Winter Meetings interview with Joe Maddon

Winter Meetings interview with Joe Maddon

Q. Why don't we start with the pressing question. What are your thoughts on the possibility of David Price being traded? Have you given it much thought? What did it mean, what do you know?

JOE MADDON: Well, you know, it's never a good thought to lose a player like that, but the potential thought of losing a player like that.

We went through the same thing last year with James. James Shields was the same kind of a pitcher, and same kind of a player within the clubhouse and the locker room.

What I've heard is, obviously, what everybody else is hearing, there is a lot of conjecture and talk about it. When you lose a player of that magnitude, not just the fact that he's such a good pitcher, but this guy, and you guys are around him all the time, matters a lot to the clubhouse and to the team.

Having said all those things, and again, this is how we have to operate within our little world. So if it were to happen, it's one of those that's almost the word devastating in a sense, but we have to recover from those kind of moments if it does actually occur.

Probably less likely during the course of the season, probably, but nevertheless it could happen. But right now that is part of the war room scenario, is right now talking about all these potential things.

But, again, guys like him are rare. David is a rare person and a rare pitcher, and from a managerial perspective, we like to keep those kind of guys.

Q. Have you thought toward next season what might be the rotation with him?

JOE MADDON: Honestly, listen, I've been in an RV for a month. I just saw my grandkids in Arizona, hung out in Long Beach for about a week. I mean this sincerely, I really put it down. I'm pretty good at putting it down. I think it's important to put it down. I talked to Andrew a lot about the different potential scenarios regarding next season. But honest to God, I've really not gone into that. I really believe that a lot of how we do things. Andrew and I'll have our discussion with him and the scouts, and Hick and all the other guys, then we'll eventually formulate that. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like that because it's just too early for me to put my mind there. So I'd rather let the guys do their job like we do our job in the summertime. This is the time of year when they do their jobs.

Then by the end of that, we'll have an idea of what it's going to look like. I'm not concerned. I really believe it's going to look good and we'll see how it plays out.

Q. Is it strange to put it away, like you say, put it away, and this time you came back? I know pitching is still up in the air, but your everyday team is kind of like where it was at the end of the year and it will probably be that way. Is that kind of unusual for you?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, I think we've gotten more to that over the last several years. I remember my first two spring trainings talking about how nice it would be to have at least a 90% team set by the time you came to camp. We're pretty much there. We have a lot of great returning guys. A lot of good, young players on the rise also. Yet maybe that's part of the reason I do put it down. I'm not the guy that sits around writing lineups all winter long because we change it every night anyway, so why even spend all that much in brain cells.

I really do believe in balance and balance in life. I believe it's important for me to step away and recharge my batteries, because the season is long. So when it comes to all the nuances of the year, a lot of it is conversational right now with me and Andrew and the boys.

By the time we get to the middle of January, then it becomes a little more concrete going into spring training, and that is just the way I operate.

Q. You don't have to prepare yourself psychologically and emotionally?

JOE MADDON: Traded James Shields, Carl Crawford's gone, B.J. left. It's just the way this thing works. Again, I guess, let's rewind that thought. Just think if you could have kept all those guys for several years and keep them together for maybe 15 years like the Yankees did starting in 1995 96 to present time. And I do commit myself to that thought on occasion, but the reality is that's not the way it is.

So I don't lament that. I'm really happy for the guys that once they've done well here, they go somewhere else and do well and make good money for themselves and their family. I'm all about that. But I don't lament the thought that people have to leave and what it's going to look like next year. I have all the confidence in the world that the program will work, the philosophy will work, the structure will work. I believe in that. I'm not saying I like losing any of those guys. I don't permit myself that thought once in a while, like what would it be like to have them all here. But it's not real.

Q. If Price has been traded, do you need more than what you got for Shields even more knock your socks off, kind of deal?

