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Could Joe Maddon have managed the Washington Nationals?

You have to wonder if Joe Maddon had left the Tampa Bay Rays a year earlier – when the Washington Nationals had an opening for a manager – if he would have wound up in the Nats dugout.

But the Nationals have a manager – Matt Williams. Though he may have had a postseason meltdown, he was just named Sporting News National League Manager of the Year, and will likely win the same honor from the Baseball Writer’s Association of America.

Still, everyone has speculated that about 27 or 28 major league teams – most with managers – would take their guy for Maddon, one of the most respected managers in baseball.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and Joe Maddon are good friends, going back to when Maddon was Rizzo’s minor league manager in 1982. Maddon told me this story when I was doing a profile of Rizzo for Cigar Aficionado magazine.

“Joe Maddon, his former manager at Class A Salem in 1982, describes Rizzo as ‘the kind of guy who would fight for you and literally did.’ Rizzo was in the middle of a legendary minor league brawl in Salem. ‘We were playing the Bend Phillies, and I think it was the home opener,’ Maddon said. ‘There was a play at the plate and a fight broke out, and he was pushing the whole pile up against the backstop and had somebody pinned up against the fence. It was not a push-everybody-around-the-field baseball fight. It was a tough, real fight. And I must say, he thoroughly enjoyed it. He was never afraid.’”

They remain close, and Rizzo would have likely wanted Maddon to take the Nats job. But that doesn’t mean he would have gotten it.

It’s unlikely the Lerners would have paid Maddon the kind of money he will get — $4 million to $5 million a year for 3-5 years, most likely.

The Lerners don’t pay managers. The only one they paid that kind of money to was Davey Johnson in 2012, and you saw that lasted one year. Matt Williams doesn’t make that kind of money.

So Joe Maddon in Washington, under any circumstances? Not likely.

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