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For Maddon, little things mean a lot in improving big picture
With experience as a scout and an extensive background in player development as a minor-league coach, Maddon can measure progress in minute ways.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 15, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - Manager Joe Maddon notices the little things, which is good.
It's just when he talks about them that people wonder.
With experience as a scout and an extensive background in player development as a minor-league coach, Maddon can measure progress in minute ways, such as the trajectory of a throw, the break on a specific pitch or the size of a secondary lead off second base.
With the big picture as bad as it has been for the Rays, that's how he chooses to look at things. And that's how he can sit in his office after an ugly loss, as he often has, and say with a straight face, "I thought we did a lot of good things."
As infuriating as it was for some to hear Maddon say Edwin Jackson threw "as well as I've ever seen him" when he allowed seven runs July 4, what Maddon's talking about are the technical aspects of how Jackson maintained his delivery.
It's not that he doesn't know (or care) they lost, or that he's delusional about their level of play, as some suggest, but it's his way of looking at even the worst day in a positive way and considering it a step, however small, toward an overall more successful future that he clearly expects to be a part of. Given that his contract is up after this season and the Rays haven't acted on his two-year option, he could certainly be justified in taking a more short-term view.
"If you look at a lot of things we're doing this year compared to what we were doing last year at this time, I really like the improvement in a variety of different areas, whether it's execution of fundamentals, whether it's defensively or offensively, there's just a better awareness of the game," Maddon said.
"It's just not happening for us right now, but their baseball minds are growing and getting better. ... I'm looking at all these little things that we're doing better, so eventually the big stuff's going to follow."
MUCH ADO: Still not sure what the supposed controversy was about Carl Crawford's radio comments at the All-Star Game. Who wouldn't be frustrated being on a team with a .400 winning percentage over his six seasons? And it's nothing he hasn't expressed before on these pages.
Crawford may not like his contract (which buys out his first two years of free agency with options for $8.25-million in 2009 and $10-million-plus for 2010) and may change agents (so, yes, Scott Boras could end up involved), but he knows he's not going anywhere for the next three years unless the Rays trade him. And that he has a huge payday ahead in 2011.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Details are due this week on plans to establish a Rays presence (sales and merchandise) in downtown Tampa's new Park Tower, with Chris Lahey as senior director of corporate affairs. ... Crawford ranked tied for fourth (with Barry Bonds) as the "most exciting player" in a poll of major-leaguers by Sports Illustrated. Mets SS Jose Reyes was the runaway winner. ... Maddon raved about the work and wisdom of minor-league instructor Dick Bosman, who filled in most capably for injured pitching coach Jim Hickey. ... The Toronto Sun said former Rays GM Chuck LaMar rejected an offer of Alex Rios for Aubrey Huff because he wanted RHP Brandon League thrown in. ... Double-A (though shouldn't he soon be Triple-A?) 3B Evan Longoria was ranked the fourth-best hitter at the Futures Game by ESPN.com's Keith Law, who had Justin Upton (B.J.'s brother) first. ... The Rays remain open to the possibility but don't appear to be in MLB's mix to play in Japan next season. ... Interesting choice of words by Josh Hamilton in his as-told-to article in ESPN the Magazine: "My mission is to be the ray of hope ..." ... SI's Tom Verducci doesn't have Delmon Young in his top three for AL top rookie honors, picking Orioles RHP Jeremy Guthrie and Red Sox RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka and 2B Dustin Pedroia.