There's a reason I've made a habit of tuning in whenever Joe Maddon speaks publicly: the odds are high he's going to say something awesome. Either he'll drop copious amounts of nerd-lingo like "process" and "sustainable", or he'll leave clues about his thought process and decision making. His intelligence shows through, and it's obvious how much time he spends thinking through his opinions and decisions...even on topics that may not seem terribly relevant or important.
For example, there's been quite the flap in baseball over the drinking that went on in the Boston clubhouse at the end of the season, and it's led to all sorts of gossip-driven overreactions by many in the media and in baseball. But in a conversation with WEEI, Maddon managed to raise the level of discourse while making an intelligent, poignant statement:
"I'm not into knee-jerk reactions," the Rays manager told WEEI.com. "If somebody had all of these wonderful thoughts prior to this happening I may be more on board with it, or more empathetic to it. But all of this knee-jerk stuff that occurs in our game absolutely drives me crazy. If you want to be proactive about some thoughts, go ahead, be proactive and I'm all for that. But to say a grown-up can't have a beer after a game? Give me a break. That is, I'm going to use the word, 'asinine,' because it is. Let's bring the Volstead Act back, OK. Let's go right back to prohibition and start legislating everything all over again. All that stuff pretty much annoys me, as you can tell."
"I'm not a big rules guy. Whenever you start enforcing the rule thing, and when you start regulating too much and take it out of their own hands ... they're not babies. These guys are old enough to understand. These guys are grown-ups and why would I attempt to regulate their behavior? What I talk to my guys about is right and wrong and I have a sign in my clubhouse that says, 'Integrity has no need of rules.' And I believe that.
So he used the word asinine, referred to prohibition as the Volstead Act, and makes an emphatic statement about personal responsibility? It's pure gold. I wish more people within baseball would approach issues with as clear a mind as Maddon.
Maddon also spoke to WEEI about former Boston manager Tito Francona's dismissal, and he had some strong words to say:
"The biggest surprise is how anybody could say anything bad about Terry Francona," the Rays' manager explained. "That just blows me away. It's not just a manager defending a manager, but this is a guy who has done wonderful things for that organization and that city. Somebody else who was a good teammate should have said something earlier. Of course it's Terry's responsibility ultimately, but if everybody is doing their job that stuff is squashed well before it got to that point. That's just true. For me, to have Terry in any shape or form be victimized or become this polarizing figure just makes no sense.
I don't claim to know much about Francona, but it's become increasingly clear to me after he got fired from Boston that he's a stand-up manager. His players respect him, he's one of the better managers in baseball at in-game management, and he was a joy to listen to when he filled in as an announcer during the playoffs. The Boston press has smeared him on the way out the door, but Francona deserves much better than that.
So well said, Maddon. I'm glad that people within the game are sticking up for Francona. Someone needs to.