Joe Christensen’s Sunday Insider: Tampa Bay's Maddon keeps it fresh, fun

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2012 - 11:49 PM

 The Rays manager doesn't want to overwork his players at this time of year and finds ways to limit stress.

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Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. His Rays entered this weekend on a 14-3 roll, grabbing the wild-card lead.

Photo: Brian Blanco, Associated Press - Ap

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Joe Maddon knew the Tampa Bay Rays needed some rest, and he was determined to make sure they kept having fun.

After a 10-game trip to Minneapolis, Seattle and Anaheim, Calif., the Rays made a cross-country flight home to play Kansas City and Oakland -- all part of a 19-game stretch with zero off days.

"At this time of year, I want us to do less work, not more work," Maddon said two weeks ago at Target Field. "I think it's about fresh minds right now, and fresh bodies help you play well. So when we go home, we're going American Legion. Seriously, I don't care which time they show up, just be ready to play."

Maddon, 58, took a page from his days playing semipro ball for the Boulder (Colo.) Collegians.

"Wayne Krenchicki would show up for that 1 o'clock game at 12:45, with a little bag, maybe Egg McMuffin or whatever," Maddon said. "He'd go out and hit a couple of bullets, make some great plays at shortstop. He showed me how to do it in 1975."

These days, Maddon's preparation is exhaustive, as his desk is usually littered with scouting reports, data and spray charts. No team employs more defensive shifts than the Rays. But the reason he's a two-time AL Manager of the Year (2008 and 2011) is his ability to get his teams to peak at the right time.

Last September, the Rays sat nine games behind the Red Sox in the wild-card race yet stormed back to pass them on the season's final day. Maddon also remembers 1995, when he was the Angels first-base coach as that team squandered a 12 1/2-game lead over the Mariners.

"So I've looked at love from both sides now, and you just go play, have fun," he said. "If you start losing the fun component, you're pretty much done."

The Rays haven't stopped enjoying themselves since they left Minnesota. Despite that travel itinerary, and despite losing their past two games to Oakland, they're still 14-5 in their past 19 games. Besides leading the wild-card race, they're breathing down the necks of the AL East-leading Yankees.

Tampa Bay is approaching its fourth postseason berth in five years, a remarkable feat for a thrifty franchise playing alongside the AL East behemoths in New York and Boston.

Thanks to David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, Rays starting pitchers entered Saturday leading the AL with a 3.43 ERA. For comparison, the Twins were at 5.49.

General Manager Andrew Friedman has handed the Rays a new closer each of the past three years with impressive results. In 2010, Rafael Soriano notched 45 saves with a 1.73 ERA. Last year, Kyle Farnsworth had 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA, and now Fernando Rodney leads the majors with 39 saves and a 0.77 ERA.

"Almost all the credit goes to our front office and the scouting department for identifying these people," Maddon said.

The team's recent surge traces to Aug. 7, the day third baseman Evan Longoria returned from a hamstring injury that cost him three months.

Through every twist and turn, Maddon finds ways to keep things fresh. Each road trip has a different dress code. The Rays had a "Miami Vice" theme (dressing in all white) for a trip to play the Marlins, and a Beach Boys theme en route to play the Angels. Soon, Maddon plans to have each player wear his high school letterman's jacket on the road.

Imagine the high jinx. Somewhere, Wayne Krenchicki nods his approval.

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Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:P.Hughes(15-9) L:K.Gausman(7-7) S:G.Perkins (33)
HR: MIN- None BAL- N.Cruz (36), N.Hundley (4)

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NY Mets 6 Bottom 8th Inning
Miami 6
Philadelphia 7 FINAL
Atlanta 0
Boston 3 Top 10th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh 4 Top 7th Inning
St. Louis 2
Milwaukee 2 Top 7th Inning
Chicago Cubs 3
Detroit 2 Top 1st Inning
Cleveland 0
Seattle 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Oakland 2
San Francisco 2 Suspended
Colorado 2
Arizona 0 Top 1st Inning
San Diego 0
San Francisco - T. Hudson 4:40 PM
Colorado - F. Morales
Washington - G. Gonzalez 7:10 PM
Los Angeles - R. Hernandez
Texas - C. Lewis 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 3:30 PM
Calgary
Indiana 14 1st Qtr 1:38
Chicago 14
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