Maddon wants Cubs 'uncomfortable' after title

Manager asks defending champs to be hungry for more, work on fundamentals

Maddon wants Cubs 'uncomfortable' after title

With Spring Training fast approaching, will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Cubs squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the Vision?

MESA, Ariz. -- As Joe Maddon drives west in his RV with his wife, Jaye, from Florida to Arizona, he's most likely sounding out his message for Spring Training.

Maddon can't call on Frank Chance for advice. Chance was the previous manager to lead the Cubs to a World Series championship, doing so in back-to-back seasons, 1907-08. Last year, Maddon celebrated his and the franchise's first title since then.

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That, of course, was the vision: To build a club that could win a World Series. And, now, to do it again.

"When you get in this moment, right here, you want to do it again, of course, and then the question is, 'How do you do that?'" Maddon said. "I'm leaning on the phrase or thought of being uncomfortable. I want us to be uncomfortable.

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"I think the moment you get into your comfort zone after having such a significant moment in your life like that, the threat is you're going to stop growing or not want to grow. I really want us to be uncomfortable and continue along the pattern of growth and try to get it done very quickly again."

Expect new T-shirts this spring. Maddon's main message since he took over the Cubs has been "Respect 90," but other themes emerged in 2016: "Embrace the Target," "Do Simple Better," "The Process is Fearless," "Try Not to Suck," and "Be Present, Not Perfect."

Besides the slogans, Maddon will be focused on baseball basics this spring.

"I think we have our best opportunity to repeat by pitching and playing defense that we've done in the past," he said. "This Spring Training, I want us to be uncomfortable and emphasize pitching and defense."

Reasons why Cubs could soar

The Cubs have four of their five main starters from 2016 returning -- only Jason Hammel is gone -- from a staff that led the Majors in ERA (2.96). They are all a year older, and coming off a lot of innings, so don't expect Jon Lester, 33, or John Lackey, 38, to be throwing much early in Spring Training.

With the majority of the position players returning, including Gold Glove Award winners Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo, plus Willson Contreras the regular catcher, the defense should be solid.

Maddon may not have to do much motivating. Rizzo said this offseason that he's been asked often by friends and fans how the Cubs are going to win the World Series again.

"Success is very addicting," Rizzo said. "You want to keep going."

The Cubs players know they will likely be preseason favorites again.

"Last year, we came into Spring Training picked to win the World Series," Heyward said. "I don't know any other expectation you can have that's going to beat that one. Expect to win and we go win it, come back from [being down 3-1 in the Series], those are all unbelievable things and tough things to do. It's kind of a similar situation again -- you're the world champs until someone beats you.

"We don't really have to change our mindset. There's been expectations, there's been a lot of fun, there's been a lot of challenges, and we just kind of embrace it."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. 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.