With the Rays in thick of their first playoff chase, we haven’t spent a lot of time contemplating whether Joe Maddon deserves the AL Manager of the Year award.

But is going from worst to first and beating the two teams in the AL East that have won 6 of the past 12 World Series good enough for the Manager of the Year award? Not according to Des Martini.

One of the many fascinating sidebars to the Angels-Rays series is the matchup of two of the game’s brightest managers, Mike Scioscia and Joe Maddon. The American League Manager of the Year Award will likely come down to a choice between the two skippers.

We would argue Ozzie Guillen and Ron Gardenhire both deserve consideration. Guillen is Mt. Vesuvius waiting to happen and yet he has the White Sox making another playoff run after losing 90 games last season. And did anybody think the Twins would be in contention this season after trading away Johan Santana? But we will cede the point for now.

Annual expectations for the Rays were lower than those for a sequel to “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” or any other Adam Sandler sequel for that matter.

Actually some did think the Rays would be good this season. Nobody thought they would make the playoffs, but many thought the Rays would challenge .500 including the crystal ball-like mathematical models.

And were there any expectations for the first “Zohan” movie? On the other hand we have a feeling a lot of people would want to see a sequel to “Spanglish”…and maybe “Billy Madison” and “The Wedding Singer”. Just sayin‘.

When your team has been the running joke of the AL since its inception in 1998, there is nowhere to go but up.

See where Martini is going here? He is setting us up with the argument that winning was inevitable for the Rays this season because they sucked for a long time.

Other teams that have sucked for a long time: Pirates (16 years since posting a .500 record or better), Orioles (11), Reds (8). What do those three teams have in common? They still suck in 2008.

Only once in that time did the Devil Rays win as many as 70 games. The reward for such utter futility was a stockpile of high draft picks and Tampa wisely held on to and developed them. So the law of averages dictated that the Rays would have to have a winning season eventually. Right?

OK. We have done this before, but apparently we have to do it again.

Of the 28 players on the roster (including 3 on DL), only 3 were drafted in the first round (BJ Upton, Evan Longoria, Rocco Baldelli) and Rocco has 16 at bats this season. Of the remaining players, 13 were acquired via trade [Ed. Note: See comments for trade breakdown], 7 were signed as free agents and 4 were drafted in the 10th round or later, including 2 very important pieces of the starting rotation, James Shields (16th round) and Andy Sonnanstine (13). The final player, Carl Crawford was drafted in the 2nd round, but every other team passed on him at least once.

You can make an argument for Matt Garza being a “first round pick”, since the Rays traded former top pick Delmon Young for him. Still. Not the Rays’ pick. Great trade.

Of the Rays last 10 first-round picks not on the current roster, one was lost via the Rule 5 draft (Josh Hamilton), one was traded (Delmon Young), 4 are still in the minors (Wade Townsend, Jeff Niemann, David Price, Tim Beckham) and one is out of baseball entirely (Dewon Brazelton).

One last time for the cheap seats, or whatever seats Des Martini is sitting in…The Rays are good this year because they have been smart. Very, very smart. Not because they have 25 first-round draft picks.

That’s not to take anything away from the outstanding work of Maddon and his staff; I am merely noting that leading a lousy team to its first winning season should not automatically entitle its manager to the award.

True. But leading a team that had the worst record in baseball to first place in the toughest division might. And right now, the Rays are very close to running away with said division that includes payrolls of $209MM (NYY), $133MM (BOS), $99MM (TOR), $67MM (BAL) and $44MM (TB). All while doing it with their two best hitters on the DL.

Baseball writers are easily the most arrogant group among the sportswriting community. They just love to show how much smarter they are than the average fan.

Agreed. And now Des Martini, sportswriter, is going to prove them wrong by showing us how much smarter he is. The irony of this smells like a dead fish in the backseat of a hot car.

Take 2006 when they bestowed the award on Joe Girardi whose managerial genius led the Marlins to a 78-84 record and a fourth place finish in the NL East. Girardi no doubt did wonders with a group of youngsters who were barely old enough to shave, but it is absolute insanity to give the award to a manager whose team finished with a losing record!

The Rays do not have a losing record. And that Marlins squad was predicted by many to be one of the worst in baseball history. Some thought they would lose 120 games. And while they did have a losing record, they were 73-72 on Sept 12 and in second place. This is just an idiotic comparison.

It would make far more sense to give the manager’s award to the skipper who wins the World Series.

