Winter Meetings interview with Joe Maddon

Q. Can you talk at all about Montero?

            JOE MADDON: Yeah, I can. Obviously that just happened. It's something that I have been talking about for a bit. Really gives us a solid presence in the catching position. This is a guy that has caught a lot of games, we were a little bit concerned about that, we wanted to try to be able to dole out the work as we moved forward.

            But for right now it's a tremendous new addition, it's a great first step building into this winter.

            I don't really know him personally, I played against him in interleague play, very prodigious offensive player. His catching skills are great. We're excited about it.

 

            Q. What can you say about the Lester sweepstakes? What role have you played?

            JOE MADDON: I hope we win it. My role has been to ‑‑ I spoke to him on the phone once. I've never spoken to Jon before that, adversarially with the Rays and the Red Sox for many years, always admired his work from a distance.

            This is a guy when the game is really big he was always at his best. To possibly get this opportunity to work with him for the first time is very exciting.

            So I honest to God don't know where this is at right now. I did talk to him before ‑‑ I think it was before Thanksgiving, actually. We had a great conversation, again, because I'd never really spoke with him before. It would be a gait boon to us to have this come off.

 

            Q. How hard is it to go up against the familiarity and comfort that Jon might feel still for Boston, and how different does it feel for you to be in a position where you're with the team, chasing a big name free agent that you might not have afforded before?

            JOE MADDON: Of course, having been with the Red Sox his whole career, and all the wonderful success he's had there, you would think it would be a difficult situation. Again, I can't speak to that personally.

            Like I said, as an opponent, he was always at his best when it seemed to matter the most. The thing I've always garnered from watching him pitch, if you're going to get this guy, it's one of these typically great pitchers, you want to get to him early, if you permit him to settle, you could be there the seventh or eighth inning.

            He's come through some physical issues, also. But can't have any more respect for a baseball player than we do for him now. For us to be able to pull this off it would be pretty outstanding.

 

            Q. Can you tell us more about the phone call, what did he ask you?

            JOE MADDON: Of course I can. It was a couple of weeks ago. It was just cordial, you know, just to get to know each other. Found out that he likes to hunt and fish.

            At that time I didn't know that Davey Martinez was going to be part of our staff. So now if he were to be with us now that Davey is there, we can line up these hunting trips on the road. As part of the Rays, our guys liked to hunt and fish a lot, like to shoot things. We would set things up on different road trips. Like a couple of years ago Wade Davis shot a black bear in Toronto prior to the playoffs.

            I thought that was outstanding. That gave me even more confidence putting him in a game, like in the seventh or eighth inning, facing a normal right‑handed hitter, he shot a black bear, 300‑pound black bear. I like when the guys do things like that.

            He relayed to me the fact that he likes to hunt and fish. I assured him that I don't, but I respect it.

            Otherwise we just talked about previous games and series and how this unfolded over the last couple of years, and how much respect I had for him. Pretty much like I talked about in game and how I thought he had a better game in progress.

 

            Q. Any sense for when this might happen?

            JOE MADDON: I don't. I'm sure it's not going to be much longer, I don't think that it would be, but I have no information or knowledge about that. You talk about it, you just wait for the white smoke.

 

            Q. What's this going to be in contrast instilling in Tampa Bay and this, how different is that going to be?

            JOE MADDON: I'm not viewing it as being any different, honestly. I think one of the primary differences to me, just looking at it coming in is that the guys that have been here have done a lot of the heavy lifting already, Theo and Jed and all the guys in the front office, Mr. Ricketts, the coaching staff, the scouts. They've done a lot of the heavy lifting. There's a lot of really good infrastructure already in place.

            From that perspective it's different than when we walked into Tampa Bay. But when it comes down to the implementation of what your philosophies are, it shouldn't be any different wherever you're working.

            We're going to try to get together to try to formulate a good Spring Training plan. When I talked to anybody the message is going to be pretty much the same. I mean, for me the biggest thing is to keep things simple, always. And I want a simple, clear message to the players. I think if you carry simple and clean message to the guys, you have a pretty good chance of getting something back positive in return. That's what I'm looking for.

            Again, believe me, you look at the Rays in the past from a distance, and everybody assumed complicated or complex or ground ‑‑ whatever. We were like really simple. I really would hope to bring the same kind of concepts to the Cubs. And I mean that sincerely.

