05/21/09 4:52 PM ET
Rays pumped for Maddon extension
Players attribute success largely to manager's leadership
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Dioner Navarro struggled during the early part of his tenure with the Rays before he became an All-Star catcher in 2008. Maddon never quit believing in Navarro.
"I'm so happy," Navarro said. "I've been saying, ever since I got here, that one of the reasons we got so good last year is because of Joe. Without Joe, I don't think we would have gotten that far. I'm happy for him. Hopefully I'll stay playing with him for as long as I'm here.
"I call him 'The Professor.' He's always thinking and doing some stuff. He's just such a great guy to play for. He's never going to second guess anybody and he's always going to let you play."
B.J. Upton said keeping Maddon is a good thing for the organization.
"Definitely, man," Upton said. "We know he's going to be here. We know he's going to be for however long that is. A lot of guys around here are comfortable with him. It's just great to know that he's going to be here."
Scott Kazmir said Maddon deserved a new deal.
"I think he really preached what he believed in, and we believed in it," Kazmir said. "And we kind of took off with how he went about things and how he prepared us for games and the seasons."
At one point Kazmir could be counted among the discouraged young players on the team, who could not be faulted for believing Tampa Bay's situation would never change. But under Maddon, the culture of the franchise did change. Kazmir said he never thought anyone could have come into the organization and pulled off such a feat.
"He's pretty much the only guy who could have done it," Kazmir said.
J.P. Howell made the change from a struggling starting pitcher into a dominating reliever under Maddon's watch.
"He's been a great manager to play for," Howell said. "[His new deal] is well deserved. I can't think of a better manager to play for. I think it's a great move by the organization."
Dan Wheeler became one of the pieces brought in to help the Rays emerge from their despair.
"He changed the culture around here," Wheeler said. "That's not an easy thing to do. I'm really happy for him."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.