Looking through some more excerpts from Dirk Hayhurst’s upcoming book about his time in the Rays organization, we get an interesting, if not very flattering look at Joe Maddon. We also are starting to get a sense that this book is not going to go over well at Tropicana Field.
In one excerpt, Hayhurst suggests that Maddon’s reputation as a baseball genius is overrated. Instead, Hayhurst pays Maddon a sort of back-handed compliment…
“Winning has a way of making people look smarter then they actually are. The meager budget of the Rays versus the massive budgets of their division rivals inflated Maddon’s success to near super human proportions. It was said he could skipper a team of little leaguers to an AL division title like some kind of managerial McGyver. It was said that he understood the game so well he felt it in a metaphysical baseball sense; baseball in relation to the ebb and flow of the universe or something. The truth, however, was that Joe Maddon was simply an excellent salesman.”
Hayhurst does compliment Maddon on his ability to squeeze more talent and effort out of players than most managers. But once he starts talking about how Maddon is revolutionizing the way the game is played, Hayhurst assures us that Maddon’s success is more about baseball’s failings than Maddon’s abilities…
“To many, Maddon was outside the box. But a lot of that had to do with the fact that “the box”, as it pertains to baseball, is an easy container to spill out of. Most of the techniques Joe used were used by managers in the business world and had been around for years. Managers talking with players one-on-one was only unique because so few managers did it. Baseball, so slow to change and adapt, has a way of making geniuses out of people who do things folks in the real world have been doing for ages. Managerial decisions based on big data? That’s not new. Neither are ice-breaker meetings, team building exercises, or fun group functions based around building team identity. Joe Maddon just dressed it all up in a baseball uniform and taught it how to speak the lexicon of a major league athlete. He was charismatic and a natural leader. He read people well and understood the games value system. But if he’s a genius, it’s only because he had the courage and foresight to breakaway from the draconian rules that have governed baseball’s social morays for decades.”
And then there is this odd excerpt which suggests Hayhurst just doesn’t like Maddon all that much…
“He had various artifacts scattered around the office, some baseball, some personal, including a ten-speed bike was parked against the wall. He’d been known to ride it into work, although I don’t know why he’d bother considering he drove a finely restored 1972 Chevy Malibu. I guess when you’re Joe Maddon, you do whatever the fuck you want.”
In other places, Hayhurst tells about how Maddon and Andrew Friedman told Hayhurst he was not to write about things saw go on in “here,” something Hayhurst clearly didn’t take well (” “Of course,” I said…What they didn’t learn, however, was that I was retaining the right to change the terms and conditions of my joke at anytime, without notice.”).
This passage is important because it tells us that Hayhurst is not afraid to write about anything. It is also important because it tells the Rays that not only will he write about anything, he is going to write about them telling him not to write about anything. In other words, this passage is a big EFF YOU to the Rays.
Hayhurst also mentions that Maddon said he had not read Hayhurst’s first book leaving Hayhurst with the impression that Maddon had no intention of reading it despite saying “not yet.”
This last part is interesting because Hayhurst tells us that Maddon is the master of getting to know his players. And yet, if that were true, why would he not want to read a book written by one of his players? The implication is that Maddon loathes the idea of a player writing a book about what goes on behind the scenes. And if that is true, Hayhurst may have never stood a chance with the Rays. Or at the very least, that may be what Hayhurst believes.
Many Rays fans loved Hayhurst while he was in the organization. They loved the interactions with him around the diamond and in social media. But if this book continues at its current pace, a lot of that love is going to disappear very quickly.
Comments from Dirk Hayhurst:
It’s rather tragic how you’ve projected so much anger into a balanced look at your namesake. I have no ill will towards the Rays…You’re off the mark here concerning those excerpts, but thank you for the publicity non the less.
Obviously there is a lot of this book that I have not read, so maybe it turns out to be a balanced project. But I am a fan of Hayhurst’s first book and have written many positive things about Hayhurst on this blog. And I entered these excerpts thinking it would be something similar.
I had no problem with the first excerpt about Farnsworth (which I wrote about earlier today). And honestly, I don’t care if Hayhurst likes Joe Maddon or not. People that have been around this blog for a while know I am not shy about criticizing the Rays’ skipper. But it cannot be denied that Hayhurst takes a couple of shots at Maddon.
Is Hayhurst’s take on Maddon and the Rays “hatred”? I have no idea, and it never really crossed my mind. Is it animosity? Is it resentment? Is it revenge? Or is it evenly balanced? We will have to wait and see. But so far, all I have is a few paragraphs on what Hayhurst has written about Maddon and there are at least two instances in which Hayhurst is basically telling us Maddon is overrated and unworthy of hero-worship. And I have no idea how else I am supposed to interpret a passage in which Hayhurst writes about a meeting in which he agreed to not write about stuff from the inside.
I may never be as good of a writer as Hayhurst. But at least I understand that it is the writer’s job to get the message across and it is not the reader’s fault if the the message isn’t received. If Hayhurst’s book is truly balanced, he needs to release better excerpts or do a better job of conveying that message. Because so far, that is not what I have read. In other words, Hayhurst is simply not an excellent salesman.