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: 12-3 in spring training, the best record in baseball. In the past 5 years, 9 teams have won 20 games in spring training. 6 of those teams went on to win at least 88 games in the regular season.
  • Fundamentals on the field: In 2007 the Rays led the AL in strikeouts by hitters with 8.2 per game and had a strikeout to walk ratio of 2.4-to-1. In spring training, the Rays have cut their strikeout rate to 6.3 per game and the ratio is down to 1.4-to-1. This has been reflected in the teams ability to get on base also. The Rays posted a .336 OBP in 2007. That number is .386 in spring training, which trails only the A’s. Unfortunately, the pitching staff is still struggling to throw strikes. The staff as a whole allowed 3.6 walks per 9 innings in 2007. That number is 3.8 in spring training. Granted, this includes a number of pitchers that won’t see the light of day after march. The Rays ranked 4th in baseball in errors. In the spring the Rays have committed only 14 in 15 games. Only 5 teams have committed fewer. The Rays are 22-28 in steals. Opponents are only 9-14 in steals.
  • Consistently competetive: N/A
  • Avoid prolonged slumps: N/A
  • Control the clubhouse: Ask the Yankees if Joe Maddon is in control of his clubhouse.
  • Summary: It is only spring training, but the Andrew Friedman filled most of the holes in the off-season and the Rays are making all the necessary changes on the field. This will all mean nothing if the Rays don’t win more regular season games, but if this keeps up in the spring training, we will probably hear about a contract extension sooner rather than later.
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