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IN CLUBHOUSE, RAVE REVIEWS

Some people have had issues with Joe Maddon's aggressive, blame-deflecting, somewhat over-the-top response to the Joel Peralta pine tar incident, considering it curious, controversial and even fallacious.

But to his target audience - the players inside the Rays clubhouse - it was a massive hit. And that, be assured, is what Maddon cares most about.

"If he would have sat back and just let that brush over, I'm sure there would have been a lot of guys in this clubhouse saying it doesn't matter. And it does. It matters a great deal to us," left-hander David Price said.

"I felt like Joe definitely had Peralta's back, and he said whatever he felt he needed to say. For him to have our backs, and to show he has our backs that way, I feel it makes us fight for him that much more."

After seeing what Maddon said in his defense, Peralta went into the manager's office late Wednesday night to thank him.

"I'm always going to be thankful to Joe because he not only defends me, he defends every player he's got here," Peralta said. "That's why these guys play so hard for him. It's one thing I didn't know before I got here, why the guys with the Tampa Bay Rays play so hard for their manager.

"I kind of knew Joe before, but not as a manager. So now I know."

And not only did Maddon's players notice, so did his boss.

"I think the players in our clubhouse really appreciate and respect how much Joe has their back," Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "The thing that Joe cared about most (Tuesday) night is that everyone understands who Joel Peralta is, and I think that speaks volumes. And not just to the guys in our clubhouse but to everyone in baseball on how important that was to Joe."

The message was quite clear.

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