THE MODERATOR: Questions for Joe Maddon for his final pregame press conference.
Q. Happy Game 7.
JOE MADDON: Thank you. Good to be here.
Q. With Kluber, how did you see him approach your lineup differently between Game 1 and Game 4, and how might that affect your preparation here today?
JOE MADDON: I think overall it was similar. It's just a matter of -- the first game his stuff was just off the charts good. I think with the shorter rest, probably the second game maybe he didn't have as much in the tank as he had the first game. Otherwise I thought it was pretty much similar.
He's good. The guy's good. He's good. He knows what he's doing out there. He's very competitive. When you asked me about him, I remember the first time I saw him before he became Kluber, I thought he was outstanding pitching here when I was in the American League. So I have a lot of respect for him. I have a lot of respect for how he does things.
It will be interesting to watch early in the game what do you think he has in the tank tonight. I anticipate good. And you also know that their bullpen is ready to rock and roll. So, like I say every night, score first, win the innings. We did it last night. It would be nice to follow the same choreography that we had last night.
Q. We know how much credit the offense has gotten for the success this season, but can you talk about how the defense has been just as good, if not better?
JOE MADDON: You've heard me say it before all season, I'm really big on defense. The run-prevention part of this game sometimes doesn't get all the publicity. It's not nearly as sexy, but I'm telling you what, it's there every day, and you saw it last night with Jason. Nobody really talked about the double play that Javy turned yesterday. That to me was incredible. Addison normally gives you the good flip. Bad flip, but he made it look relatively easy, and that doesn't happen. So, yeah, and Rizzo's had spectacular games at first base. The catchers have done a great job calling the game, blocking the game, throwing in the game. They've done a great job with all of that.
So, yeah, that to me is the more controllable part of your team daily. That's the part of your game that if you are good defensively on day one and guys stay well, you should probably be good on defense in the last game of the year, also. So I never overlooked that. I love our defense.
Q. Have your conversations with Lester been with his availability? Would it have to be a clean-inning type situation to obviously use him?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, I spoke to him yesterday a little bit. Today I've spoken more to the pitching coaches to talk to Jon, which I'll eventually do.
Yeah, Jon's able. You're right. I don't want to put him into a dirty inning. I don't think it would be appropriate. But being that it's on his regular workout day, he's probably got a solid two in him, I would think.
So we'll look and see how Kyle's doing, and then may have to bridge to Jon. We'll see how that all plays out. But it's nice to know that he's available today with his experience and his success in the postseason.
Plus Kyle, listen, Kyle, that game he threw against the Dodgers was outstanding, and I really anticipate he's going to be in the same mindset today. It's one of those things you plan for. You know, you plan for this whole how it's going to go from A to B to C to D, whatever. But hopefully Kyle prevents us from having to worry about a lot of that stuff.
Kyle's normally good to about 100. 90 to 100 pitches. That's where his greatest effectiveness occurs, so we'll be keeping an eye on that. But then it's how do you work the bridge and how do you get to Jon Lester?
Q. How do you sleep on a night before you're facing what you're facing now?
JOE MADDON: I'm a good sleeper, man. I'm a good sleeper. I sleep well. Fell asleep watching more about the election. In the beginning I couldn't get enough of it, then I wanted to get away from it, now it's becoming I've got to listen again. I don't watch the sports stuff. I watch the news, and that's how I pass out.
I'm good at sleeping. I'm really good at sleeping. I actually took a little bit of a nap before I came here, too. So that's not my worry in the sense that I don't sleep. You've just got to get your rest this time of the year. I've gotten away from my workout program, which is my fault, the last couple days or weeks, but the sleep part of it's really important. So I'm actually pretty good at that.
Q. You talk about specific moves in a game shouldn't be judged on how they turn out, outcome-based. What are your thoughts on, does the result of tonight's game determine if this season was a success or not?
JOE MADDON: Well, yeah. First of all, we've had a tremendous season. We've had a very successful season. To cap it off tonight obviously would be historical. There's no question about that. But there's no way I would ever denigrate what the Cubs did this year, what our group did this year, and this youthful group and how the future looks for all of us. You'd never, ever, never denigrate that.
