Joseph John Madden, manager of your Tampa Bay Rays. He just inspires confidence, doesn’t he folks? Look at him! How secure would you have to be to dress that way? OK, the truth is, of course, that this isn’t Joe’s normal look. It was part of a team dress code implemented for a recent road trip, done in honor of baseball writer extraordinaire Ken Rosenthal. And how did the team respond?
This is just one example of how Joe runs his team a little differently that others. His managerial style produces results, a great culture, and loyalty in a sport that sometimes finds it in short supply. So, outside of becoming a major league baseball manager yourself, what can you learn from Joe?
Sometimes you have to leave the nest if you really want to fly.
Joe spent 31 years in the Los Angles Angels of Anaheim organization, six of them as a minor league manager. As Mike Scioscia has been the manager of the Angels major league club since 2000 (despite his tragic illness), there wasn’t much of an opportunity for Joe to advance. He may not have been given a shot regardless, as his teams had a losing record in all six years.
But Joe was, and is, a well respected “baseball man,” and in 2004 was a close runner up to Terry Francona in getting the big job with the Boston Red Sox. (Francona led the team to two World Series titles, so I guess they made the right choice.) In 2006, the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays tapped him on the shoulder to manage their woeful team. He has turned them into a contender, and has a winning record for his tenure, as well as three first place finishes while sharing a division with the Red Sox and the Yankees.
Would he have gotten a chance in Anaheim? Maybe. He was 27-24 in two short stints as interm manager for them, but both times the long term gig went to someone else. In the end, so did Joe. After a long time honing his craft, he left for the opportunity to grow elsewhere. Sometimes that’s what it takes.
It’s never too late to get your shot.
Joe spent four years as a catcher in the minors. He collected 514 at-bats, and never reached AA ball.
Joe got his first managing job in 1981. His team went 27-43.
Joe got his first full time major league gig at 52, 25 years after his first season. Imagine getting your first shot at the big dance that late in your career. You know how Joe got that job? By being patient. By learning. By going in every day and working to get better.
How many players, coaches and managers have hung up their spikes before getting that call? How long are you willing to wait for yours?
Fun is not a four letter word.
Look at the picture again. Are you willing to put yourself in the line of fire that way? Imagine how Joe would have felt had the rest of the team shown up in their traditional sport coat and slacks look.
I have a feeling he would have been just fine with it. Joe embodies the old phrase, “Take your work seriously and yourself lightly.” His method is to celebrate a win for 30 minutes, mourn a loss for the same amount. Then you’re done. Move on. And the “moving on” includes going back to the team’s natural state of enjoying being together.
That’s not an accident.
That said, you shouldn’t try to be Joe Madden. That’s not the point. The point is Joe is Joe, and everybody knows it.
So you be you. It’s the role you know best.