JOE MADDON: I don't know. Again, I have not evaluated it that way myself mentally. You just know that if you're going to trade a guy or player like that, the returns should be pretty darn good. But then again, you might be at the mercy of what's available right now. I mean, Will was available last year. There was room last year on the roster. Is there one this year? I'm not as privy to that scouting information to know if that's true or not. But you'd like to believe you're going to get a pretty good ransom in return.

Q. So you say the Rays got a number of guys solidifying the bullpen. What is your take on those situations right now?

JOE MADDON: It's kind of fun. Ryan Hanigan is a guy that Andrew and I have been talking about for a couple years. They played two years ago in Cincinnati. Two years ago. That was the first time I ever saw him. Didn't even know about him. He played really well against us. I know he hit a home run. That's not the point. I like the way he bats, the way he caught, the way he blocked the ball, all that stuff. And we did more research and obviously we got him now. That and getting J Mo back in the fold. Again, J Mo was in the line for all the wrong reasons. Everything you hear and read about, J Mo really adds a lot to our pitching staff, and we value what he does a lot. Everybody wants to evaluate players by batting average all the time, and that is the least of my concerns. So you look at that.

Here comes Lobaton. I mean, Lobaton by the end of last season really played some pretty good baseball offensively also. So you have all this stuff going on and easily the strongest position we've ever been in in regards to catching. Bullpen wise, there's a lot of really good returning people out there also. You don't win championships without that. I think the Red Sox really showed that this season. But it's nice having those critical elements pretty much in place at this time of the year.

Q. How do you see the bullpen working? Do you see Bells as the closer, Peralta as the closer?

JOE MADDON: No, there's no -- we won't declare the closer.

Q. Shocker. How about who is going to pitch the ninth inning?

JOE MADDON: We'll find that out come spring training. But he's very capable of pitching the ninth inning. Joel Peralta has done a nice job, Jake McGee is knocking on the door. So we have all kinds of potential guys to do that. But I'm not going to say so and so is the closer right now. We're into the high leverage moment.

Said the same thing a couple years ago, you know that with Farnsworth, and you nailed it. Well, Fernando nailed it because Kyle got hurt. Kyle gets hurt, Fernando was there and he stepped in. Because I had the same conversation with him during that spring training in our meetings where we told Fernando, listen, you're going to pitch late in the game. I can't say specifically the ninth inning all the time, but then it became that. So it can become that, but I'm not going to say necessarily that's what it is right now.

Q. On first blush, how do you think Ellsbury going from Boston impacts the dynamic of the division?

JOE MADDON: Well, the division's done well. I mean, the Yankees lost a pretty good player. They gained a good player right there. Boston lost a good player with Ellsbury, but they have nice people in his place also. I don't know. It's almost like kind of a push feel to the whole thing, I think. Both of them will be really good again. I think a lot of it would speak to the inter dynamic clubhouse situation in Boston and how that's going to be impacted. I don't even know how Ellsbury impacts that clubhouse. I have no idea. Losing Cano, and then he comes into New York. A lot of the behind the scenes stuff to me is the most interesting part of that. You know what they're like as players and what with you pretty much expect to perform on the field. But I don't know what the dynamic is inside the building, and that is really important too.

Ellsbury, I think, is going to show more power, obviously, because he can throw the ball. He can get into the right center spot, so his home runs will probably come back up again.

But I'm curious. Again, we've talked about this. I don't necessarily worry about those things. I just get curious about it. I'm a big believer in the chemistry component, which I believe can be nurtured. People believe it only occurs after you win. I thought last year in spring training when the Red Sox got Jon and Napoli, and Victorino, I thought that would make a huge difference in that group based on that. So that to me is the interesting part of all this maneuvering is what does it do inside that building, because that can really reflect how well they play.

Q. It I know you took some downtime, but did you talk to James Loney?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, I did. I was in Hermosa Beach, went to a little breakfast party and I got James on the phone. We talked briefly. Didn't talk for a whole long period of time. I wanted him to know how upset I was that he did win a gold glove. And the guys that went over him and Escobar, they're really good defenders. But I was really upset that Escobar and James did not win Gold Gloves. I wanted him to know that.

