The excitement that hiring Joe Maddon has brought among Angel fans has been a breath of fresh air for a fan base that has been looking for any bright spot not named Trout.
Since Joe Maddon left Anaheim after the 2005 season he had to cultivate a philosophy that would work in both a small-market like Tampa Bay that had a plethora of young home-grown talent, but not much extra resources to improve a team through free agency.
Maddon was successful in Tampa Bay by building a culture where there was a great team chemistry. He seemed to know how fast to bring the kids in the farm system along and based his team philosophy on a similar parallel to the Mike Scioscia led teams from 2000-2009. Maddon built a solid starting rotation with a bullpen that was lights out despite not having many big names. He played a lot of small-ball, hit-and-runs, stealing basing, sacrifice bunts, suicide squeeze, basically anyway you could manufacture a run Maddon did it.
In addition Maddon made it a laid-back atmosphere not getting too bent out of shape when things went wrong and not get overconfident when things were going well. The Rays had a lot of hard-nosed Darin Erstad, David Eckstein, Chone Figgins type players. The Maddon Way worked very well for the Rays as they made the playoffs four times in eight seasons with the Rays including guiding them to their first World Series in 2008.
Maddon moved on to Ann even bigger challenge in some ways which was to the North Side of Chicago to the home of the lovable losers the Chicago Cubs. Maddon’s task was to guide this talented group of young players with a few high-priced veterans and make them into a playoff team and hopefully one that would break the Cubs 100+ year curse.
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Maddon waved his magic wand and sprinkled some fairy dust and all of the sudden the Cubs were winning the World Series. Actually, Maddon was very calculated he made sure to mix the young players with the veterans and his first thing (which will be similar for the Angels) was getting the team to believe they outdoor do it. Again team chemistry was a big part of Maddon’s philosophy.
However, he plugged in veterans such as Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler, David Ross, and Jason Heyward in key spots and relied on their experience, while bringing the young stars along Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Wilson Contreras, Javier Baez, and Addison Russell.
The pitching staff was anchored by a couple of playoff veterans in Jon Lester and John Lackey and mixed it with younger starters Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta and he did the same in the bullpen. The Cubs had that hunger to break the curse and Maddon made the atmosphere loose enough that nothing seemed to phase this team even in the midst of the jinx talk.
With the Angels, Maddon will have a good foundation on offense with Mike Trout, Justin Upton, and Albert Pujols giving the veteran leadership along with Andrelton Simmons and possibly Kole Calhoun. Then there will be the youth will be guys like Luis Rengifo, David Fletcher, Matt Thaiss, possibly Jo Adell and Taylor Ward.
The bullpen has a lot of strong pieces in Hansel Robles, Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton, Ty Buttrey, Justin Anderson, and Noe Ramirez. All are pretty young other than Bedrosian, but he is not that old either as he is only 28.
The Starting rotation has some young developing talent in Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, and Shohei Ohtani to go along with Andrew Heaney and possibly Felix Pena. This is the area where the team needs to improve and will probably do so in free agency. It will be a necessity to add some pitching in order to compete in the AL West. If you give Maddon enough tools he will find a way to make things work.
The best thing about Maddon’s Way is his leadership and demeanor. He shows emotion at times, but not to excess, and e likes to have fun as well making it a looser clubhouse atmosphere. This should fit the Angel players mentality. Maddon’s best skill may be the way he is able to relate to his players.
So get ready Angel fans for Maddon’s Way hopefully it will be a fun ride.