AL Manager of the Year: Rays Manager Joe Maddon Should Get the Award

Mike MoraitisAnalyst ISeptember 25, 2011

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 15:  B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates his home run with Joe Maddon #70 of the Tampa Bay Rays against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park September 15, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The annual fire-sale of the Tampa Bay Rays' last offseason was thought to be the nail in the coffin for Joe Maddon's club in 2011. 

But not so fast, as the Rays have had a second-half resurgence in the Wild Card, now only trailing the Red Sox by one-and-a-half games for the final American League playoff spot. 

That simple fact alone makes the AL Manager of the Year award an easy choice: Joe Maddon.

After losing 14 players including Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano to name a few, the Rays season appeared over before it started.  Their bad fortune continued when they lost one of their big bats, Manny Ramirez, to retirement.

No question things were looking bleak for the Rays, but nobody told that to Joe Maddon's club.

With a roster that has no business competing in the AL East, Maddon's squad has had an incredible season. 

The AL East crown is very much out of reach, but the Rays find themselves only one-and-a-half games out of first in the Wild Card, a feat thought to be unthinkable just a few weeks ago.

The Rays found themselves seven games back of the Wild Card-leading Red Sox, with a little over 20 games to go, seven of which were against the Sox.  The Rays caught fire before that stretch and have continued to play well until today.

Looking at the Rays stats as a team, it's hard to see where they've been able to do what they're doing.  In a high-powered division, the Rays rank 26th in the league in average and 16th in runs scored.

They're success has come from the starting rotation where they rank eighth in the MLB with a 3.60 ERA.  Their rotation is headed by David Price and James Shields, both having a great season, despite what their win-loss records might say.

Joe Maddon has proven a lot of things to baseball fans around the sport.  You don't need an enormous payroll to win and you certainly don't need all the talent in the world to make the playoffs. 

Maddon has done more with less than most managers could and his success a season after the Rays' fire-sale proves how good of a manager Maddon is.

Maddon has already won the award in 2008, leading the Rays to a 97-65 record with a much less decimated roster. 

Now with much less, Maddon has a chance to take his team to an improbable playoff run on the heels of a struggling Boston Red Sox squad that is seeing their playoff hopes vanish daily.

The biggest question in my mind is, do the Rays have to make the playoffs for Maddon to win the award?

I don't think so.  The Rays' incredible resurgence in itself is impressive and it's easy for a lot of teams to give up in the position the Rays were. 

That's when you need a great manager like Maddon to lead his team and give them the confidence they need to pull it off. 

The fact that the Rays are even in the conversation for a playoff spot is enough to get Joe Maddon his second Manager of the Year award in four years.