Even though they play in the same division with perennial powers Boston and New York, the Tampa Bay Rays have everything in place to make a serious run at a World Series. From the top on down, the Rays are an organization that a number of small market teams should try to model. They have an owner that is committed to winning, a bright young GM that rarely makes bad decisions and puts the talent on the field, and a manager who is one of the best the game of baseball has to offer.
After an offseason that saw Tampa bring back Carlos Pena and an already imposing pitching staff in place, the Rays look like they will be heard from again this year and should make their third straight trip to October baseball.
Joe Maddon joined WDAE in Tampa Bay with Dan Sileo to talk about how important it is to build trust and chemistry in Spring Training, how big it was to bring Carlos Pena back to the organization, on the commitment from upper management, and what he is focused on this Spring more so than anything else when it comes to his club.
How important it is to build trust and chemistry in Spring Training:
“It is. It’s very nice to come into this camp under these circumstances. We’ve been together for a while and then you’ve got the new guys coming in your eight, I think it’s really, really important we really communicate well early on in our relationship and when you do do that trust starts to bloom and once you get to that trust then all of the sudden good things can happen so our guys feel that way and it’s truly a great vibe around the camp right now. Our players do expect to go to the World Series and win it this year and you have to do it on an annual basis and I think we have developed that culture where guys totally believe it and buy into it.”
How big it was to bring Carlos Pena back to the organization:
“It is. It really is. The guy is always smiling, he’s always in a great mood, and he’s not just keeping it to himself. He’s always passing it off to someone else and you can just see how the players around him react to him and how I react to him when he’s around me also so he’s contagious to all of us and beyond that his skills are really, really still at a very high level obviously coming off a great year in Chicago and it’s good to have him back both on and off the field right now.”
On the commitment from upper management:
“Of course and we do. I keep saying Andrew (Friedman) had a great offseason. Right now we’re still trying to figure out that second catching position and we’re still trying to figure out the shortstop position and I think we have great candidates there, and as we move into the starting rotation just trying to figure out who is going to be the five and how the bullpen is going to set up but there’s plenty to choose from. Probably the most difficult thing to do is to choose the appropriate catcher. There’s a real good battle going on there as this Spring Training evolves that’s probably going to be the spot and probably paying most attention to.”
What he is focused on more than anything else this spring when it comes to his club:
“Like I said the catching right now because we do our thing. If you want to talk about offense, defense, and pitching, we have our concepts and different things we work on on a daily basis to try to get better because I really believe the edge between winning and losing in baseball and all professional sports is becoming finer and finer on an annual basis. A lot of it has to do with just data and all kinds of outside information beyond the skill level. I still believe players have to play and players do win but the edges to become smaller because of how everyone is going about their business. That’s one thing I’m really focused on to right now and the other thing is catching. Making sure we make the right decisions for our team and our pitching staff.”