Maddon interview on Cubs' workout day

Maddon interview on Cubs' workout day

Joe Maddon, Cubs' workout day

Q. First of all, was the breakfast at Wrigley your definition of home cooking? And speaking of home cooking, you've talked a lot about playing here in front of these fans, if you could expand on that a little bit.

JOE MADDON: It was actually breakfast on Wrigley. It was outstanding. Our guys killed it. They killed it. They exceeded expectations, and furthermore, it's my first trip to the catacombs. This is outstanding. (Laughter.) Expecting Gregorian chants as you walk in this place. This is beautiful.

Yeah, I mean, listen, to get back home and be able to play in front of our fans is really a unique experience for me, obviously, and for a lot of our players. I could feel the excitement within the city.

Again, I say it maybe too often, but I feel really fortunate to be a part of this moment, so I think it's going to be a wonderful, whatever, afternoon or early evening. We don't know what it's going to be yet tomorrow, but very exciting.

Q. You've just led this team to two of its biggest victories in the past 10 years. What are you expecting tomorrow, especially given how crazy Wrigleyville was on Wednesday during the Wild Card Game?

JOE MADDON: Well, to imagine it being crazier is difficult because we're kind of like that almost nightly. We don't get to really observe what's going on outside the walls, but I know that it's pretty raucous regardless. You can only fit so many people in here, and they're always -- our fans are always the same way. From our perspective I think it should be somewhat business as usual regarding the fans. The other day in Pittsburgh it was outstanding, the last couple days in St. Louis, that's playoff baseball, man. It's fabulous stuff. It's what you work for when you report to Spring Training.

But again, it's a unique situation here with the Cubs and at Wrigley Field. It's kind of like this almost every night.

Q. You've talked about Starlin before, just the year he's had and the transition he's gone through. Can you comment a little bit more about what he's been doing for you of late?

JOE MADDON: Well, I was just talking to some of the guys in the dugout. I consider him one of the best teammates they've been around. What he's done this year and how he's transformed from a shortstop, All-Star shortstop into a guy that's really -- could turn into the same thing at second base, the way he's hitting the baseball. Again, he's playing with a lot of energy. He's all for everybody else on the team. I mean that sincerely. I watch it, been impressed. His baserunning, everything has gotten better. Everything has gotten better. But more than anything, I really believe his main objective every day is that we win. When he was not playing we went through the transition, he didn't cry, he didn't cry to me personally. He took it properly. He did something about it. What's not to like about this guy? He's a really, really outstanding teammate.

Q. Do you feel like you've become America's team?

JOE MADDON: Become a what?

Q. Do you feel you've become America's team?

JOE MADDON: Well, hmm, I don't know. I never even thought about that. I know that we get a lot of support. We're on TV a lot. It's a lot more easy to see us. I just like the way we're playing. If people are interested or really getting involved with us, obviously a lot of it has to do with our young players. I think we have a lot of charismatic young players that are attempting to play the game properly. I don't think you've heard one excuse from any of them. They're very accountable. All of that, and then of course the candle on the cake right now is the season Jake has put together. I think he draws a lot of attention towards us.

So I think it's a combination of the youth and maybe one spectacular season out of a pitcher that's really put the spotlight here. And beyond that, the city itself. I mean, when you're opposition and you get a chance to go play in Chicago, you always look forward to that moment just to come to the city. In the other division we oftentimes only came here once a year, and we didn't like that. We wanted to come more often. Last year we came to play the Cubs and the White Sox, and I thought that was great.

So I think it starts with the city itself, the people, and then of course this ballpark and the franchise, but then more specifically our young players that I believe are charismatic, and they do portray well.

And then Jake is the guy that's really attracting the attention.

Q. We all know the stats that Jake has put together, especially in the second half. I wonder if you could describe what you've seen from him beyond the numbers in the second half as he's put this run together, whether it be poise on the mound or how he prepares, and could you tell us what the clubhouse is like and if it's different on the days he starts?

JOE MADDON: Well, I mean, I've watched him since Spring Training. I'd heard about it, but then I've been watching him, and truly his workout routine is different. He's just different. I mean, a lot of guys work out diligently and are very good at it and they're very conscientious, but I have not seen what he does, the combination of pilates and yoga and everything else that he might do, the weights and just running and he just never seems to sweat. When you watch him on the mound, the poise or the focus is incredible. It really is. He's had some moments this year where you could see that he's maybe taken aback just a little bit, but he's able to regather and get back into the moment.

