Bruce Springsteen looked over Joe Maddon’s shoulder during a postgame press conference the other night. Not the real Bruce. Who knows where he was at the time. Not at Tropicana Field as far as anyone knew.This was the Bruce Springsteen featured on the cover of his album, “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.” It was Springsteen’s second album, and it’s still considered one of his best. Normally, it’s framed and hangs on the wall of Maddon’s office inside the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse. It was moved this night so it would appear on camera while Maddon answered questions.Just giving some love to his boy, Maddon said, The Boss. Maddon is The Boss around the Trop, despite what the current major league standings say, and the Rays are about to show him some love, too.Maddon has agreed to a three-year contract extension that will keep the wine flowing at the Trop through the 2012 season.Maddon wouldn’t comment on the news, nor would vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman, who was at the SEC baseball tournament hopefully searching for the Rays catcher of the future.The deal has not been finalized, but is expected to be in the next week or so.It seemed odd to some that Maddon would begin defense of the American League pennant in the final year of his contract. Most managers like the security of at least another year on their current deal. It helps back their authority in the clubhouse, especially on a team that is not playing up to expectations.We say “we,” because Maddon is not like most managers. Didn’t bother him that he was working without that safety net. Didn’t stop him from saying he wants to stay in Tampa Bay for a long, long time. Maddon always knew owner Stuart Sternberg and the front office would do the right thing.Keeping Maddon in Rays blue for three more seasons after this one is a good move.You can point to the trade that brought pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop here before last season as the big move that helped the Rays reach the World Series. You can point to the day the Rays drafted third baseman Evan Longoria or the moment Greg Norton injured his knee in spring training of 2007, an injury that opened a roster spot for the freshly cut Carlos Peña, as landmark moments in the Rays post-Naimoli history.None, though, were bigger than the day Maddon signed on.The Rays took a chance on the career coach before the 2006 season, and the career coach took a chance on a rookie owner and his rookie front office that promised growth through a rich farm system and shrewd deals.It was Maddon, saddled with an awful bullpen and a collection of mostly spare parts that first season, who had to face the cameras every night and explain better times were ahead.It was Maddon who rolled up his sleeves and went about changing the culture of a clubhouse that was firmly set on losing. He got the players to believe in themselves and slowly, he got everyone else to believe in his team, too.Maddon sat behind his desk days before last year’s All-Star Break and talked about what the Rays run to the top of the division meant to him. It was so satisfying, he said.Maddon started with the worst team in baseball. He took it to the World Series.Like Bruce sings, “These are better days.”It’s time to pay the man.
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