Winter Meetings interview with Joe Maddon

Q. We were asking yesterday talking about your closer situation. What do you see as who is going to be the closer?
JOE MADDON: Of course, Ronnie is coming back in there. And Ronnie, prior to Aroldis, of course he was doing that particular job, did it well.

The thing with Rondon, he hurt his arm and that was really critical towards the end of the season. I don't think he really recaptured his form after he hurt the triceps in that moment. Ronnie is right there, he would be the natural guy to look for to do that particular job.

Strop, when you start winning some games in a row, and you want to give a guy a rest, Strop is definitely capable doing something like that, too. Definitely Rondon is in the mix.

Q. Do you anticipate you might get a guy with a closer track record from the outside?
JOE MADDON: I don't know yet. We're still talking about a lot of things. I know you guys are aware of that. That's going to have to happen over the next couple of days if it is. But talking to Theo and Jed, it's like every other place you have been at this time of year, you have all this conjecture being created. Just wait and see what happens.

But Rondon, prior to him hurting his arm, he was throwing the ball extremely well. But end of last season, we got into the playoffs, he was able to throw but not with the same clarity that he had thrown before that. But I do anticipate that he's going to be 100% fine going into this year.

So we're always looking to augment bullpens. Bullpens are so different on an annual basis. And I think every organization, especially after this past postseason season, looking to reinvent their bullpens in different ways based on how we had utilized and other teams utilized bullpens at the end of the year. But it's hard to do it that way for 162 games. As of right now, Rondon is absolutely capable of doing that.

Q. Joe, you've always been an in-your-face, you got a tough question I'll answer it type guy. How have you handled the second guessing even though you are a world championship manager on a world championship team?
JOE MADDON: I've done a couple of interviews. It's fascinating to me regarding the second guessing because the only reality I know is that we won. That's the one reality that I do know. We have oftentimes talked about outcome. If you had done something differently, would it have turned out better? But better than winning, I don't know what that is.

And furthermore, y'all know me, the people that are on me all the time, the way we worked that last game was prepared before the game began.

When it comes down to Jon Lester, he did a great job. Not just a good job, he did a great job during his time in the game. Aroldis gives up a homer and it wasn't based on velocity, it was based on location. Those are the kind of things -- you can't control the narrative when the game is in the progress. And I have talked about the bar room banter and I definitely know that I was able to fill up, based on my decision making in that game, a lot of bar room banter throughout the Chicago area or nationally, internationally. But the point is when you work a game like that, there is not an 8th game, there is only a seventh game. Everything you saw us do that night I planned out before the game began and felt strongly about it and still do. Just take away one hit by Davis and it worked out pretty darn well. But then you have to give our guys credit for the way we withstood the onslaught and eventually won the game.

The second-guessing component to me is part of the game. And I do embrace it. I kind of enjoy it. But in a situation like that, the outcome was a good one and everything that we did prior to win that game was pretty much set up before that game began.

Q. Just to follow up, you mentioned the outcome bias but I think some of the stuff that people talk about were head scratchers to most observers, probably at the time?
JOE MADDON: In what regard?

Q. When Lester came in, how Chapman got used over the course of two games and things like that. Knowing that you pretty much scripted a lot of that ahead of time, is there anything that you got out of that -- I know you won, but anything you got out of that that maybe makes you look at how you script things differently?
JOE MADDON: No, because I thought the script was really good. Jonny came in the game and gave up a dribbler and then a wild pitch.

Q. What about leaving Hendricks in?
JOE MADDON: Of course, and here is Kipnis sitting who had done well the day before against Arrieta and it was a 5-1 game. In my mind, in a situation like that, if you leave Kyle in and Kipnis sits with a two-run homer with Jonny warmed up, that's when you get upset with yourself. And furthermore, it's not every day you have Jonny Lester warming up in your bullpen in the seventh game of a World Series.

Q. If he hits the home run, nobody is on base and it's a natural place for a starter to take over, right?
JOE MADDON: No, because to really process the whole inning, it was Santana at first base with two outs and a four-run lead. He's not going anywhere. It's almost like there's a ghost at first base. It's almost like Jonny did have a clean inning and I told him that when he came in.