            When it comes to base running, first and third, go to first and third, pitchers' defense, everybody talks about the same things. But how do you get it done more consistently among your group, that's the key. And that's what the focus is going to be on.

 

            Q. Can you sort of distill that message for us?

            JOE MADDON: I do tend to go "War and Peace" on you, is that what you're saying? Honestly, okay, before it ever gets to that, it's all about me building relationships with you and then you trusting me. And then we can have an exchange of ideas. That's it.

            So distill it, to bring it right down to the bare bones, those are the three things that happen first, before this other stuff makes sense to anybody. Everybody is going to talk about ‑‑ any manager is going to talk about Spring Training and getting the same things done. Everybody wants to say they want to go to the World Series. But what's the process in how to get there.

            The first three steps for me are relationship building, development of trust, and then at that point there, now we could honestly exchange ideas without any pushback or that what is he talking about kind of ‑‑ that's my main objective when I walk in the door, okay?

 

            Q. Wonderful.

            JOE MADDON: Thank you.

 

            Q. What kind of reaction have you gotten from the Cub fans?

            JOE MADDON: It's unbelievable. I was just recently ‑‑ you hear about it, I was in New York for the Lafayette‑Lehigh football game recently at Yankee Stadium, Lafayette won 27‑7, and I'm walking down the street in Times Square to go to this cocktail party. And it was a restaurant with the big windows and all of a sudden a bunch of people start pounding on the window from the inside out, they're all Cub fans, pointing at Cubs stuff.

            So you really get a sense or feel of that very fast. And even walking around Tampa, I get a lot of people approaching about the Cubs, and how much they're Cubs fans, and whatever.

            So I'm really eager to make a connection with all the Cubs fans. I think it's really important that we all ‑‑ talking about the players and the organization and the fans. And I think that's where I've been intellectually thinking about this all the way through, the fact that the World Series has not been there for a long time, I think that's intriguing. For that to occur it's about all of us getting on the same end of the stroke and pulling, and believing in the same stuff.

            I'm eager to see how all this plays out, I've never been in this kind of market before, but I think it's a great exercise and I'm really looking forward to it.

 

            Q. What was it about your relationship in Tampa Bay that worked so well?

            JOE MADDON: First of all, if you want to talk about that, I've talked about it briefly about ‑‑ it was baseball Camelot for about ten years. It started out with my interview with Andrew and Matthew in a hotel in Houston in 2005. The moment I interviewed with these two guys I knew I wanted to work there. And from there it was a real strong philosophical connection, in regards to how we should do this.

            Then, of course, I got to meet everybody else in the ownership, and Stu and all the other owners, and felt easily connected with all these people. Almost like fraternity brothers, that's exactly the feeling I got when I met these guys.

            We were definitely philosophically aligned, and socially, emotionally, there's a lot of connections there. So it was kind of easy to morph into what you eventually saw over the last nine years, tremendous group of people.

            Now, moving forward to the Cubs, I did interview for the Red Sox job in '04, when Theo got the job, and I got to meet Theo at that time and really felt a strong connection at that time, philosophically aligned.

            Being with the Cubs had nothing to do with anything other than the fact that I felt he and I could cohabitate together. And when it comes down to moving from a wonderful situation to another one, the primary objective, the real reason, is because you are aligned. And you know that you can work together. And you do see the world pretty much through the same lens.

            So I had that, I was very fortunate to have that in Tampa Bay for nine years, and I'm really looking forward to another decade here, hopefully doing the same thing, because I feel that same sense of connection with these guys.

 

            Q. Is it critical that both sides have the same philosophy?

            JOE MADDON: Again, we were just talking about, once you trust each other, then you can have an open exchange of ideas, and I believe that we trust each other. So you don't necessarily need to agree with each other, but at the end of the day you have to come to some kind of consensus. It should be about a good, healthy argument/discussion/disagreement that leads to better decisions.

            So I think in the optimal working situation that's what occurs. And I really believe that already I can see or sense or feel that here with the Cubs. I had that with the Rays. I'm feeling it already right here.

            Yeah, at the end of the day, though, you have to see ‑‑ what is that, to me it's a combination of the old school and the new school methods of baseball. Whether it's cyber metrics or data or if it's just going from first to third base or at some point reaching into your gut to bring in this pitcher against that hitter or something to that effect.

            I think it's a balance between both schools, and I know that I had that balance with the Rays, and I believe I'm going to have the same balance with the Cubs. So listen, man, once we know each other and we trust each other, then that's where this thing flows. And you definitely want to have disagreements, absolutely.

