Is Joe Maddon’s Seat Warming Up?
The American League East this season is the total opposite of what was expected after a flurry of impact moves made by the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays. The Blue Jays and Rays, both of whom were considered favorites to win the division, are off to very slow starts. The Rays are off to a 6-10 start to the season. An interesting thought brought up amongst some of the MLB Hot Corner writers was the thought that Joe Maddon’s job seat as manager could start to be warming up if the Rays do not improve soon, as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have gotten off to fast starts. Is Joe Maddon’s seat warming up, after this slow start, especially if it continues? I certainly do not think so, and that won’t change no matter how the Rays finish this season. Here are some reasons for the Rays slow start:
1. Departure of James Shields
When the Rays dealt James Shields in the off-season, many “baseball experts” think they made a good move by acquiring top prospect Wil Myers and other pitching prospects. However, the big thing that was a constant among all people who analyzed the trade was that the Rays will miss Shields a lot. There was a reason the Rays called him “Big Game James”. No matter how good ace David Price was over the past few seasons, I still say that Shields was the Rays top pitcher. He ate innings, won ball games, always kept the Rays in line for a win or close enough to come back for one. He was no doubt, the heart and soul of the Rays and they truly miss him.
2. Slow Start on Offense
We know the Rays are paced on offense and get the majority of their power on offense from all-star third basemen, Evan Longoria, who until Patriots Day against against the Red Sox, had not homered. His home run at Fenway finally got Longoria going, who has homered 3 times since Patriots Day. He has heated up. Ben Zobrist is always one of the most consistent producers on offense aside from Longoria and that is no difference this year. Zobrist has a .286 batting average, with 1 home run, and 12 RBI. Until this past week, James Loney had not done a whole lot but is now batting .308. The Rays offensive production starts to slip dramatically after these two. Shortstop Yunel Escobar is batting .125, Kelly Johnson is batting .190, and other than 3 home runs, has not done much. The offense’s main pieces all got off to slow starts but has recently begun to heat up. They will need some more production from guys like Escobar and Johnson is they want to start putting together some win streaks.
These two reasons are why I believe the Rays are not off to such a great start. There are some bright spots for the Rays as of this past week and they may start to heat up. The pitching has been good and the offense will catch up. The Rays always seem to be able to get things done no matter who is in the starting lineup, or in the rotation and it starts with their manager Joe Maddon. Maddon is widely considered to be a favorite manager around the MLB and his players love playing for him. The themed road trips have become a staple for the Rays and they truly bond over things like this. Maddon is a players manager, and his players love playing for him. He expects the most out of his guys and they always seem to deliver. Also, lets not forget, the Rays were in the post-season just two seasons ago and won 90 ball games last year. Should Maddon be worried? No. Should anyone even think that his job may begin to be put in jeopardy if things don’t turn around? No. The Rays were expected to do some good things yet again this season, and so were the Blue Jays. They were both predicted to be the top two teams in the AL East. Both are in last and second last and the Red Sox and Yankees who were thought to finish in the bottom are on top. Its only mid April. Time will tell what happens with the Rays. I still think there main competition come September will be the Blue Jays, and we will forget we even brought up the idea that Maddon’s job could be in jeopardy if things don’t turn around. Plain and simple: Don’t worry Joe Maddon. You’re safe.