Of course, we want to cap it off tonight with the victory. But I cannot be more proud of a group. Whether you want to talk about the youngsters which I do a lot, but then again, the veterans. I've been through this before, and I really believe a lot of our success is due to the fact that David, and Miggy, and Jon Lester, and John Lackey, and a lot of our veteran players in that locker room really have set the tone for this whole thing.
So, yeah, wonderful year. Absolutely wonderful year. Tonight we need to cap it off. We want to cap it off. I feel like we will. But by no means would you ever not -- this was a successful season. It is a successful season, yes.
Q. A two-parter on the bullpen here: Related to Lester, if Jon gets into this ballgame, how much will you look for Ross to potentially be there as his receiver in that circumstance? Also, how optimistic are you that Aroldis could potentially give you two innings tonight?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, if Jon Lester was in it, you've got to look to David, absolutely. I would not want to break up that situation right now.
Chappy, I haven't spoken to him yet, but even talking to him yesterday after the game he felt really good. I would imagine he's definitely able for two.
Part of what we were able to do yesterday, too, is knowing that Jonny Lester could be a bridge today also was very important to yesterday's strategy. So, yeah, I haven't had the conversation yet with Aroldis or Santiago, his interpreter, but I firmly believe he's good for two.
Q. You talk about the youngsters, could you talk a little bit of one that made such a great jump this year, Willson Contreras, to be somewhere in the minors and then to be a factor for you all year. Practically in front of everybody's eyes becoming a regular in the postseason, and now how does he project to the future?
JOE MADDON: Well, that started in Spring Training when I first got to meet him. Theo and Jed were talking about how he's going to be very important to us this season. So in Spring Training a big part of that process was to get him involved with the veteran pitchers. We wanted to get him on board with these guys, a lot of communication, getting to know one another. That started in camp.
So eventually when we made the move to bring him up, part of the plan there also was to continue that. But then to not beat him up. Not to play him so often that he would run out of gas by this time of year, because this is absolutely the longest he's ever played consecutively, like a lot of our young guys. That's why during the season I want to rest guys for this moment like it's happening today.
So he's in good shape right now in regards to not being overworked this year. He's got the confidence of the pitchers. You saw that again yesterday. Did another great job with Jake yesterday. Him and Kyle have been working great together. So, yeah, future-wise, my God, the sky's the limit with this kid. He's going to hit. He's going to really hit on top of his defensive prowess. You've seen the arm, you've seen the receiving ability. You can see him blocking. The guy plays with a lot of energy. He's a good runner, too, he can run.
So he's kind of the unique or anomaly kind of a catcher that can play a complete game. Also, if you needed him running in the outfield, he can do that if it's necessary, but he's a big-time catcher in the future.
Q. What are you hearing about the weather tonight and does that complicate anything for you?
JOE MADDON: I've heard that there's a chance by 11 o'clock that something may roll in. Does it complicate the method of the game, the speed of the game? It can only be impactful like say you got to that point and you bring in Chappy, and all of a sudden it starts pouring, and he's got to sit, that would be impactful. So we'll wait to see.
But I think it's been updated a little bit, so that something negative can't happen around that time, because originally it did not look that way, but that's what I'm hearing.
I haven't had any official stuff. This is me looking at my iPad. I've got a couple apps, and that's what I've been reading. So we'll find out more from the MLB dudes soon.
Q. You've been around four decades chasing World Series titles, helped win one in 2002. In this circumstance with this team in this history, would it be something more?
JOE MADDON: You know, obviously it does carry more significance in the city of Chicago, the fan base, just history, obviously; the last time it was won was over a century ago. However, I have a different process the way I think. I mean, for me the significance is that this team, this group wins a World Series, and that the people that are here to enjoy it prosper in it right now.
I really don't try to add any more layers to anything, ever. It's about what it is. The reality is if we do this, obviously it's going to be a big deal. But I don't -- even from the first day of Spring Training, you're probably aware, I wanted to attack the word "pressure" and "expectation" from day one, so that our guys would be used to hearing it, and also channel it in the proper direction.
So here we are, the last game of the season. You've got to give our guys a lot of credit, because they've been hearing this from day one, and here we are on the last day of the season with still an opportunity to win it. That's pretty awesome that our guys have been able to fulfill that.
