The Joe Maddon opt-out news is obviously a big deal, and talk about him and where he may go is going to dominate the discourse for a while. But I feel like maybe the magnitude of all of this is being a bit overstated this afternoon.
Joe Maddon is a fine manager. I’d hire him in a second if he were available. He is a good tactician. He plays well with his front office but doesn’t just follow their orders. He has shown that he can win with kids and with payroll limitations. And unless I’m forgetting some major incident, he does what I think is the most important thing a manager does in keeping things, generally speaking, on an even keel over the course of a long season. The Rays did well with Maddon and whoever hires him is going to do pretty well too.
But Maddon is not some messiah. He lost 101 games his first year with the Rays and 96 his second. Why? Because the Rays stunk. As the team got better he won more, as they got hurt or lost key players, he lost more. Such is the way of the world. A manager can mess up a game or two here or there but, for the most part, a really good one or a really bad one is only worth a handful of wins one way or another. The players matter way, way more. If you add a big slugger who can take a walk and a good manager, the slugger is gonna make a much bigger difference.
Which makes these sorts of comments seem overblown to me:
Joe Maddon might be the biggest free agent out there. Huge opportunity for any team on the upswing.
— Bob Klapisch (@BobKlap) October 24, 2014
Last person leaving Tropicana Field turn out the lights, please. — Tom (@Haudricourt) October 24, 2014
The people remaining in the #Rays front office must feel like the people at Sterling Cooper after the partners left.
— Andy Martino (@MartinoNYDN) October 24, 2014
Add to that sort of sentiment the widespread sentiment among fans I’ve seen claiming that the Rays are about ready to go into the toilet and, from fans of teams like the Mets, Dodgers and Cubs, salivating at the chance to hire Maddon.
He’d be a good hire for anyone. And sure, the Rays are entering into a period of transition. But Maddon is not a miracle worker. He’s just a manager. And the Rays are not going to shutter the organization just because they lost a general manager and a manager. It has happened before, believe it or not. Even when big, famous and well-thought-of guys took jobs elsewhere.