Baltimore Orioles: AL East winds – the Joe Maddon effect
A bombshell was dropped on the baseball world late last week when it was announced that Joe Maddon was opting out of his contract with Tampa, effective immediately. First off, I can’t imagine that the league was particularly happy with this news when it came out, as the unwritten code has generally been not to make big waves during the World Series. And in fact, we saw a lot of the MLB coverage briefly shift from the World Series to Joe Maddon when the news came out. But what does this mean for Tampa, the Baltimore Orioles, and the AL East?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Tampa as a franchise will take a step backwards. Now if you’ve read my columns over a few years you’ve heard me say that several times given their roster, and each time I’ve been proven wrong. However that was all Joe Maddon in a sense. He’s always found a way to keep his players competitive in the most storied division perhaps in sports. But with him not being in the dugout in Tampa any longer, will that continue to be the case?
I say no. But perhaps not for reasons that you might think. Maddon was a perpetual pain in the backside of every manager in the American League East – including Buck Showalter. And I mean that as a compliment; his teams always competed. But the clause in his
contract that allowed him to opt out (with one year remaining incidentally) was that he was granted that right if Andrew Friedman ceased to be the VP of Baseball Operations. Two weeks ago Friedman went to the LA Dodgers.
I have no doubt that Maddon would have managed in Tampa in a contract year next season had Friedman stayed on, and Tampa’s ownership even said that they had aggressively tried to sign him to an extension. However the fact is that it doesn’t look good when the General Manager and the on-field manager both jump ship. Focusing specifically on Maddon however, I suspect that there’s something about the direction of the organization (or perhaps the structure) of which he’s not fond. And perhaps the same is true of Friedman; while he’s certainly made a move up in the sense that he’s now in LA, it does make one wonder.
So it’ll be interesting to see who Tampa brings in to manager in the dugout. And I’ll go out on a limb here; if they find a well-respected guy who’s already made a name for himself in the business, I’ll probably have been wrong. But if they bring in a rookie manager who’s just looking to break into baseball at that level, there’s a good chance that I’ll have been right. The rationale there of course would be that a rookie manager is just going to be happy to get a shot at managing, while a more respected name is going to study the organization and where it’s headed. Incidentally, that’s exactly what Buck Showalter did when he took the job with the Orioles.
So what does this mean for the O’s and the rest of the division? We really won’t know until the new manager is in place and we start to see where the organizaton down in Tampa is headed. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tampa turns into a seller this off season, and if so that in and of itself might be part of why Maddon left. Will they still be a force with which to reckon, or will they go back to being cellar dwellars? That’s tough to say. But neeedless to say, the other four AL East managers probably aren’t too upset to see Maddon gone from Tampa’s dugout (professionally, that is).