Joe Torre is a very good manager. But did the Yankees win four World Series under his watch because he was the best manager each of those years or because his Yankees had umpteen all-stars on those teams?

Of course, giving the award to the World Series winner means Tony LaRussa of the Cardinals would have won the 2006 AL Manager of the Year award. We think this confuses Des.

We can’t believe we are wasting a perfectly good rainy Tuesday morning writing this. Other things we would prefer to be doing right now: Plucking nose hairs. Watching “Hope Floats”. Watching the Olympic trampoline competition. Seriously. The trampoline competition is on right now. We would rather watch it.

How can NBA media folks explain that Phil Jackson, he of nine NBA championship titles, has exactly one NBA Coach of the Year trophy on his mantlepiece?…Here lies the problem: Writers believe it is easier to manage a team of superstars than a team of raw youngsters and perceived underachievers. I refuse to believe that this is always the case.

Always? No. Usually? Yes. Jackson deserves a lot of credit. Not many would have won as much as he did. But it is easier to win the 100-meter dash if you are spotted a 10-meter head start.

Look, if Maddon can fend off the mighty empires of Boston and New York and overcome injuries to his two best offensive performers, Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria, then he definitely deserves to be crowned as the AL’s top boss. And he definitely deserves bonus points for having the guts to bench occasional slacker B.J. Upton. But Scioscia should not be overlooked just because his team was expected to win the AL West.

Now he is just messing with our head. So the baseball writers will be arrogant for voting for Maddon and yet Des Martini just argued that Maddon deserves the award? We are so confused. Is he just upset because he thinks Scioscia won’t get any votes?

Mike Scioscia was one of our favorite players growing up. As a former catcher we read and re-read his piece in the 1989 Sports Illustrated baseball preview issue, “Calling A Game,” many times. It was a pitch-by-pitch breakdown of Orel Hershiser’s 3-hit shutout in game 2 of the 1988 World Series. Pure genius. But we are not going to care, nor will anybody remember if Scioscia finishes 2nd or if he finishes behind Earl Weaver in the voting.

Just because the Angels had more money to spend than the Rays did not make Scioscia’s job easier than Maddon’s…

Actually, it does. You see Des. This is how money works. The more you spend, the better the items. Not always, but usually. And the more you spend, the more stuff you get. Pretty simple actually. A team with a bigger payroll will usually have better players. A low-payroll team can have good players, but those players are going to be young and inexperienced, which leads to inconsistency.

The other thing money buys you in baseball is depth. A key player goes down with an injury, like Gary Sheffield for the Yankees in 2006? Just go trade for Bobby Abreu and his bloated $145 kazillion million contract. Waste $50 million on Gary Matthews? Don’t worry, just go out the next winter and give $90 million to Torii Hunter. Think the Rays could do that?

contrary to what the experts believe. With expectations come increased pressure to succeed…

By this logic, low-payroll teams should always do well, because there is no pressure.

In the end, Mike Scioscia deserves every bit of consideration for the AL Manager of the Year Award as does Joe Maddon.

And now Des is back to arguing that Scioscia is as deserving of the award as Maddon.

This is nothing against Scioscia. Great manager. Maybe the best. And he is doing a great job this season with the Angels. But what Papa Joe and the Rays are doing is unbelievable. Even Rays fans are amazed at what is going on this season. Ok, maybe this guy isn’t surprised. And when a player or team does something considered impossible, it is usually customary to reward those achievements.

Great expectations: Mike Scioscia vs. Joe Maddon [Examiner]

 
 

18 Comments

  1. Charles says:

    Honestly, I think the competition between Maddon & Gardenhire is closer than the competition between Maddon & Scioscia. There was some idea that the Rays would be at least good. I can't think of anyone who thought the Twins would be remotely good, much less in contention.

  2. The Professor says:

    I would have no problem with Gardy winning it this season.

    My only knock against him would be the division they are in. Cleveland and Detroit were supposed to be good and have stunk up the place. The Tigers and the Yankees are a wash. But there is no Red Sox in that division.

    On top of that, the Rays are actually increasing their lead with their 2 best hitters and their closer on the DL. All while the Red Sox are actually playing very good baseball.

  3. mj says:

    One of my fav posts of late. Good job picking apart one of the many preposterous Rays articles out there these days.

  4. Raysimus Maximus says:

    “Of course, giving the award to the World Series winner means Tony LaRussa of the Cardinals would have won the 2006 AL Manager of the Year award. We think this confuses Des.”

    I don’t know. Tony LaRussa probably thinks he deserves both the NL and AL award every year.

