I have to hand it to Joe Maddon, the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays and a college classmate of mine.
Joe guided the once lowly Rays to the American League championship, which is remarkable all by itself. But more amazingly, he achieved this feat with the second lowest payroll in baseball.
Out of the 30 teams, Tampa Bay ranked 29th with $43,422,997 in player salaries. Only the Florida Marlins pay less with $22,650,000.
The New York Yankees, as always, were tops in 2008 with a staggering payroll $207, 108,489– and look where that got them. The Mets, who choked again in the stretch, came in second with $137, 391, 376, followed closely by the Detroit Tigers, $137, 290, 196.
The Tigers had mightily beefed up on expensive free agents this year and many baseball experts predicted they would finish first in their division. They weren’t even contenders.
So what does this prove? The obvious answer is that money doesn’t necessarily ensure high-quality performance. The Yankees have squandered millions of dollars on aging veterans as well as a baseball luxury tax that, once this year’s bill comes due, will increase the team total to something in the neighborhood of $150 million for the last six years.
That’s obscene, especially since the Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2000 when they beat the Mets.
But that’s not all this proves. It also proves what a good manager Maddon is and how important strong people skills are in moving an organization forward. And by organization, I don’t just mean baseball. I’m taking about all places of work.
Look at the money issue this way. Richard Fuld, who ran Lehman Brothers into the ground made $71.9 million in total pay, or roughly the equivalent of the San Diego Padres ENTIRE payroll, which ranked 19th in compensation among teams.
The Rays success didn’t happen by magic. Good decision making and good communication had to be essential ingredients to get got the best out of a team of mostly young, but talented players. As a matter of fact, Tampa Bay’s average age is 27.7, making it the fifth youngest team in the Majors.
It’s a leadershp lesson for all bosses to follow. And Maddon was always a leader, going way back to his days as a catcher at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa.
Maddon and I were both in the class of ’76 and lived on the same dorm floor in our freshman year. I remember him as an outgoing friendly guy who was mature beyond his years.
Way to go, Joe. Congratulations.