10/05/08 1:50 PM ET
Joe Maddon pregame interview
Manager discusses improbable ride, Pena's return
By FastScripts by ASAP Sports / Special to MLB.com
"Start me up" since I walked in the room. It's on right now. I think it's around 1971 that particular era, the era you were born I believe. (Laughter.) Same stuff.
Carlos Pena, how is he doing?
JOE MADDON: He was doing fine yesterday. During BP he was good. Taking ground balls, he was good. So right now, I fully well expect to not have to change the lineup today.
Joe, what's your take on the Cubs' very quick ouster and do you have any other observations about the other postseason games?
JOE MADDON: You know, I watched some of the last inning. My opinion is the Dodgers have really good pitching. They pitch really well. Was it Billingsley? I saw the second game, was really impressed with him also. I know Lowe, last night, a great sinker. They just pitched very well. Furthermore, I think the Dodgers have built a American League lineup when you have Blake hitting in the lineup and Manny, of course, they have a nice lineup. They're a very good looking ballclub. They made some nice moves during the course of the season.
So I don't take anything away from the Cubs, I just think the Dodgers are really improving and they look very good right now.
You talked earlier this year about you've seen higher profile of Rays fans and stuff around. Did you see anything around town yesterday that struck you?
Just coming to the ballpark today, we were driving along one of the less prominent streets, is it State Street? It's not very crowded. But there was a man and woman walking around in retro Devil Rays stuff. You know, with the kind of rainbowesque kind of Rays. So we really were impressed by that. Around the hotel it's been prominent.
I haven't walked around that much. Been trying to like get some rest actually. But yeah, every place I go it's more prominent.
One of my goals, I'm getting married this November and we're going to Europe on our honeymoon, and my goal is to see someone walking around either Rome or, you know, Barcelona or somewhere with some Rays gear on. I'm bringing my camera, and if it happens I'm absolutely going to take a photograph and I promise not to set it up. (Laughter.)
Congratulations. Your last trip here we had a short discussion on what may have been the biggest win for your team and I called it at that time. The hiccup before the All Star Game. Was that the biggest thing this year and can you expand on that more for us?
JOE MADDON: We went into the All Star break after we lost seven games in a row. And we had two tough wins in New York. Lost the last game at home, two tough games in New York, and went to Cleveland and they beat us up with their pitching. I felt we were fatigued actually. A lot of people would scoff at that, but we were like 23 games over .500 at that point and we had never done that before. And I thought our guys were pushing pretty hard.
It's kind of like the perfect storm of all the emotion. The teams we were playing, and Cleveland's always tough in Cleveland. And you saw what that did to us at the end of the season.
It was good moment, actually, because you found out a lot about yourselves at that time. We came back post-All Star break after the seven game losing streak, and won some very difficult games. One I'll point out is versus Toronto losing 1 0 in the eighth inning and Ben Zobrist comes up and hits a two run home run against Burnett who was great that evening and we won that game 2 1.
So we kind of went through these different moments. The thing is about a seven game losing streak, people sometimes get a little bit antsy, every team's going to go through some period that you are not so good over 162 games in the year.
So for me I wasn't overtly concerned. It's going to happen. It's how you deal with that moment that matters the most. If you want to make it into something more, then you can. If you don't, you can do that also. So I was trying to read it as accurately as I possibly could, and I thought that's where we were at that particular juncture and had a lot of confidence we would be fine.
The worst part after that was guys started getting hurt. Even when they did, some prominent players, the other guys filled in very well. I think we taught ourselves a lesson.
Having Carlos back in there, I mean, what kind of effect do you think that will have on this lineup, not having him in there for basically the last two days?
JOE MADDON: Well, Carlos has been such a big factor. I think it has a huge positive impact for us. It moves guys around in the lineup also. I like the idea of getting Carl back in the five-hole and Longo eighth, if you notice I put Willy six and Rocco eighth just based on this guy pitching for them today and I want to see their swings versus him. But then again I always look at the bottom part of the lineup or anybody's lineup and if you have Navi, Rocco and JP in the seventh, eighth and ninth, I like that. Think that speaks to strength.
That only happens because Carlos is in there hitting third. So it's great to have him back. He's actually had some decent I think he had a home run against this guy last time he faced him. So I like him being back and I know he's going to be very elevated by being back and I think the entire group will be.
How do you think Evan has handled the fame and the attention that has come with the impressive performances and success?
JOE MADDON: Probably as well as anybody possibly could.
He is so genuine. When he speaks and when he reacts to the situation, I know it's not contrived. He's just he is a very good baseball player, and, again, he play the game naturally, normally, and he pretty much take it one bat err at a time, one play at a time, all the ones I like. I think is the most significant part about him is he is genuine. Because of that, that's why he is able to approach today as you see it.
I know you have seen about everything in your career, but do you sometimes have to pinch yourself that you are taking a team that has no tradition, no history and on the cusp of winning a playoff to the World Series?
I talked to the other guys about this, I really have not permitted myself to totally sit back and absorb all of that yet. But there's been some smaller moments that I may have had a little bit of a thought like that. And for me it's really exciting, obviously. It was exciting from day one to get an opportunity to manage this ball club and to work for him for the people that we have here. Having Andrew and Matthew and Jerry and all the group, I thought what a great place to get this thing going as a manager. Furthermore I've got to know the community and the area and the people, and then of course this great group of young baseball players. To me it's the perfect place to be.
So regards to the word tradition, I am a big believer in that. It's got to begin somewhere. I've read over this past season a book about Branch Rickey if you look at the St. Louis Cardinals in 1950 or so they were thought of less than the St. Louis Browns at that particular time. They could not get people to the ballpark. They didn't win their first World Series till I think '23 or '24 and eventually became the St. Louis Cardinals you know today. So you have to build tradition at some point. When I was reading that book I was thinking about us.
I know it's 2008. For us being caught in the middle of this growing right now it's hard for us to see that far into the future, obviously. But I try to look at it in that perspective. So for me this is the beginning of the Rays being an exceptional organization. And to be in on the ground floor, I'm very privileged and honored to be there.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.