Thursday, October 23, 2008

Way to go, Joe!

The Rays’ Joe Maddon and Marlins’ Fredi Gonzalez, a pair of Sunshine State skippers who did more with less payroll, are Sporting News’ 2008 Managers of the Year, as selected by a panel of 18 major league managers.

Maddon, despite a payroll that ranks 29th out of 30 major league teams, has his team in the World Series as he presides over one of baseball’s most remarkable turnarounds.

He managed Tampa Bay to a 97-65 regular-season record, good for first place in the American League East, a division in which the Rays had finished out of last place only once in their 10 previous seasons of existence and never won more games than they lost in a season.

Maddon, 54, attributed the turnaround primarily to a pitching staff that matured, especially in one particular area: “Command of the fastball. Simplistic,” he told Sporting News. “Also, the bullpen in general — you can’t play this time of year without the bullpen we have.”

Gonzalez, meanwhile, had the Marlins — whose payroll ranked 30th out of 30 teams — in thick of the National League East race for much of the season, before Florida finished 84-77, in third place behind the N.L. champion Phillies and the Mets.

He credited his team’s approach to its success: “The guys believed in themselves,” Gonzalez, 44, told Sporting News. “They had confidence and came to the park every day ready to battle, and we always felt like we were in every game until the final out.”

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