One of the exciting times of the year in sports is the opening day of baseball. This year opening day is March 31st as the Texas Rangers travel to Houston to take on the Houston Astros. A full slate kicks in on April 1st and the Tampa Bay Rays open on April 2nd with manager Joe Maddon at the helm. In his playing days Maddon never advanced beyond the minor leagues but he has excelled as a major league manager. In 2005 he was hired as the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays and led them to their first American League championship in 2008 by turning them around from the worst record in the major league in 2007. Maddon was named American League Manager of the Year. Despite a terrible start, Maddon led the Rays to a second consecutive playoff appearance in 2011 and was once again named American League Manager of the Year. In 2009, Maddon was selected as the Manager of the American League all star team and led them to a victory. An excerpt from an article in the April 2013 issue of Men’s Journal says “Maddon has been called “the best small-market manager” in baseball, and praised as a genius for turning players into stars and aging retreads into productive players (Jordan, p.26).” Obviously, Maddon is a smart strategic manager but the real key to his success lies in the leadership traits he exhibits that reveal themselves in the article. Anyone in a leadership position can get the most out of their people by taking note of three of Maddon’s traits.
- Allows his players freedom –This trait is so important and I believe often overlooked by leaders. David Price, the left-handed Cy Young winner for the Rays said this about Maddon. “Joe respects us. He gives us our space. When I first came up, I’d be shagging balls in batting practice in the outfield and Joe would be making the rounds. When he got to me, he just talked to me, and not about baseball (Jordan, p.28,30).” What I see in this is Maddon does not unnecessarily pressure his A-players. It is said of Steve Spurrier, the successful football of the South Carolina Gamecocks, that he gives his players freedom to succeed (Brown, p.108).
- Instills confidence –A great leader instills confidence in his people. He makes then believe in themselves when they are down. Maddon is a master. Fernando Rodney was a relief pitcher with the Angels the year before the Rays acquired him and he had just been through a terrible year with the Angels with only three saves and a 4.50 ERA. “After one year with Maddon: 48 saves and a 0.60 ERA. When asked how he did it, Maddon said, “It wasn’t complicated, we just let him know how good we thought he was. We respected him and embraced him. It was that simple (Jordan, p.30).”
- Is loyal to his players –Long-suffering is a word not heard much. Regarding relating to others it means to endure with them, be very patient, and to be tolerant. Maddon has this in abundance. Rays Executive VP of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman says “Joe is almost too loyal. He has patience with guys that maybe we should move on from. Other managers move on from players quicker than we do. But Joe’s attitude is, “we’re dealing with human beings here (Jordan, p.30).”
Freedom, confidence, and loyalty, from what I understand about Joe Maddon, I would be proud to hit the field running for him on opening day.
*Jordan, Pat, (April, 2013), Men’s Journal
*Brown, Chris B., (2012), The Essential Smart Football