Last year the Tampa Bay Rays picked up Joe Maddon‘s two-year option. In reality it was a one-year deal as few teams are willing to enter a season with a manager that only has one year left on his contract. In 2008, Papa Joe and the Rays will either take Two Steps forward, earning Maddon an extension…or he will be fired.
I do not want to place a number on how many wins Papa Joe needed in order to earn an extension. Obviously Stuart Sternberg and Andrew Friedman will judge a number of factors before making a decision. Each week I will take a look at how Maddon is performing in each of five categories. While this list is likely not complete, I do believe these are the most important factors in determining whether or not Joe Maddon can be a winning baseball manager.
- Wins: The Rays still boast the best record in spring training. Maddon says he doesn’t put much stock in spring numbers. Still, as Carl Crawford said there is some importance in spring success for a team like the Rays. However, with a starting rotation that includes Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel and with Willy Aybar likely starting at third base and no scheduled return of either Scott Kazmir or Evan Longoria I have to believe that wins are going to be rare early in the season.
- Fundamentals on the field: The offense is starting to slump a little at the wrong time. The Rays OBP has slipped to 5th in the spring at .364 after being at .386 a week ago. The Rays have committed only 18 errors in 21 games. Only 9 teams have fewer errors. Behind the plate, opponents are only 11-18 in steals. Only two teams have allowed fewer stolen bases. The Rays also have the 6th best Defensive Efficiency Rating (.715). In 2007 the Rays had the worst DER in baseball at .669.
- Consistently competetive: N/A
- Avoid prolonged slumps: N/A
- Control the clubhouse: Maddon will have a big task on his hands if/when the team decides to demote Longoria who has been one of the team’s top performers in the spring. Other players will start to question the team’s commitment to winning.
- Summary: Let’s face it. Maddon has a tall task until Kazmir returns and there is no sign that is going to happen anytime soon. And even when he does return, he will be on a strict pitch limit. And that is not the only problem with this roster. The bullpen is no longer one of the worst in history, but is it really any good? I would say average at best. And that is assuming everybody can stay healthy. The Rays need to win this year for Madden to come back and right now, he does not have a roster to win more than 75 games. Will that be enough? A bad start and the needle will drop below 50%