Despite all the names missing from the lineup due to injuries — Evan Longoria, Kyle Farnsworth, Jeff Niemann, Desmond Jennings — the team hasn’t missed a beat, thanks in large part to their manager’s steady influence.
“Steady,” however, is a word rarely used to describe Maddon’s in-game strategies. “Radical” might be more appropriate. The Rays’ skipper is notorious for his wild shifts against lefties (and righties), his willingness to play four outfielders at times and even walk players with the bases loaded if he sees fit.
It’s a strange formula, but appears to be one that works for the Rays. It just goes to show the impact that a manager can have on his team, overseeing the day-to-day of a 162-game baseball season that can be a grind at times. In addition to the defensive alignments, a manager is also responsible for managing the pitchers, going to the bullpen at the right time, creating the lineups and much more.
Their impact sometimes goes unnoticed when everything is smooth sailing and is overblown when things don’t go as planned, but make no mistake: a manager can win and lose ballgames. At some point, surely, the talent of a ballclub shines through, and there’s a limit to what good coaching can do. Where do you draw that line?