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Maddon Channels His Inner Phil Jackson

Anyone who follows the NBA has probably read far too much about how Bulls turned Lakers coach and championship kingmaker Phil Jackson tries to use various Zen philosophies in approaching his team and molding players' attitudes and, as a result, their performances.

Well, Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon may be giving Jackson a new-aged run for his money.

In the immediate aftermath of the largest comeback in an elimination game in MLB history last night, the Rays head man put on his most comfortable sweatshirt and took the mic at a post-game press conference, promptly saying all of the right things about turning the page and winning just one of two games Tampa Bay has coming to it at home, at least according to these Maddon quotes from the Tampa Tribune's Joe Henderson:

"If we had won it, we'd be in the World Series by now. We'll just have to wait one more day, hopefully, to get that done. Listen. It is what it is. I don't dwell on it. Nobody feels worse than the guys out of our bullpen right now. Nobody feels worse. They've done a tremendous job all year. I thought we played a great game.

"They just came back and beat us tonight. That happens sometimes. We're going to go home, take tomorrow off and come back, and [James] Shields will pitch in Game No. 6. But you can't dwell on it. Again, we'll lose for a half-hour or so, and then we'll move on. We have another game to play."

It's easy for anyone to say the right things, the trick for Maddon will be getting his team to believe it. After a disappointing Game 1 loss in St. Petersburg, Maddon told his coaches to go out and "touch" their players so they could get a feel on their mindset. Maddon won't get a chance at such a hands-on approach this time, with a day off today -- and the manager said his team wouldn't work out -- before tomorrow's Game 6 showdown in Florida.

Unlike the aftermath of the Game 1 loss, the Tampa area press has been appropriately scathing of the Rays' collapse today (for the record, the choicest words were right here). Between a majority of the Florida press treating the loss like a Three Mile Island reactor breach and the near-constant replay of a spliced combination of David Ortiz's homer, J.D. Drew's homer and double and Coco Crisp's game-tying single, the comeback has been almost impossible to escape some 16 hours after it finished.

From the day Maddon arrived in Tampa Bay from his stint as a bench coach for Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, he's been an unrestrained positive influence. His 2008 team mirrors his enthusiasm and drive, and the only time players he's disciplined have hit the bench for a lack of hustle (Upton, cough cough, Upton).

Still, there are walk-off losses and then there's what happened Thursday night. Maddon has been able to convince his players that they can shrug off losses, but he's never had to convince them to forget a horror scene they can't escape on television, radio and the internet everywhere.

It's possible that the Rays will channel their coach's enthusiasm and quickly make people forget last night in Game 6 by battering Beckett. It's possible that the Red Sox bats really have awakened just in time again, setting the stage for a Boston slugfest in the Tropicana Dome like we saw back on September 15.

After all, last night proved that anything is possible. Maybe Maddon ought to give Jackson a call, if he's got the number. He's certainly doing his best impression below, which is important after a night in which he didn't have his best night making pitching decisions.:






By Cameron Smith  |  October 17, 2008; 3:23 PM ET
Categories:  Rays , Red Sox  
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