Friday afternoon it was announced that Joe Maddon would be opting out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays to pursue an opportunity elsewhere. As has been speculated since Andrew Friedman took over as the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in mid-October, it seems as if Joe Maddon is one step closer to rejoining his old friend out west. However, according to this tweet by Ken Rosenthal, that might not be the case...
Source: Maddon NOT heading to #Dodgers.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 24, 2014
Obviously, any speculation at this point should be taken as a grain of salt, but the initial report waving off the Dodgers is intriguing. If Maddon is indeed not leaving the Rays for the Dodgers, then where is he going? Could it be Detroit?
I wish that I could say yes, but my gut feeling is a firm "no," which makes it more plausible that the Tigers are in fact going to hire Joe Maddon. Does that make sense?
The Tigers are an experienced team with a lot of high profile stars. I don't like using this phrase very much, but it's apparent that they are in "win now" mode. While they are certainly lacking in the depth department, the other major element that they are lacking is a tactical, experienced manager. I do not fault Brad Ausmus for lack of experience, but I do fault him heavily for being a traditionally minded, uncreative in-game manager. Granted, no manager was, is, or ever will be perfect, but some of the decisions that Ausmus made in 2014 bordered on insanity. Maybe that is because of lack of experience. I don't know, but the Tigers do not have the time to wait around and hope that Ausmus learns from his mistakes
Dave Dombrowski has stated recently that the entire Detroit Tigers organization is at the point where he expects to play for a World Series every season. While they won the division, they were run out of the playoffs faster than anyone could tweet "FIRE AUSMUS!"
Judging off of what I have seen and read, Joe Maddon is the anti-Brad Ausmus. Maddon has eleven seasons of being a major league manager under his belt, two with the California Angels, and nine with the Rays. He is known for being a tactician who makes his managerial decisions based off of advanced metrics instead of just going "by the book." Best part of it all, he does not like the word closer.
Maddon's willingness to adapt to the numbers aspect of baseball paid off in dividends while in Tampa Bay. In nine season, his teams posted a total record of 754-705. He has taken them to the playoffs four times, including one World Series appearance in 2008. During Maddon's tenure, the Rays' opening day salaries ranked among the top five lowest in every year except 2009 and 2010, and never jumped above the top ten lowest.
As the Oakland Athletics and Friedman's Rays have proven over the past decade, payroll doesn't matter as much as it use to in baseball, but can you imagine what Maddon could possibly do with Detroit's expensive roster? There are no sure things in baseball, but Maddon's tactical style of managing might be exactly what the Tigers need to put them over the top. The manager's job is to put players in the best position to succeed, and his time in Tampa Bay has proven that he knows how to handle a plethora of situations.
Now back to my question. Will Joe Maddon manage the Detroit Tigers next season? I still think that the chances are astronomically small, but one can never count Dave Dombrowski out of anything. Yes, he recently said that Brad Ausmus will return in 2014, but should we really believe anything that he says? No, because Dombrowski is one of the best GMs in baseball and part of his gig is to be hush hush.
I understand that Brad Ausmus is under contract for two more seasons, but that should not matter at a time like this. Among all the current managers in Major League Baseball, Joe Maddon would be my choice to manage the Tigers. Maddon is, if not the highest regarded, one of the top five most highly regarded managers in the game today. Contrary to what some fans believe, the Tigers are one of the best teams in the league today. Joe Maddon could be the missing piece of the puzzle that elevates the Detroit Tigers from kings of their division to World Series champions.
Mr. Dombrowski, it's time to make one of the biggest acquisitions of your career. Go get Joe Maddon to manage the Detroit Tigers.