We talked further about that and just some things in general. He's a good conversation, then we became pretty good friends, I thought, last season. There was a lot of trust involved both ways. I mean, he played really well. He played really well. If there is some way that he falls back, that would be great. But I don't know. He's deserving of what he gets. I think last year he showed everybody how good of a baseball player he is. He's a really good baseball player.

Q. So based on what you have right now and if you don't get the first baseman, is there a chance that Zobrist could see a little work this year?

JOE MADDON: Probably not. I mean, he doesn't really like first base. So to do that I would be stretching him to a spot. He's already so good at second and in the outfield and right field and at shortstop. Of course he would play there if we wanted him to in an emergency, but I don't really think it's something we want to look into. It's probably going to come from a different direction if we don't get Loney back.

Q. You seem a little right handed. Probably like a left handed batter at first or talk about that?

JOE MADDON: Left handed would be nice, absolutely. There is no question about that. That would be good.

Q. Are you comfortable with this rotating DH thing?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, DH wise has never been a comfortable spot or highly productive spot for us in the past. Sometimes it's almost easier to do it that way where you're able to get people off their feet, rest people. Unless you really nail it down with the guy who digs it and is good at it. It's not that easy a position. People think it's easy, but to control the mental component of that, sitting around in between at bats, especially after a couple of bad at bats, to come out and be productive is not an easy thing to do.

So just to find somebody that's good at that, they don't just fall out of trees readily. So I'm okay with the rotating component of it for a variety of different reasons, and a lot of it has to do with our mixing and matching and getting guys off their feet, et cetera. Like as an example, Zobrist, give Zobrist a bat and would be kind of outstanding also because he's able to do that and he welcomes that kind of stuff.

Q. (No microphone)?

JOE MADDON: Absolutely. We want to do that. Still feel the same way about Desmond. Have to look at how Will copes with that in the coming years. Yeah, when you play on turf, if you're really not up on or aware of or giving guys breaks regardless of their age, you're going to pay for it eventually.

Q. Years ago before the organization had really turned it around, you had a conversation, instead of lamenting the fact that you played in the division with the Red Sox and Yankees, you thought that might be the best thing for the organization. Can I ask years later how that division has played out and thoughts on players getting better and this and that?

JOE MADDON: I really thought having to play at Fenway and Yankee Stadium primarily at that time, Baltimore's back, and Toronto is right there. But primarily playing at Fenway and Yankee Stadium, to have to play there as often as we did makes people grow up rather quickly.

Then furthermore, if you want to be relevant, you have to beat these guys. So I just thought really accelerated the learning curve on the field as players and also emotionally as players in the clubhouse. So I always thought from day one, it's one of the most interesting places to play in Major League Baseball, and I think in our case, and in almost any case, if you threw any young group into our division with some kind of potential, you have a chance to grow more quickly here based on those reasons. And I've really liked playing in the east every night. It's almost like a playoff atmosphere. It should bring out the best, it really should. I think that's part of what's occurred here.

Q. The kids you saw last year, the Romeros, the Colome, Beckham, all these guys, what were you looking forward to most seeing in the spring, and who do you think really had the chance to step up?

JOE MADDON: I liked all of them. I mean, Beckham really showed well at the end of the season when we threw him into some moments right there. A lot of people did not expect a lot, and he handled it extremely well. Beyond the physical getting a base hit to win the game, whatever. The way he handled it emotionally, I'm so big on that. If you're going to play in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, you better be emotionally in control of yourself.

So I think when we get young players in or up and all of a sudden they demonstrate those qualities, that makes me very excited. So I thought he did a great job with that at the end of last season. He's showing proficiency at different positions now also.

Colome, we got to see one game in Florida, and he was outstanding. Romero, he stepped up and did a wonderful job. I guess the answer is I'm eager to see all of them. They all demonstrated good make up, good ability to control their emotions with high end talent, and that's what you're looking for. So a big part of what we do and what I try to do nurturing these guys is to make sure that I'm aware of what I'm talking about right now. I'm aware of that and really try to promote that within the player to make sure that they're emotionally there every night. If they are, then they can contribute to winning. If they're not, they're pretty much doing that survival mode where they don't want to screw up, and they're not necessarily there to help you win.

