The Duffel Bag: A sports talk blog with Dale Duff

Quirky Maddon knows how to beat ‘the best team ever’

Posted Sept. 19, 2011, at 11:31 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 19, 2011, at 8:06 p.m.
Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, center, congratulates Ben Zobrist (18) and Casey Kotchman (11) after defeating the Boston Red Sox 4-3 at Fenway Park in Boston, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. The quirky Maddon was once a top candidate for the manager's position in Boston after Grady Little was fired.
Winslow Townson/AP
Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, center, congratulates Ben Zobrist (18) and Casey Kotchman (11) after defeating the Boston Red Sox 4-3 at Fenway Park in Boston, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. The quirky Maddon was once a top candidate for the manager's position in Boston after Grady Little was fired.

After watching the Red Sox and Rays bang heads at Fenway over the weekend I got to thinking… Wonder what it would have been like having Joe Maddon as Sox manager instead of Terry Francona.

It almost happened back in 2003!

I remember that time period. Grady Little had been fired. The replacement list: LA third base coach Glenn Hoffman, Texas first base coach DeMarlo Hale, Anaheim pitching coach Bud Black, Oakland bench coach Terry Francona and a guy named Joe Maddon, Anaheim bench coach.

I went back and read a Boston Globe account from the day (Dec. 4, 2003) the Sox named Francona as their guy. “Despite lingering interest in Anaheim bench coach Joe Maddon, the Sox gave indications they knew for days, if not weeks, that Francona was their man.”

Maddon went back to his bench coach job in Anaheim after being considered the second-leading candidate for the Sox job. “This came out of nowhere for me,” Maddon said to the Globe. “Theo and everyone else was wonderful throughout the process. It was a great experience for me. I hope to go out for a beer and some sushi with everyone when we come to Boston this year.”

Two years later Joe Maddon landed in Tampa Bay.

After two losing seasons, Maddon’s Rays have been right in the mix for four consecutive years. In fact, I think we’ve reached a point where Maddon is in the head of Theo, Tito and company. The Sox play the Rays like they’re walking on eggshells. Imagine, the second lowest payroll ($41 million), intimidating “the best team ever” (remember the Boston Herald headline on the Sox).

Some folks call Maddon “the mad scientist.” All those defensive shifts. Weird lineups. The juggling of the bullpen. Those “Elmer Fudd” flaps down hats he wears in cold weather. Drives me crazy. But it works!

For the record, I think Maddon would have been run out of New England by now had he gotten the Sox job in ’03. What do you think?

Wonder if he went out for a beer and sushi over the weekend.

ITEMS FROM THE DUFFEL BAG:

— Congrats to Winslow HS football coach Mike Siviski. 200 wins, 27 years at the same school. Very rare these days.

— Maine football coach Jack Cosgrove goes for win No. 100 next week when Delaware comes to town. I was in the broadcast booth down in Buffalo opening night in 1993 when he won his first one.

— Interesting to note that after beating UMaine last week, Pitt football lost to Iowa and former UMaine coach Kirk Ferentz. To this day, Kirk Ferentz remains one of my favorite coaches I’ve covered over the years.

— Husson football has given up 140 points in its first two games and national powerhouse Wesley College comes to town Saturday afternoon. Yikes! Got to give coach Sean Murphy and crew some time to turn things around.

— What happened with MMA’s rushing game Saturday — ONLY 391 yards against Mass-Dartmouth. There’s a great new website grantland.com (an ESPN venture).

Wonderful collection of work from great writers around the country. Check out

“Speed Chess” by Chuck Klosterman. Great stuff on MMA’s running game.

— If you can see only one high school soccer game this fall, Saturday’s Brunswick at Bangor boys game might be the one. Oh, how they’ve battled in recent years. We’ll have live coverage on AM 620 WZON at 11:45 a.m. Saturday!

Dale Duff is a sportscaster and program director at WZON radio in Bangor and is also a former news reporter and sports director of WLBZ-TV of Bangor.

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