My previous post considered the danger of having a “sales-report” type mentality when it comes to your relationship with God. Now I want to consider another fairly unique management style.
If know anything about the Tampa Bay Rays, you’ll know that they have to be one of the loosest teams in baseball. When they travel, they have themes: they all dress in some sort of themed attire. All of this flows from laid back manager Joe Maddon. After one of their losses against a struggling Toronto Blue Jays team, when the Rays almost came from behind to win, Maddon irritated a local sports talk by posing the question, “Aren’t you just so proud of our guys today?” They lost. “Aren’t you proud?” Really?
Yes, that is Joe Maddon, often known for his calm demeanor as “Merlow Joe.”
Joe’s relaxed ways haven’t been without results. In fact, after mired in myriad losing seasons, Joe’s Rays teams have been to the world series once and playoffs two other times, just missing out last year by a game or two.
But of course, it is the players who ultimately have to perform. And when they get to Tampa Bay (or rather St. Pete to be precise), perform they do. In fact, player after player comes to Tampa after previously under-preforming with other teams-which is actually why the Rays can afford them. And then something clicks.
Previous let-downs become All Stars. Fernando Rodney, who bounced around with several teams, had the best season ever for a closer last year. This has happened with relief pitchers on a yearly basis, but the same rings true for position players like James Loney. This 1st baseman should have been an all star and is now batting .318 after only posting a .230 mark last year. This happens over and over. It is not coincidence.
There is something to Maddon’s madness.
He told Loney, “Don’t worry about hitting home runs.” In other words, relax and just hit it where you hit it. Just be yourself out there. So Loney hits it wherever the pitch dictates.
This year Fernando Rodney started off very poorly. He gave up runs. He blew saves. He blew opportunities when he was up by several several runs, several different times. I was done with him. Maddon wasn’t, and much to many fan’s frustration.
Luke Scott, who under-performed last year as well, was again under-performing this year. I was done with him. Maddon wasn’t, much to the dismay of many media.
Now the two are playing fantastic and making a huge difference. They actually are performing.
But they had the freedom to fail. They had the freedom to not be obsessed with how they were performing. They weren’t afraid to get benched, sent down to the minors, or released. And it has made a huge difference. It does every year.
Maddon shows patience with struggling players, and it shows. They blow it sometimes. But they don’t fear losing their position on the team.
It drives me nuts sometimes as a fan, but Maddon gets more out of these players than anyone else does. In fact, when they go elsewhere to make more money, they usually once again, under-perform.
Now I’m not going to argue that God is laid back and loose with sin. He is Holy, Holy, Holy. But because He has paid the punishment of sin HIMSELF, we can now approach him and no longer fear about “under-performing” for Him. When that fear is taken away, what happens? We do end up “performing.” We do end up changing, loving, pursuing holiness. What happens when God is patient with us? We love him more and don’t use our freedom for selfish gain but instead to serve others (Gal 5:13). His kindness moves us to repentance (Romans 2:4). If it doesn’t, then you probably don’t understand His kindness.
Don’t think these Rays players don’t want to perform. But Joe knows in order for that to happen, they have to know that even if they don’t, they’re not going anywhere.
I think such is the case with our sanctification. As Steve Brown put it once, “The only ones who really get any ‘better’ are the ones who know if they never do, God will love them just as much.”