Maddon interview on Cubs workout day

Maddon interview on Cubs workout day

The following is a Q&A with Cubs manager Joe Maddon during Monday's workout day during the NLCS, which the Mets lead, 2-0. (Game 3: Tuesday, air time 7:30 p.m. ET, game time 8 ET, TBS.) 

Q. Joe, in talking with your players, there doesn't seem to be any sense of desperation. Would that be a mistake for them to approach it this way, a sense of desperation when they haven't all year?

JOE MADDON: I'd just rather attempt to go out and win tomorrow's game, that's it. I don't want them to think about it in any other way, shape or form. It's about Tuesday. Again, I've been kind of repeating the same mantra the whole way through, we need to put together several one-game winning streaks. If we keep it one game at a time, we've a good shot of doing it.

If you want to get into that result-oriented method of thinking, it's not going to play. So for me, for us, I'm really happy our guys have adopted that method.

We'll come out tomorrow, we'll be ready to play. Our guys are always ready to play. Their prep is great. The camaraderie among the group cannot be better. It's impossible. So we'll go out and play tomorrow, and the expectation is to win one game at a time.

Q. How are you today?

JOE MADDON: It's clearing up a little bit. I got some severe [cold] or whatever. They make something for severe. I kind of like the word "severe" on it, so I thought that was made for me.

Q. Last night, your team's leaving and you're blasting the Rocky music out of your clubhouse. A lot of just little subliminal stuff for your guys to think about as they're walking out?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, I mean, sometimes it's polka music, sometimes it's Rocky. Listen, they beat us, but it's not nearly over with, and we are really good, as our hashtag, #wearegood. I have a lot of faith in our guys.

They beat us two games. They pitched extremely well. They did. You've got to give them credit. The command of their pitches, what they did was spectacular. Give them credit.

But I have a real strong belief system in our guys, and I really am here to watch tomorrow night's game. We'll be ready to play, like I said. You can't dwell on things like that, and you can't process the moment in the wrong way. I mean it sincerely, one-game winning streaks. We've talked about it before. Let's play Tuesday and see what happens, and we'll move on from there.

Q. You kind of alluded to this when you were talking before about command. They've been very aggressive in the strike zone, throwing a lot more strikes than maybe you saw in the St. Louis series. You guys have been patient all year long. Do you have to change or alter your approach at all or is that even something you entertain at this point when they're throwing so many strikes to your guys?

JOE MADDON: You don't want to change anything. There's been some width to the strike zone also that we normally don't get out of our patterns. I don't want our guys to get out of our patterns. Strike zones would be contingent a lot based on the particular umpire. I don't want our guys to change based on an umpire in the previous game, it could change in the next game. Regardless of the fact that the strike zone is a static or supposedly a static area, it's not. It's just depending upon the guy. So I prefer that we just stay with our normal patterns, and then we have to adjust sometimes during the course of the game. That's it. You just have to make adjustments, but you don't necessarily want to change.

Q. I don't know what you've been asked about the Game 4 or anything like that, but how much consideration are you giving to possibly of Lester coming back on short rest or even Arrieta after that depending on the circumstances?

JOE MADDON: We're just going to play it straight as of right now. We haven't thought about changing any of that. You have to win X number of games to get there, and two, to push Jon to that point, I don't think we want to do that. We refrained from doing that in the previous round and it played out pretty well. We're going to do it again.

Again, we can always change our methods, but as of right now we're not thinking about that at all.

Q. With the weather warm here, is that going to be better for your lineup or your head cold? And what are you more excited about?

JOE MADDON: Hopefully both. I actually got some sleep last night. I mean preferably for the lineup, of course the guys will feel their hands a little bit better. It should work out somewhat better for us offensively. Though I would like to believe that, but at the end of the day it's always about the other team and your starting pitching. It's always about starting pitching.

I used to do clinics in the '90s a lot and said this game could easily have been called pitching as opposed to baseball. That's what it's all about. It's not like we pitch poorly, they've just pitched extraordinarily well for the first two games and that's the result.

I'd like to believe with a little warmer weather, our guys are going to have a little better feel at the plate.

Q. Just your lineup tomorrow night, how much are you guys playing around with the options that might get you another left-handed bat in? I know [Tommy] La Stella [could play] second or third, or [are there] other things that you might be able to do with your left-handed hitter in there?

JOE MADDON: I've talked about it a little bit. Haven't really decided anything yet. Typically I like to ask for some more so I can make my decisions. Saw [Jacob] deGrom one time, and I've seen him on TV a little bit. And I have to just drill into it a little bit further.

But some of our righties, like Starlin [Castro], Starlin can be swinging the bat extremely well, I would not want to take him out of there. A lot of the options are in the outfield, primarily in right field, rather you want [Chris] Coghlan versus [Jorge] Soler, or if you definitely want to put Tommy at third and move [Kris] Bryant in the outfield. It's about the defensive component. With [Kyle] Hendricks pitching, you can expect the ball to be on the ground a little more often, so you're trying to put your best infield defense out there, too, so that's a consideration.

