It’s possible that some are overstating the impact of Joe Maddon opting out

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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:

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.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.