Joe Maddon: Genius, innovator, schizophrenic, moron, stubborn.
Take your pick. Everyone else has.
It doesn’t matter to Maddon, who will not allow himself to be influenced by critics or the outcome of the Tampa Bay Rays biggest game of the season Tuesday night.
He will not change his ways.
It’s why the future of this franchise might not be in such dire straits as some believe when the payroll gets slashed next season.
Joe Maddon brought us his own brand of “Mad Ball,” and some believe it saved baseball and brought the Rays the best record in baseball.
It was created for teams that suffer from shrunken payrolls.
It gives hard hats and blue collar workers hope and enables small market teams to compete with those whose coffers resemble Fort Knox.
It’s shear madness, but also the great equalizer.
If you can’t afford the players who command salaries that dwarf your entire payroll, the alternative is to let Maddon take two or three of his Rays and a certain night against the right competition give them an opportunity to look like an Alex Rodriguez.
He will find a player’s strength no matter how microscopic and find the right time to use it.
Baseball is all about playing percentages. But Maddon throws in hunches and gut feelings. It’s a reason he changes lineups like people change their socks with 75 different versions in the Rays’ first 94 games.
He sometimes takes it to the extreme, like intentionally walking a batter with a runner on first while holding onto a one-run lead or putting a battered James Shields on the mound in Game 2 of the ALDS with Texas when a defeat would seem devastating.
Shields lost and everyone screamed, but Maddon saw what was on the other side of the mountain.
It often has people saying the Rays win in spite of him and leaving Maddon as the most popular dart board on the north side of the Skyway Bridge.
The man with the big rimmed glasses, who is often confused with Clark Kent or Spencer Tracy, lives in a field of dreams few have walked.
It is a world of numbers piled upon numbers where guessing becomes an art form.
Small market teams are proponents of Sabermetrics, a mathematical/philosophical way of evaluating potential that enables them to get the good out of players who are not all that good.
The Rays have adopted Maddonmetrics, an offshoot that defies logic and irritates fans.
Despite all the charts and statistics Maddon carries in his head, he has been known to throw them all out and lets his gut determine his next managerial move.
Numbers and Maddon are like an estranged couple that can’t live together or live without each other. He can twist and turn them to justify any hunch.
Sometimes Maddon goes to the extreme and does something that makes absolutely no sense such as inserting Rocco Baldelli in the starting lineup of the opening game of the ALDS.
He may have woken up that morning feeling charitable and gave Baldelli a moment under the sun believing his good will would in some way be rewarded when the Rays got to Texas.
It’s all part of knowing how to play “Mad Ball.”