 

            Q. What strikes you about the roster that you're taking over? What do you see?

            JOE MADDON: Youth and athleticism. Unique hitting abilities for young players. In the game today there's kind of a dearth in offense, as we all know. I don't know the answer to that, either, other than just signing good hitters. I mean, because it's really hard to grow them. It's hard to come up with this physical panacea that's going to make you a good hitter all of a sudden.

            The thing that stands out to me are young players that really swing the bat well. There's athleticism, speed, defense overall pretty good.

            On the other side you're looking to augment the pitching, which we're trying to do that. I think the thing that jumps the most is youth here, youth on the way, more offensive than the average young group of players that I've seen over the last couple of years.

            And then, of course, the pitching, like I said, is good, but needs to get better.

 

            Q. You have the same approach that you had with your players in Tampa to move people around? Would you be reluctant if a guy said, I'm not comfortable doing that, and how have you dealt with that in the past?

            JOE MADDON: First of all, always talk to the guy in advance of doing something like that. So knowing in advance that you are comfortable with that.

            Then, of course, the game is an interesting game, even with the Rays, we did do a lot of different things, game in progress, take the DH out, started in the National League, even in the American League.

            When you have that kind of flexibility among your group, game in progress, permits you to do a lot of different things. You can do a lot of different things. When we're talking about behind mostly. When you're ahead you're normally not going to do a lot of crazy stuff, except to possibly augment your defense.

            I love players like that. It really expands your roster, it takes a 25‑man roster or a 13‑man bench and almost makes it 15 and 27 when you have this kind of versatility.

            Theo and I are on the same page. We've talked about that with Jed, those same kind of concepts or thoughts regarding expanded roles for players. It's really interesting when you can do that.

            The other thing is I don't think it necessarily bothers a player. I think people are too concerned sometimes that, well, it might impact this guy in his adjustment to the Big Leagues. A lot of times I think it could help his adjustment to the Big Leagues, it might take pressure off.

 

            Q. Does it help you to sell it when you have a guy like Zobrist, a guy flourishes at every position and everyone else goes, Why can't I help the team?

            JOE MADDON: The All‑Star Game a couple of years ago in 2009 I thought a super utility player, a utility player, it's a valuable position. A guy like Zobrist, you would play him every night. You could play them almost seven days a week or six days a week, and while you're doing that, you're giving other guys days off.

            And again, we spoke about the youth of the team. I'm still into giving guys days off, regardless of their birth certificate, because you want a fresh body and mind at the end of the season.

            The thing that I'm really eager and curious about is to figure out this day game stuff. 3:00 in the afternoon, what does that mean? We played that once last year. I don't know what it means or feels like over the course of a season. I guess you play more night games during the beginning of the week and more day games during the end. What does that mean? Travel. Hour‑plane flights, when is the right time to leave?

            These are some things I want to get some help with in regards to planning that may create a fresher player at the right moment. These are the things that are really piquing my interest more than anything right now.

            Once we get to Mesa and see the guys on the field and I'll figure out and get to see the kind of baseball players they are when you're in the dugout. But the other stuff is where you want to get on now and research and see if there's a common thread there that maybe has not been done before, that may be official.

 

            Q. It doesn't hurt to have Davey there. My question is: How important was it for you to have Davey come?

            JOE MADDON: It was very important. And again, that's not to denigrate any of the coaches that were there already, because I really had some great conversations with Brandon Hyde. He sounded like an interesting and young coach, and he's also a dirt bag from Long Beach State, which I totally respect.

            But Davey knows me in the dugout. I can tend to be kind of active. And like I told Brandon, I said, you probably would have caught up after two weeks or a month, but for right now I thought this was the right way to go for right now. And it was not a lack of respect for him whatsoever. He understood. He was really good about it.

            Davey is also able to have tough conversations. That's the thing I think that's really important when it comes down to teaching accountability, you have to have tough conversations. You can never run away from tough conversations. That's why they have respect for Davey, he was able to have tough conversations. You need it as a manager, you need those kind of guys that you can trust that has that conversation.

            So I felt very good and comfortable once he was on board.

 

            Q. Did you have any regrets at all about how this whole thing came down, I know there was some criticism here and there?

            JOE MADDON: Yeah, I understand that and I respect that, also. The thing that I only had to ‑‑ what I had to come to terms with was my availability. The only thing I could control is the fact that I had this opportunity to exercise a right to get out of my contract. Try to stay there for a bit. Didn't think it was going to work out the way I wanted it to. All I did was make myself available.