For me personally, like I said, winning it is winning it. That speaks for itself. The part that I really, if I had to deal with one component of that, you know, because I talk about my dad a lot, it would be the family structure of the Cubs fans and the organization, and Mr. Ricketts and his family, and Theo and Jed. That's where my first thoughts are going to go to with all that.
Yeah, of course we'd like to win it. We'd like to win it for ourselves, but we'd like have the fans truly do what they wanted to do for a long time, and that would be outstanding to watch.
Q. Aren't there some big advantages to playing Game 7 on the road, because you get a stronger lineup with Kyle in the lineup?
JOE MADDON: We've been talking about it, yeah. For right now we felt coming back here that being able to include him would make us create a better lineup for us right now scoring runs. There's no question. They get a chance to do the same thing. So they're used to playing that American League game. But we'll take being able to interject Kyle into that lineup.
We've also talked about the break in the weather. The fact that we wanted to get more offensive having Kyle available and the weather warming up a little bit, as I think you saw it last night, helped. We'll see if it carries over to tonight. It's always about the starting pitchers.
But, yeah, but then again, who knows. The three games, if we started at home and then played three, who knows. But I like the idea that we're able to play tonight's game with Kyle, but we didn't even think that was going to happen. This was not something that was on our radar until recently. I did not know that he was going to be available, and then he does become. Then on top of that, to be available and play or have at-bats to this caliber, I could not have told you that was going to happen.
Q. Looking back, and I know hindsight is 20/20, but looking back, the usage of Aroldis Chapman, do you regret in any way the way it was done and maybe the message it could have sent to pitchers like Hector Rondon or Pedro Strop, who have been there for you all season?
JOE MADDON: No, not at all. It's about winning right now. Yesterday that was a really clear-cut decision for me how to work that inning. The threat there, was that had we not done it, then Aroldis would have had a more stressful 1 2/3 innings in the 8th or 9th inning.
It really comes down to matchups. This whole postseason, the teams that we've played, the matchups have been difficult for some of our righties versus their lefties, because it's all been opposite-side stuff, primarily. There's been very few opportunities to have a right-on-right run or a left-on-left run. It's been a lot of opposite stuff, rights on lefts and lefts on rights, and you're seeing it with their lineup right now.
So I could be melancholy and try to be sentimental and try to make a decision based on that, or you try to do what you think is the right thing to do based on skill sets, and that's all I've been doing.
I love these guys. These guys have been wonderful. It's a great group. It's a very tightly-knit group. But at this time of the year if you want to attempt to ameliorate people's feelings, you might make a lot of bad decisions.
Q. Nobody that's watched would underrate Ben Zobrist's contributions, but with all the home runs and some of the other big plays on offense, his contributions seemed to get a little overshadowed, and yet every time you guys are in a scoring situation, he's in the middle of the mix. Plus he has the play at the plate last night where it's kind of old style, running over the catcher. Can you speak to his ongoing importance to this club and what he's accomplished?
JOE MADDON: Well, he sets examples for everybody's at-bats. His at-bats are the most pro on a daily basis. He's among that elite group in all of professional baseball that even if it he's not getting hits or if he's in a slump, he's still doing something to contribute to the offensive side just based on his at-bats, his willingness to accept walks, his good base-running ability. All of that stuff, switch-hitter, all of that just by watching it helps these other kids.
Yeah, and he provides protection. He's provided protection all year. You don't want to just give up on Rizzo to get to Zobrist in a pertinent moment. Doubles are nice. Doubles are nice, too. It doesn't have to go over the wall. We dig on doubles. And singles with runners in scoring position are pretty cool, too.
So you know you're going to get the at-bat. You know you're going to get the at-bat. The other side knows that. And just as he is a versatile utility guy defensively, he's the same way offensively. You could put him 1, 2, 3, 4, you could put him in a lot of different spots and his tools play.
The aggressive nature at home plate was kind of fun to watch yesterday. It was unavoidable on both parts, the catcher and Zo. I thought it was great. And for us it was even better because we came out with the run. But his postseason play has been spectacular.
Q. You're not big on speeches or meetings. Was it different for Game 7? Do you think you'll address the guys before the game?
