angels in 1989 has a team sported the best record in baseball at the All-Star break and not had at least three representatives on the All-Star team.

TeamAll-stars

2008Rays2*

2007Red Sox6

2006Tigers3

2005White Sox4

2004Yankees8

2003Braves7

2002Braves4

2001Mariners8

2000White Sox3

1999Indians6

1998Yankees5

1997Braves7

1996Braves6

1995Indians6

1994Expos5

1993Giants4

1992Twins3
Blue Jays3

1991Dodgers5

1990Reds5

1989Angels2

* The Rays could have three All-Stars if Evan Longoria is voted to the final roster spot.

There's no excuse for leaving Rays manager Joe Maddon off All-Star staff 07/06/08 [Last modified: Saturday, July 12, 2008 11:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'

    Blogs

    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.