            I don't think it's my right or any manager's right to try to tell an organization how to run their organization; how they should view things, see things, or whatever. I think it was my responsibility or my opportunity to say, Here I am, I'm available. Just based on the rules. My rights.

            Very unique situation. And again, I didn't even know it existed until Andrew had left and I'm driving my RV and all of a sudden found out I had an opt‑out. I didn't know the parameters and all that stuff.

            So I had to think about it, and I thought about it and I tried to make the right decisions. And at the end of the day there is a selfish component to that, I'm not going to deny that. There is a selfish component. It's about my family. And the future of my kids and my grandkids, also. But it really came down to the point where I was able to exercise a right that permitted me to be available. And it was up to everybody else to do or say what they wanted to, I had no control over that.

 

            Q. (INAUDIBLE)

            JOE MADDON: You know, I'm more into them learning the Cubs' way of playing the game. I mean, listen, I grew up a Cardinal fan, I know there are people that hate me for that. It was a wonderful franchise. Milwaukee, great. Pittsburgh was kind of like my second team back when I was a kid. Cincinnati. Great stuff.

            But it's about us. I'm about circling the wagons, and it's about us and the coaching staff and our people teaching our methods to our guys. And we need to teach them the respect. Of course they're going to watch and learn and see. But at the end of the day it's about us developing our methodologies and promoting them into the future. And that's kind of what we did in Tampa Bay and that's what I'm interested in here.

            That's why you need those couple good clubhouse dudes that have been around a little bit and even within the coaching staff whether it's Davey or Hinske, because I had Ske with the Rays a couple years ago. And all the other coaches, Lester. They're there to do that. But you need that couple, two, maybe three guys on the roster, have been around a little bit, that helps mold those thoughts that you're talking about. I don't necessarily want to get them from somewhere else. They need to get them from us. And then, of course, observe and add on to it. I'm more interested in us developing the Cubs' methods more than anybody else's.

 

            Q. Have you talked that that's what you need?

            JOE MADDON: We were totally ‑‑

 

            Q. With those dudes?

            JOE MADDON: We were totally on board with that. We talked about that in that micro beach behind Cousin Eddie's. That was part of the conversation.

 

            Q. Getting back to Montero, what made him attractive to you?

            JOE MADDON: Obviously he's really good. I mean, his left‑handed bat, being a left‑handed hitter with his hitting ability. I know the seasons have been more sporadic. But he's an All‑Star caliber catcher. Beyond that, when it came to defense, very strong receiver, blocks and throws well. Researching‑wise, talking to other people that have been around him, very good with the pitching staff.

            But we can't deny the fact that being a left‑handed catcher with some thumb definitely is appealing.

 

            Q. (INAUDIBLE)

            JOE MADDON: Well, you're talking about the seventh inning pitcher ‑‑ I'm not necessarily into that as much as matching things up at leverage moments. To me, I don't want to just tell you that you're going to pitch the eighth inning every night, because there might be a better situation in the seventh than the eighth. You might have 3, 4, 5 coming up in the seventh, why would I not use you there? And then save you for 7, 8, 9, 1, whatever, just because.

            So for me it's more about leverage moments based on matchups. You may get to the point where you get three dudes that are totally neutral, they get both sides out well, and might be a matter of rest at that point. But with last year, you saw that Jake McGee coming in the eighth inning. I was not afraid to put Box in later in the game. It was a pretty good bullpen last year there, too.

            To me, if you have a defined closer, that's another thing. So if you have a defined closer that you're able to match this thing up a little bit more before that. But it's more about leverage moments to me as opposed to saying you're a sixth, seventh, or eighth inning guy.

 

            Q. (INAUDIBLE)

            JOE MADDON: Well, when we went to the World Series we really didn't have that guy. That's when Percy got hurt. He started out and eventually it was Balfour and J.P. Howell and those guys. They did a wonderful job. Chad Bradford, that kind of group right there.

            I'm not opposed to anything ‑‑ of course, you have like this wonderful slammer, I'd take it, absolutely. But if you don't, but you have like really quality arms that you could match up in the latter part of the inning, I'm good with that, too.