It's just different to watch, and you're seeing the performance. It's just that it's at a different level, and I think that really starts with his workout and the level that that starts at.

The clubhouse, gosh, it's hard to tell. Our guys are pretty much the same every day. I don't really hang out in the clubhouse that much. It's the players' room. I stay in my own little corner, stay out of their way. But I really pretty much get the same vibe out of our group regardless of who's pitching.

Q. We've seen the cheetah, the boar's head, the omelette station, the magician. When did you start to feel comfortable just through your managing journey as far as striking the right balance between all those things and having the bunt defense drills last week and the bunting that paid off last night?

JOE MADDON: Well, even you go back to Spring Training, you guys were there, I don't shy away from a whole lot of things, and really you just look for the right moment. Like in Spring Training I didn't like the way we were doing fundamentals at all, zero, and that was early, and that's when I went to the instructional league. Everybody gets in a line, we practice cutoffs and relays in a line, like to the point of absurdness, but I thought that the point had to be made that you have to do these little things right and well, and you have to make that stand early. You don't want to be the knee-jerk after you've done it poorly for a while, then all of a sudden you bear down and it becomes punitive. You want to be in advance of those moments. Everything becomes in advance.

Now, you're talking about the baseball component, whether it's bunting, bunt defense, it's pitcher's defense, whatever, everybody, I think, tries to stay in advance of the moment. The other stuff that I do, I try to plot it out during the course of the season and try to pick the right times, the timing of it. Sometimes probably the best times is when things aren't going so well sometimes, but then when it meshes, like the trip back for Jake Snyder could not have been a better moment as an example, so these are things I think about in the offseason, and sometimes it is extemporaneous and it'll just pop, like this breakfast thing. That just popped the other day.

But, you know, part of it is, too, the camaraderie component, the bringing the group together, and having them relax and just being normal human beings. I just think that sometimes we overreact to our game and our status in the world. It's just a baseball game. It's a game. We're trying to win the World Series. We're trying to be the best. But at the end of the day, it is a game, and I want our guys to come out here and be themselves, be normal, and then I think if we do that, they're going to play the better game of baseball. That's where I'm coming from.

Q. What's it like to watch when you've got somebody like Jake doing what he's doing, and do you guys ever get, I don't want to say complacent, but kind of -- you're so expecting of him to do great things?

JOE MADDON: Honestly, I'm so not that guy to just expect that it's going to keep happening. I'm always pretty much the same game beginning, and then you watch him, and he'll pretty much show you, like he has for the most part, everything is OK, and then he'll just keep showing you it's OK for nine innings, and you just keep watching and watching. I don't take anything for granted. I don't think any of us do. I hope not. The other teams are really good. The team we're playing tomorrow is very good. So you can't assume anything. You don't take anything for granted. You rely on the work of your guys. You trust your guys. That's what it comes down to, is trust, and I'll tell myself that in the dugout, just stay back, watch it and trust your guys. At the end of the day, a lot of it is about that.

You know, I know the work he's done. We just talked about it. I know he's ready for the day tomorrow. Of course you're wanting good to happen, but regardless, you know that Jake is prepared.

Q. On Starlin, you mentioned the transition from short to second. Seemed like there were a couple days there before he was taking ground balls at short or at second, rather. Did he have to come to you or to somebody on the staff and say, "Look, I want to be second baseman, use me however you want," and was there any uncertainty on your part whether he would connect when he was no longer the Cubs' shortstop?

JOE MADDON: I really honestly didn't know how he would react to the whole thing in advance. I'd be lying if I said I did. But I can tell you this: When we sat him down, I was very direct and honest with him. There was nothing gray about it. He was not going to play shortstop except for maybe game in progress, be moved back to it, that Addison would play shortstop, that we wanted him to get to second base, learn the position. Actually talked a little bit about third base, too.