But I think these three guys are of the ilk that you're going to see that shows that they belong there rather quickly and that's going to help win games.

Q. Kiermaier, you got the tease on him, and didn't get to see him. Are you curious about that?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, there is another guy. Listen, they walk into the clubhouse. This is a playoff game or potential playoff game and then a playoff game, and this guy is saying you're going to go play centerfield in the eighth inning or ninth inning, and he was fine. He was absolutely fine. That is the part I'm impressed with about these guys. Because you know he can run down a flyball. You know he's fast. You know he's got a good arm. You know these things. But can his mind work on this level? Can he control himself on this level? If he can, then all these tools play.

So that's why these kids are really exciting to me, because physically they're gifted, but they're gifted emotionally and mentally too, and that's what's going to make them good here.

Q. In recent years we've seen Mike Napoli move to first base, Myers moved to first base (No microphone). Are we seeing with an evolution where maybe we won't see a really great hitting catcher anymore?

JOE MADDON: I don't know. I haven't put a lot of thought into that. Is it more concussion based? Need based? I don't know. In general, you've got a good hitter and you don't want to wear him out behind the plate. Then again, if you could grab some offense back there, it's a nice thing to do. I haven't thought about that to give you a strong answer on that. I mean, for me the other thing to consider is how good of a catcher is he? Are you missing out on the ability to handle the pitching staff and receive the ball well and call a good game? Those aren't easy to come by. So if a guy can hit and do all those other things too, it might be tough to move him to first base unless you get an adequate replacement because that's so important.

Q. You're seeing hitting as a bonus?

JOE MADDON: I mean, we are (laughing). You know, if we get any offense, it's like a big plus. But, in general, generally speaking, you look at the really great catchers that guys are able to combine offense and defense, it's a rare guy that really does that for many years with the same team. It just doesn't happen that often. It's a tough position, man, it's tough. It wears you out physically, emotionally and whatever. To be able to go up there and hit the ball, it's not that easy. The really good guys make it look easy, but it's not.

But honestly, I want somebody that can I guess I'm talking about the Rays. Talking about regardless where I manage, the really good defender. The guy that really nurtures and takes your pitching staff where you want it to be. That is really the value of a catcher, and I'll take less offense for that guy.

Q. How much do you embrace the challenge of having to operate within limitations like that where you can't have everything?

JOE MADDON: Grew up that way, you know? So I do embrace it. I kind of enjoy it. I had that conversation with another writer in the lobby earlier today. The intellectual process that we have to go through on an annual basis to be good, to me, is very exciting. To not just have an open locker full of money to buy exactly what you need is okay because then you have to -- necessity being the mother of invention, you've got to try to figure out these other avenues to get the same thing done. I think there is a little bit of purity involved in that. There is more of a pure sense in regards to the game and how it should be played. So for a lot of different reasons I've often talked about working where I work to me is the best job in all of Major League Baseball. Managing this particular team is the best job in all of Major League Baseball regardless of money or salary. Just the people I work with upstairs and how we go about all of this every year is exciting and it's interesting and it's challenging, and it's all those things that every year should be. I would never want to be in a situation where you became so complacent and that you just show up and write the same nine names in the same nine spots every day. That would be no fun whatsoever. That would stink. But I do enjoy and we enjoy the mental gymnastics we go through on a daily basis.

Q. You've talked about you have to push the envelope on a lot of things. Lineup construction, are you seeing an evolution in managers now that the new guys come in? Four people doing what you've had to do?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, there is more linkage, I think, now between the manager's office and general manager's office or front office, whatever you want to call it. It's not interference. There is more aid coming from up top down below. There is more information available. I think it's become more difficult because a couple years ago when we first started doing a lot of the things that we're doing, we were a little ahead of what everybody else is doing. But everybody else is doing those same things and it's becoming more difficult. Because now you're looking in the mirror every night and looking for the edge to stay ahead somehow.