Those are the nuances in the moment that you have to determine in advance. So if David is able to make that play and Kipnis is out at first base, there is no narrative to follow that. But the ball dribbled far enough away that a wild pitch occurs and two runs score and all of the sudden it's a concern. That's where I failed to connect the dots with everybody else. Jonny was ready to pitch, he did, he pitched well.

And Aroldis, that was all done in advance. That was all conversation before the game began.

Q. What about Montgomery? You had him up pretty early?
JOE MADDON: It was up early because Kyle was struggling in the third inning. That's another reason Jonny was up so early, too, because Kyle had a tough third inning and I didn't know where that was going.

You have to understand the context. There wasn't a Game 8. It's not July 3rd, where you can possibly have another game and absorb a loss. You can't. So you have to do all these things in a different method on that particular day that you can't do in the middle of the season.

With Jon Lester, when you start warming him up, you can't just keep doing that and not put him in the game. You can't do that or his utility goes away and all of the sudden you're scrambling to fill in the middle innings if Kyle doesn't do what you think he might. It's not your typical day and the thing is I wanted to use three pitchers that day: Jon, Kyle and Aroldis.

Q. I know the outcome worked out, but with Lester coming in in the middle of the inning and you could have saved Lester?
JOE MADDON: Right, but, again, you could have if you wanted to make that decision in the moment. But the decision I had made was before the game ever began talking to everybody and also conversation in the dugout.

The day before the game I told David or asked David or I told David that I'm going to bring Lester in the middle of this game and I want you to catch him. So when we warm him up the seventh day, you have to go down there and warm him up. He did and he came back and said he's extremely sharp, he looks really good.

Q. Assuming Dexter isn't coming back, who is your leadoff guy?
JOE MADDON: I don't know, that's a really good question. We've talked, there are some brilliant people standing around me right now and Schwarber is not a bad name, Kyle is not a bad name at all. Zobrist isn't a bad name. There are different guys to consider right there.

Actually, a couple years ago or when we got Kyle and Kyle came up and Dexter was still there, two years ago I considered leading Kyle off and putting Dexter second. But I had all the dudes do all the work, all our nerds did all the work and they really liked Fowler one and like Schwarber two just based on the data, so I went with that and it worked out well. Now all of the sudden, Dexter is not there anymore. It's not impossible to consider Kyle in that spot. Zobrist in that spot.

I don't know if we can do anything in this offseason that might cause me to think differently but there is not a lot of other candidates.

Q. Jay maybe?
JOE MADDON: You could consider Jon Jay, right. I don't see Albert, I don't see Baez. I don't see the guys that aren't necessarily on base. The kind of guys that look over a pitch and accept the walk, they're probably not going to be considered for that.

Q. What do you think Spring Training is going to be like?
JOE MADDON: It's always nuts but it's going to be incredible. It's going to fun, raucous. It's going to be a big party. I'm talking from the fans perspective. After all, you wait 108 years for something, you're going to celebrate it pretty good. I'm actually looking forward to it. The big thing from my perspective is the message I bring to the group the first day, that's my only concern, what are we going to rally around. Obviously, you do this, you relieve a burden, however, you want to do it again, and you want to do it again the next year. Also knowing that the path, the road, the alleys are not going to be exactly the same, they can't be. Performances are going to be different, there is going to be new personnel there.

So how do you motivate and get guys to think in a manner that permits you do what you had done last year, which was pretty special again? That's where I'm going to be this winter, that's where I'm going to spend a lot of my thought process on because that's going to be very important.

My point is when you go to a crazy Spring Training, a lot going on, a lot of adulation. You guys are the greatest, all this stuff, we gotta get back to work. Because after all, you're only going to remember what we did on April 17th.

Q. (No microphone.)
JOE MADDON: No, I haven't gone there. Last year Embrace the Target was easy. I don't know. Organically, it just hasn't -- the seed had not been --

Q. (No microphone.)
JOE MADDON: No, I have not permitted myself to do that because I like to put things down, I'm putting things down right now. We have only been gone a month. I've been to Lafayette, I've been to Yogi's museum, I'm here. I have to go to Hazelton next week, then I've got a little bit of a break. I want to put things down, and when you put thing downs that permits your mind to really start operating like it should.

Seriously, just through conversations I'm hoping to or something that I read really strikes a chord that permits me to say the right things to you guys.

