The Rays did the right thing locking up manager Joe Maddon for three more years through 2015, and also by getting it done before spring training to avoid even any spectre of a lame-duck situation. Of course, the Rays did the right thing. They always seem to.
Maddon's new three-year extension will be announced by the team today, and while the amount won't be divulged and may not be known for quite awhile, you have to know it's a good deal for Tampa. It's a good deal because Maddon may be the best manager in the game, but also because you know the Rays didn't set any new salary standard for the man who's done as good a job as anyone over the past four years. Maddon had a year to go at about $1.4 million, and industry speculation is that Maddon's new deal will pay him in the range of $2-3 million per year. (Rays GM Andrew Friedman declined to discuss the price, or the deal in any way before today's announcement, and they may in fact never divulge the money part).
The sides started talking about a new contract for Maddon way back in December, which was the safe thing to do it because even in cases where both sides want to get a deal done, you never know. They wanted to avoid a situation where Maddon's contract would be a story heading into spring. But mostly, of course, they wanted to ensure that Maddon would be their manager for many years. It's amazing they have made the playoffs three of the past four years in baseball's best division, and even more amazing they have won that division two of those years. It's uncanny how players seem to play better for Tampa under Maddon, and worse when they leave Tampa. The interesting, erudite Maddon sets the exact perfect tone. Rays people understand this.
Maddon and his bosses knew they had a good thing going. While Maddon splits winters between Tampa, California and his Pennsylvania hometown, he bought a house in South Tampa in the artsy part of town, perfect for him. He obviously appreciates the terrific job Friedman and Co. do of providing talent on a shoestring and has what's seen as the perfect owner-manager relationship with the low-key New Yorker Stu Sternberg.
The Rays do things their way, and it is turning out to be exactly the right way. Friedman operates without a contract and still turns down chances for bigger jobs in bigger markets (i.e. the Angels this winter). And Maddon gives up the chance to be the greatest free agent manager ever by signing a new deal with a year to go. It all works there to the point where you could see Maddon, Friedman and Sternberg staying together forever.