But, yes, the new manager situation. There is going to be a stronger tie between that seat and the GM seat and all that's encompassed in running the game, and I'm all for it. Andrew and the boys have helped me a lot in my particular seat regarding information and advice and thoughts based on stuff that I can't sit there and crunch all that information like they can and present it on a piece of paper. I'm all for it. I'm absolutely all for it.

Where the game is headed maybe three, four five years from the most from now, it's going to permeate every team, every organization without exception. Then it becomes even more difficult. That laser thin line between winning and losing becomes whatever beyond the laser, it's going to become even finer than that. That's the interesting part to me. That's why coming into this job in 2006, in my mind's eye, that's where it was going at that time. Now it's become more difficult. But I believe there is going to be a stronger linkage between this share, the manager's chair and the front office.

Q. What is the next frontier? Andrew says we know we've gone too far when Joe rolls his eyes at us.

JOE MADDON: Yeah, but I don't do that very often. He's being a little bit, a little bit of a cheek laugh right there. Same thing with me to him. I'll say some stuff to him, and he'll roll his eyes back to me. But I love that. That is the thing about with us, you've got a thought, you put it out there and see if it has any substance and if it can help you win a baseball game. Again, the edge.

I watch the NFL, we all do every week, and you see these games going down to the last three seconds all the time. The team goes home for six days and they've lost and they feel like crap and the other team is happy over three seconds at the end of the ballgame. That is how close it is between winning and losing.

We won, what, 92 games this year? Everybody can go through the same process four, five, six games or ten games you should have won, but oftentimes you don't think about the games you should have lost that you did win, so it kind of balances that out a little bit. But it's all about searching for that edge that permits you to compete and win the tieing wins, and get over the top, and be there for the last games of the season. It's going to be tighter and tighter.

Q. With that fine line of winning and losing then with all the numbers that you have, there has to be an immeasurable, something you can't measure. Why your group of 25 are a little bit different or a different make up?

JOE MADDON: Chemistry. Honestly, I'm such a believer in that. That's why I take we take a lot of time to nurture that within the clubhouse. If we don't have that relationship built within our clubhouse that we've done over the last several years, I don't think we'd have won consistently as many games as we've won. Beyond all the great information, great scouting, whatever. It's all tied together. Everything's tied together.

Getting back to the balance concept, all of these components are tied together. You have to be present to be successful, I believe. Beyond the good plan or the great research wonderful skilled players, it's the ability to bring them all together that matters the most. So the intangible, immeasurable part of the game, to me, that is a feel thing, and you have to be aware of it and believe that it's important. If you do, you'll look for it, monitor it, try to adjust it daily if it's necessary, and it's something, again, that can't be felt or necessarily seen. It's just something that you've got to be aware of.

Q. A lot of organizations that are data driven as the Rays are, and are into some of the more advanced metrics, you hear people on that side of the equation suggest that chemistry is overrated?

JOE MADDON: Right, I understand.

Q. How rare is it that your organization sort of values both and integrates both?

JOE MADDON: Well, again, the Red Sox are a great example. I'll say it again what happened this last year. They're involved deeply into the metrics. All of a sudden, they get the balance they needed in the clubhouse, and boom, they take off and they were fantastic this season.

For the group that doesn't believe it's important, it's one of those -- I've always believed this and this is my opinion. I believe if you've never done it before, you say that it can't be done or how do you do that? How do you create chemistry? If you've never done it before, of course you're going to have that attitude because you just don't know how to do it. So for me that's something since the mid '80s I've been aware of. I've often talked about the conversation with Gene Mauch often. I was in the instructional league in 1984, I think it was. He came walking up to me and I'm doing my thing in the batting cages, doing my daily work. He walks up and doing really well. He says to me you've created a great atmosphere around here. I said thank you. I had no idea what he was talking about. I had zero idea what he was talking about. But Gene said that to me. After that day I go home and I'm thinking, what is he talking about? What am I doing here? What are you doing here? And I think if you're really cognizant of what you're doing and try to break it down, what we were doing was relationships, the communication, the trust was really high. So that is the kind of things that I discerned from that moment that that was what he was talking about.