  5. Anonymous says:

    gotta admit. i thought Bugs and Cranks Jumped the Shark when they said the Yankees were worse than the Rays.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don’t remember the writer covering injuries as many people have said that prior to Longo and Crawford going to the DL, we have not had our fair share of injuries. HA!

    We didn’t have Kazmir for the longest time to start the season. Just because we overcome the injuries people seem to believe we haven’t had any.

    Floyd, a big clubhouse leader was out. Pena has been out twice now I believe. Both Upton and Crawford missed time with injuries (that could still exist). Bartlett was out for personal reasons, but also missed time for an injury. Percy has been hit hard this season as well.

  7. The Professor says:

    Of the 12 players on the current roster via trade, here is a list of those players and who the Rays traded for them

    1. Grant Balfour – Seth McClung (Mil)
    2. Chad Bradford – PTBNL (Bal)
    3/4. Matt Garza/Jason Bartlett – Delmon Young/Brendan Harris/Jason Pridie (Min)
    5. JP Howell – Joey Gathright (KC)
    6. Edwin Jackson (and C. Tiffany) – Danys Baez/Lance Carter (LA)
    7. Scott Kazmir (and Lance Diaz) – Victor Zambrano/B. Fortunado (NYM)
    8. Dan Wheeler – Ty Wigginton (Hou)
    9. Dioner Navarro (and Jae Seo) – Mark Hendrickson/Toby Hall (LA)
    10. Willy Aybar (and Chase Fontaine) – Jeff Ridgway (ATL)
    11. Ben Zobrist (and Mitch Talbot) – Aubrey Huff (Hou)
    12. Gabe Gross – Josh Butler (Mil)

    This is just off the top of my head, but it looks like the Rays got 12 major leaguers, and 3 guys still in the minors for 8 major leaguers, none of whom would be a starter on this roster, and a bunch of junk. Aubrey Huff is the one decent player in that group. Hendrickson has pitched well for the Marlins.

    There is not one player in that group we wish the Rays still had.

  8. The Professor says:

    sorry. Of course, DelmonYoung is a decent player. Better than decent. But we still rather have Bartlett and Garza.

  9. Charles says:

    I might take Wigginton right now if we could somehow gaze into a crystal ball and know we would be getting the monster numbers he’s put up for the ‘stros the past couple of weeks.

  10. David says:

    maybe to take as a fill-in, but definitely don’t take Wiggy over Dirtbag!

  11. Charles says:

    Houston has him playing left field in place of Carlos Lee, if you can believe that. Though I guess Carlos Lee make Wiggy look like Kate Moss out there.

  12. Kevin says:

    Don’t know if anyone mentioned this, but Garza was the Twins’ 1st round pick in 2005(25th overall). So Delmon trade or not, he definitely counts.

  13. Robert Rittner says:

    The Rays acquired Ruggiano as the PTBNL in the Toby Hall/Mark Hendrickson trade with the Dodgers.

    Also, although Hendrickson had a nice stretch as a starter for Florida early in the season, he regressed dramatically, has been used exclusively in relief since July 6 and currently has an ERA of 5.70.

  14. The Professor says:

    had completely forgotten about Ruggiano. Amazing how many players have ben acquired via trade. Also, I would venture to say the Rays are better than any team at acquiring role players via trade. I think most teams target star players in trades. Not the Rays and it works.

  15. Possum Avenger says:

    Great article. Even greater game tonight. I can’t describe how happy I was when mathis threw that bunt into right field. What a win.

  16. Robert Rittner says:

    Yes, they really do use the trade market very well. A minor point, perhaps, but early on I noticed a difference between the new and old groups in that it seems now the extra player (throw-in) always seems to come to TB. Previously, we seemed always to give up the extra player.

    I think it worthwhile to add that the Rays have also done a good job trolling the junkyard of discarded players and the free agent lists. They outbid both Cleveland and San Diego for Iwamura and out negotiated the Yankees to get Percival. They famously signed both Pena and Hinske off the junk heap. I think they should also be lauded for grabbing Reyes when he was injured and letting him sit out a year, getting a solid season from him in 2007.

    You are absolutely right that this team is not simply a result of #1 picks. It has been built with an eye to the structure of a team, not simply by collecting talented draft choices early in the draft.

  17. Chuck says:

    I almost wonder if the success in the trade market will scare other teams away from trading with us in the future. We are clearly getting the better of these trades.

  18. The Mets says:

    D’oh!!!

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