Friday, October 24, 2014

Joe Maddon Leaves Tampa Bay, What's Next?

Joe Maddon is considered by many to be one of baseball's best managers. A winner of 781 games in 11 years in Tampa Bay, turning a downtrodden expansion team into a postseason contender, Maddon parted ways from the Rays after opting out of his contract.

The Rays tried to keep Maddon around with a third contract extension in his tenure with the club, but the skipper said no thank you.

Perhaps Maddon sees the writing on the wall. Tampa Bay won 77 games this year, a disappointment in his eyes; he watched the team trade his ace, David Price to the Tigers for virtually nothing, and saw his friend and co-worker, Andrew Friedman leave his post as Rays Executive Vice President to become the GM of the LA Dodgers.

So now rumors and speculation are going to run rampant. It's not often that a manager with 781 wins under his belt and six 90-win seasons just walks around looking for a job.

Maddon will have plenty of decisions to make. He could either sign with a team now, or wait until next season when more vacancies open up. This year only four managerial vacancies opened, two of them were filled before the month of October (Texas and Houston), and only just recently Chip Hale took over the Diamondbacks.

The only team without a manager is the Minnesota Twins. The Twins have been busy interviewing Paul Molitor and Doug Mientkiewicz for the post, and reports are that Molitor is going in for a second interview. With these latest developments, don't be shocked the Twins jump into the mix. They haven't signed a manger, and Maddon's resume certainly trumps that of Molitor and Mientkiewicz. He would be a boost to the moral in Minnesota, but the Twins were winners of only 70 games last year, and are not ready to contend again.

Already the New York Mets have said they have no interest in signing Maddon. They are committed to embattled Terry Collins for another season.  However, if Collins struggles early next year you can rest assure that IF Maddon is still out there come next season, his name will be thrown out there by Mets fans on New York radio every single day.

The other team that comes to mind right away is the Dodgers. The Dodgers were great in the regular season; favorites to win it all this year, but they fell flat in the NLDS against the Cardinals. Don Mattingly is on shaky ground with a Dodgers front office that expects more, especially with all the money they have spent the past three years. So far they have been coming up snake eyes in the playoffs.

Maddon's innovative philosophy could be what a veteran team like the Dodgers needs. Plus, with Friedman in LA, the very thought of Maddon jumping Tampa Bay to go west is very tempting.

Already the Dodgers have tried to rebuke any interest, telling ESPN's Buster Olney that Maddon's exit from central Florida, "has nothing to do with us."

Remember the Dodgers do not have to fire Mattingly and hire Maddon. Mattingly does have a winning record with the Dodgers. Inspite of all the pressure on him, he's won the NL West each of the last two years, and has been the NLCS once. Who is to say the Dodgers couldn't get hot next Fall with Mattingly as the manager and win it all?

If the Dodgers don't make a swift move now, Maddon will sit and wait in the shadows. His stock will only go up, a la Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden in the NFL, and he will likely find that next job next year.

Here are a list of teams that could be looking for a manager for the 2016 season:

NY Mets: Even though the Wilpon's said Maddon is not on the radar, it doesn't mean he's not on the radar come 2015/16. If Terry Collins produces another 75 - 80 win season, he should get fired and the Mets would be dumb not to talk to Maddon. Then again, it's the Mets.

NY Yankees: Speaking of New York, there is pressure on Joe Girardi to win next season. The Yankees missed the postseason each of the last two years. Usually a third year with no playoffs would lead to a firing. If Girardi goes, Maddon in Yankee pinstripes would fit nicely.

Chicago Cubs: the Cubs have a young ace in Jake Arrieta and a lot of young talent coming up through their system. In an NL Central that is usually dominated by only the Cardinals, the Cubs could make a push in a couple of years, a la the Royals this year.

Chicago White Sox: Robin Ventura kept his job after a disappointing 73 win season. While they are older, the Chi Sox have more contending potential then the Twins do right now.

Atlanta Braves: The Braves might be getting long in the tooth, and are likely on the decline. So I am not sure if even Joe Maddon can ture that ship around in quick order IF Freddi Gonzalez got the boot after next year.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers were rolling early this year, but a second half collapse doesn't help Ron Roenicke's cause. Another down year, and the Brewers could be in the market too.

San Diego Padres: How does Bud Black keep his job after all these mediocre seasons?

We'll see how it plays out.

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