ST. PETERSBURG — Joe Maddon appears the obvious front-runner for the official AL Manager of the Year Award that will be presented next month by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
But he said Thursday that he couldn't be more thrilled than to be honored by his peers and voted the Sporting News' top skipper by a panel of 18 managers.
"Anytime you win an award or are part of a group where you are voted in by a group of your peers, it's most rewarding, gratifying," Maddon said. "It means the most."
Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Maddon deserved to be recognized for leading the Rays to a 97-65 record and the AL East title, but that the manager did just as well in 2007 when they were 66-96.
"It's a great honor for Joe, and something that's well-deserved," Friedman said. "Not much has changed from last year to this year, but obviously with success people start to recognize a little bit more of what he's doing and things he's doing well.
"In our book, last year he was manager of the year."
TRAVELING BOYS: As they did in the ALCS, the Rays will wait until today to travel, flying to Philadelphia around noon, then working out late afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
Maddon plans to have the players looking good with another of their "dress-up days" — this time with khaki pants and blue school-boy blazers.
"Going to Philadelphia, preppy kind of situation," Maddon said. "I just thought I'd give the guys a taste of that."
The Rays will take six nonactive players: OFs Jonny Gomes and Eric Hinske, Cs John Jaso and Shawn Riggans, INF Reid Brignac and RHP Jason Hammel.
Also, the team is flying about 175 full-time employees on a charter flight Saturday and providing hotel rooms and tickets to two games.
PITCHING IN: RHP Grant Balfour's strong 12/3 innings of relief Wednesday were a welcome sign given his recent struggles. "I'd say Grant more than anybody just needed that little bit of a moment where he was able to feel what he'd been feeling all season again," Maddon said.
Balfour said: "I had a season where everything's gone so good for me and then all of a sudden I get one night when it didn't, and it kind of knocked me off a little bit. It was nice to get back on track."
RAIN DAY: The forecast for Game 3 Saturday in Philadelphia remains bad, with rain expected throughout the day and night, and temperatures dropping into the 40s. Pushing the games back a day would allow both teams to juggle their rotations, with Game 1 starters Scott Kazmir and Cole Hamels in line for a Monday Game 4 on full rest. But the change would eliminate the Tuesday off day and force the teams to play five consecutive days if the Series goes seven games.
CONSOLATION PRIZE: The Phillies' 0-for-13 performance with runners in scoring position in Game 1 was the worst showing in postseason history, according to Stats Inc. The last time a team went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position in a postseason game and won was 1928, when the Yankees beat the Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series thanks mainly to solo homers by Babe Ruth (three), Lou Gehrig and Cedric Durst.
MISCELLANY: The Rays were the first team to score two runs on groundouts in the same Series inning since the 1923 Giants, accordign to the Elias Sports Bureau. …LHP David Price's 21/3 innings were the most by a reliever to finish a Series game since Brian Anderson, now a Rays assistant coach, went three innings for Cleveland in 1997 Game 4 against Florida. … Maddon remained convinced Hamels balked in picking Carlos Pena off first base in the sixth Wednesday, and acknowledged the extent of his protest was for future reference: "I want to make sure they're looking for it."