Winter Meetings 2013: Rays manager Joe Maddon press conference highlights

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The challenge of writing a “Highlights of the Joe Maddon Press Conference” story is that pretty much everything that Joe Maddon says during his press conferences can be considered a highlight. Yeah, Joe Maddon is that awesome. But since you probably don’t want to read 6000 words of quotes from the Tampa Bay Rays’  manager, here are some of the highlights from Monday afternoon’s media press conference at the Winter Meetings in Orlando. Warning: contains large doses of thoughtfulness, insight and self-awareness. Proceed with caution.

On the prospects of ace David Price being traded:

“It's never a good thought to lose a player like that, but the potential thought of losing a player like that, we went through the same thing last year with James. James Shields was the same kind of a pitcher, and same kind of a player within the clubhouse and the locker room. What I've heard is, obviously, what everybody else is hearing, there is a lot of conjecture and talk about it. When you lose a player of that magnitude, not just the fact that he's such a good pitcher, but this guy, and you guys are around him all the time, matters a lot to the clubhouse and to the team. Having said all those things, and again, this is how we have to operate within our little world. So if it were to happen, it's one of those that's almost the word devastating in a sense, but we have to recover from those kind of moments if it does actually occur….Guys like him are rare. David is a rare person and a rare pitcher, and from a managerial perspective, we like to keep those kind of guys.”

On looking towards next season with a rotation without David Price:

“Honestly, listen, I've been in an RV for a month. I just saw my grandkids in Arizona, hung out in Long Beach for about a week. I mean this sincerely, I really put it down. I'm pretty good at putting it down. I think it's important to put it down. I talked to Andrew a lot about the different potential scenarios regarding next season. But honest to God, I've really not gone into that.”

On Jacoby Ellsbury leaving Boston and signing with the Yankees:

“Well, the division's done well. I mean, the Yankees lost a pretty good player. They gained a good player right there. Boston lost a good player with Ellsbury, but they have nice people in his place also. I don't know. It's almost like kind of a push feel to the whole thing, I think. Both of them will be really good again. I think a lot of it would speak to the interdynamic clubhouse situation in Boston and how that's going to be impacted. I don't even know how Ellsbury impacts that clubhouse. I have no idea. Losing Cano, and then he comes into New York. A lot of the behind the scenes stuff to me is the most interesting part of that. You know what they're like as players and what with you pretty much expect to perform on the field. But I don't know what the dynamic is inside the building, and that is really important too. Ellsbury, I think, is going to show more power, obviously, because he can throw the ball.  He can get into the right center spot, so his home runs will probably come back up again…I'm a big believer in the chemistry component, which I believe can be nurtured. People believe it only occurs after you win. I thought last year in spring training when the Red Sox got Jon [Jonny Gomes] and Napoli, and Victorino, I thought that would make a huge difference in that group based on that. So that to me is the interesting part of all this maneuvering is what does it do inside that building, because that can really reflect how well they play.”

On the Rays’ closer situation with former closer Fernando Rodney now a free agent:

“We won't declare the closer. We'll find that out come spring training. But [Heath Bell is] very capable of pitching the ninth inning. Joel Peralta has done a nice job, Jake McGee is knocking on the door. So we have all kinds of potential guys to do that. But I'm not going to say so and so is the closer right now. We're into the high leverage moment. Said the same thing a couple years ago, you know that with Farnsworth, and he nailed it. Well, Fernando nailed it because Kyle got hurt. Kyle gets hurt, Fernando was there and he stepped in. Because I had the same conversation with him during that spring training in our meetings where we told Fernando, listen, you're going to pitch late in the game. I can't say specifically the ninth inning all the time, but then it became that. So it can become that, but I'm not going to say necessarily that's what it is right now.”

On the challenge of having to operate within limitations presented by the Rays:

“Grew up that way, you know? So I do embrace it. I kind of enjoy it. The intellectual process that we have to go through on an annual basis to be good, to me, is very exciting. To not just have an open locker full of money to buy exactly what you need is okay because then you have to ‑‑ necessity being the mother of invention, you've got to try to figure out these other avenues to get the same thing done. I think there is a little bit of purity involved in that. There is more of a pure sense in regards to the game and how it should be played. So for a lot of different reasons I've often talked about working where I work to me is the best job in all of Major League Baseball. Managing this particular team is the best job in all of Major League Baseball regardless of money or salary. Just the people I work with upstairs and how we go about all of this every year is exciting and it's interesting and it's challenging, and it's all those things that every year should be. I would never want to be in a situation where you became so complacent and that you just show up and write the same nine names in the same nine spots every day. That would be no fun whatsoever. That would stink. But I do enjoy and we enjoy the mental gymnastics we go through on a daily basis.”

On organizations that value and integrate both chemistry and advanced metrics:

“The Red Sox are a great example. I'll say it again what happened this last year. They're involved deeply into the metrics. All of a sudden, they get the balance they needed in the clubhouse, and boom, they take off and they were fantastic this season. For the group that doesn't believe it's important, it's one of those ‑‑ I've always believed this and this is my opinion. I believe if you've never done it before, you say that it can't be done or how do you do that? How do you create chemistry? If you've never done it before, of course you're going to have that attitude because you just don't know how to do it. So for me that's something since the mid‑'80s I've been aware of.

I've often talked about the conversation with Gene Mauch. I was in the instructional league in 1984, I think it was. He came walking up to me and I'm doing my thing in the batting cages, doing my daily work. He walks up and doing really well. He says to me you've created a great atmosphere around here. I said thank you. I had no idea what he was talking about. I had zero idea what he was talking about. But Gene said that to me. After that day I go home and I'm thinking, what is he talking about? What am I doing here? What are you doing here? And I think if you're really cognizant of what you're doing and try to break it down, what we were doing was relationships, the communication, the trust was really high.”

On developing and building trust and relationships within organizations:

Why can't you intentionally create relationship building on an annual basis? Why can't you really work to nurture trust? The point is, once you've done that, we could be constructively critical of one another. If you don't trust me, I don't trust you, there is no exchange of an idea in a way that's going to be beneficial eventually. So that's what Gene Mauch taught me that one day. So my point is I think these things can be nurtured. I really do. It's not easy. A lot of times you're going to be told you're wrong, you're full of it, whatever. If you're strong enough to stick to it, you can get it done.”

On the importance of balance and taking time off during the off-season:

“I'm not the guy that sits around writing lineups all winter long because we change it every night anyway, so why even spend all that much in brain cells. I really do believe in balance and balance in life. I believe it's important for me to step away and recharge my batteries, because the season is long.”

Photo via Amanda Rykoff