Joe Maddon, Managerial Star, Nears Contract Extension

The Rays manager is in line for a contract extension that would give him a decade with the team, and on track to be one of the top managers in recent history. Could he be a Hall of Fame candidate?

Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, headed for a European vacation about two weeks ago.

Just imagine the manager with the curly, graying hair and squarish glasses staring at works in the Louvre. Or taking a gondola ride in the canals of Venice. Or...

Well, maybe you can't imagine that. But you, and Joe, might imagine this, as reported by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:

A three-year contract extension for manager Joe Maddon, barring an unexpected late twist, will be completed and announced after he returns from Europe this week and before the Feb. 20 opening of spring training.

Maddon will turn 58 next week and has been the manager of the Rays for six seasons, four of which have been winning ones -- after the Rays had lost 101 and 96 games in his first two years. Maddon waited a long time for his managerial shot, too; he spent ten years as bench coach for the Angels, under four different managers (Marcel Lachemann, John McNamara, Terry Collins and Mike Scioscia) before getting his first shot at the top job.

Managing has clearly changed Maddon. Check out what he looked like in his last year as Angels bench coach:

Clean-cut. Short hair. No glasses. Here's what was written about him at the time he was hired:

Maddon liked the idea of managing a young, developing team, as well as working for new principal owner Stuart Sternberg and the club's unique management team.

Maddon said that before his first interview, he received a 47-page e-mail expounding on Sternberg's philosophies for turning around the Rays' situation. He came away quite impressed.

Anyone who can get through a 47-page e-mail has to be a guy who pays attention to detail, and that's clearly Joe Maddon. Maddon and Sternberg must have been on the same page as far as player acquisitions, too; Evan Longoria was the then Devil Rays' first round pick in 2006 and he was fast-tracked to the major leagues, becoming AL Rookie of the Year in 2008; other factors in the Rays' sudden move from 96 losses in 2007 to 94 wins in 2008 were the acquisitions of Matt Garza and Troy Percival, who solidified an already-improving pitching staff.

Of course, it's the general manager's job to acquire players, and no one should dismiss the job Andrew Friedman has done in building the Rays into a powerhouse. But Maddon is clearly part of that plan as well, and the granting of the three-year extension shows the franchise has a plan and is willing to stick to it. By the end of that extension, Maddon would be in his 10th year as Rays manager and, if the team could win a World Series or two in that time, possibly on a track to the Hall of Fame.

Now if only the Rays could get their stadium situation sorted out ...

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