The 2008 AL Manager of the Year hopes to lead the first team in MLB history to overcome a nine-game deficit in September and reach the postseason.
DAN PATRICK:Are you bothered by the media bias in favor of big-market East Coast teams like Boston and New York?
JOE MADDON: We've circled the wagons well down in Tampa Bay. It actually fuels us more than anything. I think playing in our division has made us better quicker. Back when I began here in 2006, we got beat up a little bit. But having our young guys play at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park ... what better places to grow up quickly? I think in some perverse way it's actually helped us.
DP:Do you care about winning Manager of the Year?
JM: Not really. I'm more concerned with Team of the Year. I'm just so proud of our group and how we fought back into this thing.
DP:What changed since the beginning of September when the Rays appeared to be out of the race?
JM: This may sound corny, but we never stopped believing that we could do this. The fact that we had to play the Red Sox and Yankees so often made it possible. When you see that schedule at the beginning of the season, you think, My God, that's not a really cool schedule. It's benefiting us that we're playing these guys so often late.
DP:Is there a baseball imprint on pitcher David Price's chest after he got hit by a line drive on Sunday against the Red Sox?
JM: He wanted to keep pitching, and we let him go out there for the next inning, but I could see he was getting stiff. I had to convince him the right thing to do was to not go back out there. He truly is a tough guy. They all are. I really enjoy being around our young guys.
DP:Are you goofy with your players?
JM: I do have a sense of humor, I believe. Those who pay attention get it. Those who do not, don't. We have some really funny characters on our coaching staff, spearheaded by our video coordinator, Chico Fernandez. I think I'm supposed to be more Ed McMahon than Johnny Carson.
DP:Did you sense panic in Boston?
JM: It was different. I was involved with the Angels in 1995 when we lost an 11-game lead. It was really awkward walking to the ballpark. There was a weight [on you]. Your legs didn't want to work. It's an odd life experience. When things are slipping like that, it can be really difficult. You need a couple of guys to lift that burden somehow. But it's hard to get that burden off you when you're feeling that heavy.
DP:Are you superstitious?
JM: No. I used to be. It's so hard: You have to remember everything you did the day before. I prefer forgetting what I did the day before.
DP:Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't change his underwear during their 12-game winning streak.
JM: That sounds gross. I can't go there. For me, maybe drinking the same bottle of wine night after night might be superstitious. But my underwear needs to be clean.
DP:What if I gave you a five-game winning streak, but you can't shower?
JM: I'll take it.
"What we've got right now is flag football. I didn't come away from the Patriots-Chargers game and go, Wow, that was incredible. Almost a thousand yards of offense? Can anybody play defense in the NFL?"
—CBS broadcaster Phil Simms after calling New England's 35--21 win over San Diego
Washington Redskins rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has a sack and an interception and is being described as a "high-motor guy"—a cliché often reserved for white pass rushers. "It's a double-edged sword," Kerrigan told me. "In a way it's like, that's the reason he's here. It's not because he's actually good at football or athletic."... Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner revealed that his thighs were 36 inches in circumference. I asked him the last time he bought pants in a store. "A long time ago," Turner said.... Texas coach Mack Brown told me conference realignment is too fluid to focus on during the season. "It's like having five girlfriends and trying to keep them all happy," Brown said. "I thought we would be in the Pac-12 last year."... Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden showed the nasty side of recruiting when he explained why he kept his 2007 prostate cancer diagnosis private until after he retired: "You can imagine one of our opponents saying, 'Son, don't go there. The guy is 77 and he's got cancer. He ain't going to be around another year.'"
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PATRICK)
MICHAEL HICKEY/US PRESSWIRE (KERRIGAN)
TODD KIRKLAND/ICON SMI (TURNER)
BEBETO MATTHEWS/AP (BOWDEN)
KIM KLEMENT/US PRESSWIRE (MADDON)