In that meeting he looked at me straight up and he did not whimper, cry, complain, make any excuse or say I was wrong. He never said any of that. He just nodded his head and went to work. Honestly, not more complicated than that. It was all about that, and then at the beginning you remember we didn't play him all that much and we started working him back in because in the beginning there's got to be a little bit of a blow, going to be a body blow to the ego a little bit, too. He absorbed that well and then as he moved on, you could see his performance; it just kept getting better and better. And a part of it was more comfortable at second base. Right now he's playing a really good second base, really good, and then at the plate, him and Jhonny really made an adjustment, now he's a little bit better at the plate, too. So all that stuff is starting to come into place.

I think, again, he's only 25 years old and he's still learning. The assumption is that he'd been here for such a long period of time that there was nothing left to learn, and that's, like, so crazy to think that way. Right now I just think he's going about the day properly. He's not done getting better. He's going to keep getting better because now he gets it. He absolutely gets it. He understands what it takes to be on a winning ballclub. He knows it's about the team first, and like I said before, that's what he's all about right now.

But that meeting originally, I didn't know how it was going to play, but credit to him, it played perfectly.

Q. Do we have a Game 4 starter?

JOE MADDON: We haven't announced it yet, and I have an idea what we're going to do, but I haven't spoken to the person yet, so I don't want to say it in advance of talking to the player.

Q. Toward the end of the season, Major League Baseball allowed teams to use iPads in the dugout. You guys aren't using them very much, but how much do you think that might become more prevalent in the future?

JOE MADDON: I honestly don't know. I'm trying to figure out why it would be advantageous. Everything in the dugout has to be dugout friendly and pretty much instantaneous. You know that little thing I keep in my back pocket? That's like instant iPad. There's nothing that I could look up on an iPad that I don't have on those two pieces of paper that I need in that moment, and then Johnny merely carries the stuff that I need from him and then Davey carries his stuff, and Borzello and Bos carry their stuff. I don't know, I think it sounds kind of cute right now, but honestly, it's actually too slow if that makes any sense.

Q. So far Anthony and K.B. have kind of been neutralized on offense. What have you noticed that the opposition is doing to accomplish that?

JOE MADDON: You know, we're just -- we're probably out of our zones a little bit. We're probably playing to what they want us to swing at more than that we're swinging what we want to swing at, if that makes sense. To me it's expansion of zone, and we're just not adjusting back to what they're doing yet. That's it. Also I think to a certain extent they've been pressing just a little bit. I think the 100 RBI gig for K.B. was in the forefront towards the end of the season, and actually once Riz went past that, I thought he was going to be fine, too. But they're both well and I have a lot of faith -- all the faith in the world in both of them.

The nice part is that we've done this well without them contributing. You know they are contributing [defensively] because I thought K.B. had a great game at third base the other day. That's what I look at, I look at the entire thing, the entire event, so I -- they've just been pitched that hard. They have been. We just have to adjust back to the other side, and I know we will.

Q. So the support you see among the players on various teams in the city for each other, how does that compare to other markets you've been in, and is there a value in that for your team, especially like when you see the Blackhawks come here with the Stanley Cup?

JOE MADDON: Well, no, it's wonderful. I've always believed in that. I believe in not only professionally but also collegiately. If you have college support within a city you'd like to take down to the high school level and below that, but primarily it's going to be primarily collegiate and professionally in each market I've been a part of that in the past. In Tampa Bay I thought we were pretty supportive of one another. I love it. I actually love it. I think it's great. I know we feel good when we're supported, and I believe that the other teams do when we support them. We've worn the Blackhawk jerseys at some point, also. I think it's great. I think it's great for our community when you get that one kind of a feeling, and it's all about the entire -- like I said, this is a tremendous city. Everybody in the world knows that. And then we're talking from a professional athletic component, the fact that we all hang together and support one another I think is magnificent, actually.

Q. Do you get to pick each other's brains a bit?

JOE MADDON: I haven't had that chance. I haven't met some of the coaches yet. I've met Coach Quenneville, but I have not met them. I really haven't had a chance to sit down. Our season is so nuts, it really is, where you don't have time to do that kind of stuff, to just sit down and break bread and talk about maybe strategy or whatever. I don't.

I've had a couple guys come into town like Darin Erstad has come into town and some of my old players or coaches or mentors, but to sit down and really forge new friendships, it's been very difficult. It's something that I'm into, but it's been difficult based on our schedule.