Maddon's 'team first' approach has sunk in with Cubs

Maddon's 'team first' approach has sunk in with Cubs

CINCINNATI -- When Theo Epstein joined the Cubs as president of baseball operations in October 2011, one of the first things he did was create a manual defining the "Cubs' Way" that outlined how they wanted to teach the game in the organization. This year, manager Joe Maddon's emphasis has been on elements that need to be added, such as checking one's ego at the door.

The Cubs' focus on "team first" has helped propel them to a Wild Card spot as much as the physical talent on the roster, and Maddon credited veteran players such as David Ross and Jake Arrieta for enforcing that.

"I like to believe we're flipping that [attitude], and we'll feel this for the next several years," Maddon said Thursday, "but you cannot take it for granted on an annual basis. You have to continue to nurture it, and what's the best way to do that? By having the appropriate veterans in the clubhouse, or you get guys who are ascending for the first time, and they'll carry the message and they'll become the young veterans who will eventually teach the 'Cubs' Way' -- the way we want to do things here based on this year. That's the cool part about it."

It took Maddon two years to get the Rays to the playoffs. He's guided the Cubs there in his first season at the helm, and he's quick to credit the coaching staff and players.

"In a sense, you have to subjugate your own numbers for that altruistic method of being part of a team," Maddon said. "I think a lot of guys haven't been in that position before and like what's going on now. I totally believe the veterans on this team help a lot in regards to making that play."

It took some time for Maddon to change the Rays' culture.

"That was the biggest rap publicly [with the Rays] was that some people thought I was too positive," he said. "I can live with that."

Extra bases

• September was quite the month for the Cubs. They finished 19-9, the best record in the Majors, and it's the first time they've won that many games in the month since September 2003 (19-8). Starlin Castro led the Majors with a .426 batting average, while Jake Arrieta went 4-0 with a 0.45 ERA in five starts. Arrieta's ERA is the lowest by any pitcher in September since the Twins' Johan Santana posted a 0.45 ERA in 2004.

Kris Bryant ranked third in the NL with 36 hits, the most by a Cubs rookie in September since Shawon Dunston had 37 in 1985. Bryant's 19 RBIs in September were the second most by a Cubs rookie for the month in franchise history, behind Rray Grimes, who drove in 22 in 1921.

• After Wednesday's game, "Entourage" actor Adrian Grenier and his group joined in the handshake line to celebrate the Cubs' win over the Reds. Grenier was in Cincinnati to film a movie with Bruce Willis. Grenier's entourage also got to watch the Cubs' post-win clubhouse celebration.

"They're really nice people, big baseball fans," Maddon said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.