JOE MADDON: Nope. Again, I don't want to interfere with the process. That's not what I do, and why would I want to gather them and put a different thought in their head? I don't want to do that. I could only hurt them. I can't help them right now by trying to be brilliant or emotional or motivational. They don't need that. They need to go play, like we did yesterday. I didn't have to talk yesterday, and we played a pretty good game of baseball. Why? I'm just relying on the fact they're going to do what they always do. They're going to come in. They're going to do their work here inside. They're going to go outside and do their prep. They'll do their same routine with ground balls, batting practice, et cetera. I do not want to interfere with that routine at all.
Q. By the first pitch tonight you'll have spent the better part of four days on the verge of elimination. Wondering now that you're through that period, could you probably describe what the experience was like? And curious, I know you embrace these things, but do you have like an anti-anxiety checklist? Like, am I breathing? Am I smiling? Am I speaking coherently? Then do you sort of judge your players on that same checklist?
JOE MADDON: My personal checklist, and I've talked about this a lot, is try to be consistent when I walk in the door, through good or bad. I don't want our guys to see anybody differently walking in the door ever. Then there's that group, the Lombardi group, that wants you to get angry and yell at people, and they feel that discipline needs to be extracted through anger. For me, discipline needs to be extracted through consistency. So if they see me differently, they're going to react differently. It's just the way the world works, especially in baseball.
So, no, my thought to myself is to be consistent. In regards to being able to handle stuff, get your rest, man. Get your rest, eat right, do those kind of things, try to keep your routine in order. Like I said, I got away from my workout routine just a little bit, which I do miss, but I'll get back to do shortly.
And honestly the other thing is meditation. I love to meditate in the morning. I'm a big believer in meditation. Whether you want to call it prayer or meditation, whatever you want to call it, that to me is very, very helpful to just really get my mind right for the course of the day. So that when you do come to the moments, you have to make a decision that you feel convicted in that decision, and that is based on what you do prior to, during, and then after.
So that's my process in regards to getting ready for the day.
Like I said, we talked about this, if a decision doesn't work out, it doesn't mean it was wrong. It just means it didn't work in that moment. As long as it was thought out, that's how I perceive the day. So I've been doing it that way for a bit. I think I've refined it more over the last several years. That's, more than anything, what I think permits me to do this and feel good about it and really not second-guess myself a whole lot.
Q. Can you talk about Jason Heyward, your observations from the times when he wasn't in your lineup to the times when he was doing what he did last night?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, he's such a uniquely wonderful young man. He's so bright and he's such a great athlete. Of course, when we took him out, there was just, I felt, a need for a little more offense at the time. It was obvious he had been struggling. But also whenever you take him out, it seems like it regenerates him offensively.
I hate when we play with him not on the field. I really don't like the look of it because of what you saw what he did last night, he can do at any time. And on top of that his base-running skill, and just how he interacts with the group on the field. If you watch him during the game, most center fielders control the action, and Dexter does a nice job. But you watch Jason move during the course of an at-bat. I've never seen such an active right fielder that's intuitive to what he needs to do, because he watches pitches, he watches swings, he watches all of that stuff.
So primarily, whenever we give him time off, he normally reacts well offensively. But when I do that, I don't like that only because I miss him being on the field. But you've got to try to balance it out with what's going on right now. I felt over the last couple days, having gotten his break, he looked better at the plate. And under the circumstances, I talk about defense all the time, you cannot miss that defense right now. So that's probably the best way I could describe it.
Offensively, by next year I anticipate you're going to see him come back with a big bang, literally, and get back to the offensive game that he's used to playing.
But when you're managing a game, man, and you see him out in right field, that's kind of like a security blanket.
Q. Just having been around your players today, do you feel like it's business as usual for them? Do you feel like they're at that point that you want them to be in that consistent routine? What's it seem like?
JOE MADDON: Well, again, outside, I came inside and there's like a myriad of things to do, just me talking to people. So I'll get a better feel for everything when I get outside. I've talked to the coaches a little bit about planning for tonight. I really anticipate the same. On the bus, they were good. Driving over on the bus, I thought everybody was pretty cool. I really do anticipate the same. I'd be surprised if it's not.
Again, tonight's game's going to be dictated by the starting pitching. That's really what it comes down to. If you pitch well, you give your guys a chance to get in the flow of the game. And I anticipate Kyle to pitch well. I really do see us reacting well, especially after last night.
So, again, I'll get a better feel when I get inside, but I think our guys are okay.