 

            Q. (INAUDIBLE)

            JOE MADDON: Andrew is outstanding. He's going to do really, really well. We've spoken a couple of times since he's been out there. It's weird, quite frankly, to not be connected right now. But he's really good at what he does. He's one of the best scouts I've ever been around at any age. Believe me, he'll evaluate it well, he's going to take his time. He'll do his thing out there. He's really good at all that stuff. For not having played professionally or whatever, it doesn't matter. When it comes down to breaking down, it's as good as it gets.

 

            Q. (INAUDIBLE)

            JOE MADDON: See, that's the thing, too, if the guys that he matches up with and they do well and they win, he's got his method, like we all do. So I would just trust it. He's really good. It's going to work.

 

            Q. What have you learned about Theo and Jed in the brief time you've spent with them since your initial meeting? Is there anything that stands out to you about something that's surprising or interesting that you didn't know?

            JOE MADDON: I can't think of anything that's surprising. It's kind of like validation kind of thing. Conversationally, sit with two guys in an RV and ‑‑ for six hours and have dinner, that was again a validation. You know the brightness. You know the passion, the planning, philosophical components of it. There was nothing new. Nothing revealing.

            I think it's interesting to see dynamic of the other, how well they work together is really interesting to watch. And again, talking about trust, I could see it just drips from that relationship. It's solid. In a meeting with those two guys up front and everybody is standing around, I think everybody easily follows because you know that it's all really well thought out. It's more of a validation of what I thought than anything surprising or new.

 

            Q. Validation going back to the interview in Boston?

            JOE MADDON: Yeah. Jed was in on that interview, too. It was at the Biltmore in Phoenix. I remember I bought a new suit at Mens Warehouse, I walked into it and sat down for a long time and they had questions, and had to prioritize different ‑‑ what's more important, how you use your bullpen, relating to the press, making a lineup. It was kind of an interesting exercise.

            It was a long day and we went out to dinner at Roy's afterwards up there in Scottsdale. It was an all‑day kind of a gig. By the end of the day I felt like I knew them pretty well. And I think they knew me at that time pretty well, too. It stuck that these are guys I could work with and for. Now I've seen them again. It's almost like no time had passed, it's one of those weird moments, it's very familiar.

 

            Q. How was the opportunity as the little team that could, how will that be different for you here, and will you miss that in any way?

            JOE MADDON: Who doesn't love the underdog? But I still have to lead the Cubs. Not having been in the World Series for such a long time, but I did, I really ‑‑ you like to beat the boys from the big city, there's no question about that. And now you're in the big city.

            From my perspective, as a human being growing up and being in this industry, it's kind of interesting to see what I think on this side. Because I don't know what I think. I do like urban. I love the city. I want to live downtown. I want to be with the people. So it goes beyond the actual going into this beautiful ballpark with this wonderful organization. It's also embracing a city, living in the big city, feeling what that's all about, also.

            It's interesting on so many different fronts, different. I mean, we still live in Tampa. We still have a house in Tampa. We're still going to live down there, we have businesses down there. We have a place called after Ava, A‑V‑A, inspired Italian, make sure you come down.

            It's two different situations, at the end of the day it's baseball. Playing the right way, trying to get your philosophy, points across and see if it plays in the big city.

            So that's my curiosity. And I'm really excited about it. I'm not just slightly excited. I'm very excited about it. And I know there's going to be bad moments, tough, bad losing streak and everybody is going to go crazy, that's what fans are supposed to do. At the end of the day if we stick to the program eventually we're going to come out on the other side and it will be a nice run.

 

            Q. Will it be tough to adjust to having all those fans in the ballpark?

            JOE MADDON: Ain't going there.

            Last year we were there and, you know, I like to stand on the top step ‑‑ that's the toughest part is the dugout. For me I like to stand up on the top step and it's kind of awkward in that dugout. I have to figure that out. I like to feel ‑‑ for me, to manage a game, I want to be up and out, so I can feel everything. I don't like the feeling of being in a dugout, sequestered and all of a sudden you walk out when something is going on, and all of a sudden you feel all of this stuff from behind. So I want to feel it the whole time.

            My point is with the Cubs fans last year, I had this ongoing conversation the whole game. It was tremendous. They were into the game, they get the game, they were great fans. From that perspective I'm eager to get to that full yard on a nightly basis. And I want to feel all this energy. It's going to be fun with all the improvements, like I said. And again, just the cathedral itself, it's a pretty unique spot to know what's happened over there over the last century or more, to me that's pretty special.