Q. The target will be the same?
JOE MADDON: Of course it will be. The target is the same. You could say it's going to be bigger. It couldn't be any bigger than it was last year. That was an immense target.

Q. (No microphone)?
JOE MADDON: You still want to try not to suck, but you can't wear that out. You can't put too much pressure on try not to suck. The process is fearless, all that stuff. So it's gotta be the same, but it's gotta be different in order to be the same, if that makes any sense whatsoever. That's where my mind is.

I really feel confident. I like our group a lot. If you look at our core group and what we did last year, the youth, the inexperience turning into experience, the authenticity of our players. I want to believe the humility of our players, all those things as they are is what I'm going to rely on that's going to permit us, beyond our skill abilities and factors that are going to permit us to be good for a period of time. That's my belief in our group.

So then how do you draw that out? How do you get them to understand that and then go out and play the game like we did last year pretty much on a daily basis? That's where I'm stuck right now.

Q. What did you take from 2002 to 2003 that you learned when you weren't able to repeat as a team and do you think you're going to rely on a lot of that to keep your guys motivated?
JOE MADDON: 2002 was with the Angels and then '08 and '09 with the Rays. The one thing I did notice, I thought, you have less time to heal. I don't think we have any significantly bad injuries right now that we're coming off of, just maybe fatigue. Although Ronnie and Strop were not utilized that much in the playoffs, they were coming off injuries. Among starting pitchers, Lackey a little bit. But Lester was good, Arrieta was good, all these guys were good.

So my biggest concern that I learned is coming off a long postseason are injuries and the inability to get them properly rehabbed. That would be my major concern. I think we're okay there.

When you get to camp, to slow it down a little bit early and really not push guys too hard early. And even when the season begins, really try not to gain too much out of a starter, not three days in a row for reliever, things like that. Young players, give them days off. We're going to have, I think, the kind of depth that's going to permit us to rest players even early in the season and feel good about the team on the field.

So those are the kind of things. I think you have to pay more attention to easing them into the year and still get off to that great start that you're looking for and I think to me that's the key.

2002, with the Angels, we came out of that banged up and that was a big part of 2003 being difficult.

2008 with the Rays, WBC the next year like we have this year, coming into camp early. And so we tried to manipulate that, but there were injuries coming out of there. So be mindful of injuries and working slowly into camp and still resting guys in April if you can.

Q. Your players on Saturday Night Live, all that, talking to the President, what else have you done?
JOE MADDON: Bought a Challenger Hellcat, 707 horsepower. I love that. I love driving cars. We went through Lafayette, threw a band party at Zeta Psi.

The Yogi Berra museum trip was really interesting. Talking to Yogi when I used to come and visit at Yankee Stadium, he'd always tell me about his museum. I thought it was in a house somewhere, I thought it was in an old Victorian in New Jersey that you walk through the halls. It's a nice building on the campus of Montclair State and I was really impressed. So we went there, had a nice Q and A with Kenny in an interesting kind of meeting room.

And then we got to see Hamilton the other night in New York City, Jay and I went over there. The next best thing is the Hazelton Hip Project is coming up, next Friday night in Hazelton. We've culled it down a bit, smaller numbers, trying to make it a little bit more difficult to get in. It sold outright after the World Series win, but we're doing well with the Hip Project. It's an integration project.

Q. Thinking back to Tampa, what has crossed your mind about the World Series?
JOE MADDON: It wasn't that, it was Game 4 against San Francisco. We did not want to see Game 5. I thought facing Cueto in Game 5 would be the most difficult thing we had to do. I thought it was necessary that we won Game 4 in San Francisco to progress as well as we did. I was more focused on that win than anything else.

Q. You haven't done much since the Series, how draining was that for you?
JOE MADDON: It wasn't awful, I swear it wasn't. I felt pretty good actually afterwards. I didn't feel totally drained. We drove the RV back, hung out a little bit. Been riding my bike and doing normal stuff, I didn't feel that bad.

Q. I know you just went to Lafayette and I know you're going back, what kind of reception did you get there?
JOE MADDON: Well, it was pretty spectacular, Lafayette, we threw a party, I had a really wonderful time. It was great and the people back home are definitely going to be interested in our event.