So if you know that, why can't you intentionally create relationship building on an annual basis? Why can't you really work to nurture trust? The point is, once you've done that, we could be constructively critical of one another. If you don't trust me, I don't trust you, there is no exchange of an idea in a way that's going to be beneficial eventually. So that's what Gene Mauch taught me that one day.

So my point is I think these things can be nurtured. I really do. It's not easy. A lot of times you're going to be told you're wrong, you're full of it, whatever. If you're strong enough to stick to it, you can get it done.

Q. How concerned are you about with your chemistry of potentially losing David? Do you have a guy that can step up on your staff to be like what David was?

JOE MADDON: We seemed to lose that. Shields was like that also in the past when we first came on board. You had Percival, and Floyd, and Hinske, and Danny Wheeler. Those are the guys that nurtured it back then. Longo is already building into that particular player right now. ZO does it in his quiet way. I think a guy like Alex Cobb is the kind of guy that can eventually be that kind of player on the team based on his tenacity, his work ethic and his performance.

We definitely have that within our clubhouse, but I really do like crazy. I like fun. I like off the wall. I like all that. That's really important. You play 162. You're with each other every day, I do like a little crazy too. I don't know where the crazy is going to come from because David did supply crazy.

Q. Probably Hellie too?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, Hellie's just loaded.

Q. You guys have been one of the forefronts of defensive shifts and all those things. One, an obvious one, why and how did you find it so useful, and how has it been so useful for you guys? Also the game has been played so long, so much innovation, why did it take so long to do this in the first place?

JOE MADDON: Again, we're just talking about the metrics or whatever, and the connection between the field and the front office. I think it's taken so long because there's never -- the connection between GMs and managers has never been necessarily close when it comes to actually playing the game. Where scouting departments and field people when it comes to playing the game, it was about the group that was in charge on the field is going to do what they think is right and nobody wanted to interfere. But then again, a lot of this information wasn't available either. So I think a lot of what you're seeing right now is just availability. And, again, there is a greater willingness for, like I said, a manager to work together with a group of people in the front office to supply this information, and then utilize it. A lot of it has been some teams won't do it because they're just stubborn. It's just a stubborn moment. I'm not going to do it. It's never been done before. Why should we do it now? It's worked this way and on and on and on. That's just a personal philosophy. It's just how some people think sometimes.

Again, within three, four, five years at the most, I'd be surprised if anybody does not do it.

Q. Given the intensity of the games that you play, how do you explain to young guys the difference between celebrating and showing up another team? Do you think it's clubhouse to clubhouse what a team will tolerate and who polices those things?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, the celebratory part of the game, not only in our game, demonstrative or what happens after the dunk or the touchdown or whatever, the chest beating after the sack, that's just a generational thing, I think. I'm not that concerned about that. I don't go over the top with that. The showing up part is one that's really interesting to me because everybody's got their own perception of what showing up is. For me, a lot of that has to do with the manager and maybe the leaders within that team if they feel somebody has gone over board to call them on it. Step back, come on in the clubhouse and let's talk about it. But too many times, man it's shown up where players have been upset was they thought they were shown up, and I didn't necessarily agree with them. So, again, I think it's an individual club situation, manager, and the leaders within the team that would determine that per team. But it's just a part of the culture in all sports. It's generational. Hey, afros and high socks and everything changes, man, so just live with it.

Q. Same how to police it? Does that have to be individual?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, I think so. I don't want anybody trying to dictate the discipline of my team. We'll discipline ourselves. You don't have to do that. We ran into that a couple years ago and had a big discussion with somebody else about that. We'll handle our own discipline, you handle your discipline.