It's always trying to balance the potential to score runs and also to catch the baseball. But, again, I'm still -- I was talking to Jeremy [Greenhouse, assistant director of research & development] before I came out on the field. I asked him a couple questions. I asked him for some more information, and then I'll make my decision.

Q. I'm sure that people can look at the starting pitching matchups the next two nights and think they don't look really favorable for the Cubs; most assuredly you look at those things and know there is a lot more to games like this than just that. If you could explain why that is to those people?

JOE MADDON: Earlier this season, we played a four-game series against the Dodgers here. The first two games, we ended against [Zack] Greinke and [Clayton] Kershaw and lost the next two, that happens. That's the thing about this game that's so insane. Everybody thinks you've got it figured out once in a while, I promise you we do not. It's your best guess on a nightly basis. Sometimes the reverse lock is in, who knows. I don't -- of course, I mean, you're looking at what deGrom has done and how he would have matchup problems against anybody. But that happened earlier this season, so I know anything could happen in a game.

For us, Kyle, the last game I thought he threw the ball really well. Ran into a bit of trouble in the fifth, but he's the kind of guy, like I said, that can put the ball on the ground, we've got to catch it. Beyond that, I know their guys are really good, but we have talented hitters also.

I just have a lot of faith in our guys. I do. You saw them out there right now, and I love the Kumbaya moment at center field. I promise you, they're ready to play. Our guys are ready to play. We've been through those moments in the past. I've been in these moments in the postseason in the past. So anything's possible, man. You've got to throw that jab. You've got to stagger the other guy a little bit and get momentum going back in your favor, and that's what we have to do.

Q. We heard Rocky coming out of your office yesterday. Was that a subliminal message, or what were you trying to do there?

JOE MADDON: Part of it is that, and part of it is just to let them move this thing along. One of my concepts is to win hard for 30 minutes or lose hard for 30 minutes regardless of the time of the year. And of course, Rocky did set a great example in 1976 for all of us.

So when you get behind the eight ball a little bit, sometimes you just go pound on some big slabs of beef in the cooler and obviously you come back and you're fine. So, listen, man, it's a game, and I'm really impressed with our players. I love the way they've handled everything to this moment. I anticipate that we'll continue to handle it well. We are talented. We'll show up tomorrow, and I expect our guys to be ready to play, and was that just the message. Let's just move it along.

Q. So things like Rocky and bringing a penguin in or a magician, what goes into the thinking of what's the right time to do all these things?

JOE MADDON: It's just all a feel kind of a thing. For me, seriously, here's the rub: Everybody believes that you need more batting practice. We need more ground balls. We need to look at video longer. I totally disagree with that. We've been doing this since February. They've been swinging the bat constantly since February. They've been taking ground balls constantly since February. If we could relax our minds and be in the present tense and go out there and play the game that we've been practicing all year, that's what I'm looking for.

So the point is you don't want to stretch them out over this repetitive exercise that, honestly, it's not like other sports. We've been doing this for months, and in baseball you need to go out there and be able to process the moment, not overthink it, definitely not get uptight about it. It's a tension-free kind of a game. So anything I can do to promote that, that's what I attempt to do, because I learned this as a coach, man. I've been on both sides of this dilemma where I've been with the group and I also was part of the group that thought maybe more work would be appropriate or more information, and I found out very quickly that is like the absolute wrong way to go for me.

So what you're seeing right now is the many years of going through these kinds of moments, and I really think to bring out the best in your group, the best thing to do is to somehow get them to be able to relax and in the moment, think in the moment, and be mentally fresh. That is my biggest concern always.

Q. Back to the Game 4. Two things, Game 4, so is [Jason] Hammel your starter? And the second thing, in 1976, didn't Rocky lose?

JOE MADDON: It was just about the effort. The effort that he made, that's all. He came back. He came back. Was it '78? All right. '76 was my last year in college. I didn't get my actual degree until 2010. I was on the 35-year plan, and eventually I got my honorary degree from Lafayette. So that's why I get my years confused so much. Thank you for pointing that out.

Q. Game 4?

JOE MADDON: As of right now it's Hammel, right. Absolutely, yes.

Q. Aside from some of the obvious, like the scoreboard, what are some of your favorite quirks about this ballpark?

JOE MADDON: My most favorite quirk is standing where I do in the dugout, you can imagine right field up in the stands, the overhang, those seats that really jettison out, I'm still talking about in the ballpark, whoever sits in that last seat up in that corner I'm impressed every night, because the view cannot be the best. The overhang has got to get in the way. There's got to be all these obstacles, but you still want to be there.

So that's just a part of the allure of this ballpark. You'll even take that seat to be at Wrigley to watch a Major League Baseball game and a postseason game. Whoever that fan is, I always appreciate that fan every night that I look up there and see that that seat is filled.

Q. Since Rocky's a fictional character, do you ever think of using like Miracle on Ice or something that really did happen?

JOE MADDON: Who knows what I'm going to be thinking at a particular moment? I was just -- with Rocky, I was thinking about the comeback component of that, the work that was necessary to get to that moment.

When it comes to real-time stuff, I guess I do read fiction more than I read non-fiction, so maybe that's part of my -- I'm a fiction kind of a guy, so maybe that's where I'm coming from with that.