Maddon eager to secure future with Rays
Coveted skipper loyal to club that gave him first managing job
DALLAS -- Joe Maddon likes where he is just fine.
That's the vibe the now-brown-headed manager of the Rays conveyed when he met with the media during the first day of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings at the Hilton Anatole on Monday.
"I'm a Ray," said Maddon, who has also had blond, black, white and grey hair during his tenure. "And I have a lot of faith being a Ray as I continue along."
Maddon, who has managed the Rays since 2006, signed a three-year contract extension on May 25, 2009. He will make $1.4 million in '12, the final year of that extension. If one listens to Maddon, it seems clear that keeping him in the fold after next season is merely a formality. He even noted that he would not be uncomfortable heading into the new season without a new deal in place. However, it seems the wheels are turning to come up with an agreement to keep him at the helm for the long term.
To that end, Maddon said on Monday that he and the Rays had "been talking a little bit in general."
"I have talked about this," Maddon said. "This, for me, is the best place to work in Major League Baseball. Of course, everybody is looking for security. We all want security. But for me, it's about having an open conversation. We would never negotiate in public or anything like that. It's just about an ongoing conversation right now, and we'll see how it all plays out.
"But I'm not worried about anything. ... I have another year going right now. I have another year left. We've been briefly talking a little bit, but I'm not really concerned about that. I'm sure it will all be worked out in due time."
Maddon further reiterated his belief that continuing to manage the Rays is in his future by saying: "I am very confident."
So what is it that Maddon likes so much about the job? That question seems to percolate every time a Major League managing job becomes available, particularly this offseason, when high-profile jobs with the Cardinals, Cubs and Red Sox opened up.
Adding to the puzzle is the Rays' shrinking payroll. Light was shed on the club's situation when Maddon was asked about the Miami Marlins' new ballpark and how the Rays' Florida rival suddenly seems to have a well-heeled wallet. Does the skipper ever think about how nice life would be if the Rays played in a new ballpark like the Marlins will be playing in beginning in 2012?
"That'd be nice," Maddon said. "I do afford myself those thoughts on occasion. Of course it would make it better -- of course it would. Not just acquiring new talent, but to retain the group that we've raised on our own, too. I want to believe it's going to happen. I don't know exactly when, but I want to believe it's going to happen. But yeah, good for the Marlins; I'm happy for them. And of course it's something I'd like to see happen for us.
"But in the meantime, we can't cry about it. You don't make excuses about it. I won't do that. But at some point, it would be nice. And not just so you can go out and buy a shortstop. But if you could re-sign a left fielder, it would be kind of cool."
An instant later, Maddon was asked about left-handed phenom Matt Moore, who joined the team late this past season and appeared to be everything and more than what he was forecast to be. At that moment, a twinkle found Maddon's eyes. And what would one expect of someone who spent so much of his career in scouting and development as Maddon did with the Angels? Quickly reversing fields from the Rays' problematic stadium situation, Maddon kicked it into high gear by talking about Moore's many virtues -- how smoothly he releases the ball, his poise, etc.
After delivering his Moore soliloquy, Maddon came clean when asked whether he would prefer to have a $100 million free agent or the Moores of the baseball world.
His answer: "Where I come from, I really enjoy working with Matt Moore and David Price and James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson, and Mr. [Alex] Cobb ..."
On top of managing a team of youngsters who seemingly find a way to reach the playoffs every season despite playing in the American League East, Maddon makes no secret that he enjoys the stage on which the Rays play.
"I think we've gotten better quicker because we play in this division," Maddon said. "I think it's the most fascinating place to be if you're in Major League Baseball."
Indeed, Maddon seems to be right where he belongs.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.