Joe Maddon, the most interesting man in baseball
From Joe Maddon, I learned about mollydookers and force multipliers. We'll get to force multipliers in a bit.
A mollydooker is Australian for left-hander -- think former big-leaguer Graeme Lloyd -- and that playful word came up in conversation about a wine from down under called Mollydooker. (After one exciting Cubs game he managed, Maddon was asked what it was like, and he said it was a full glass of Mollydooker Gigglepot.)
As everyone in Chicago knows by now, the manager of the Cubs is an interesting guy, and he's a man of many words.
Of course, his use of those words isn't done to entertain the media, even though Joe is very entertaining. Most of his ideas, which he translates into words, are for the benefit of his players, all of whom have responded by getting this franchise to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
If there is a baseball equivalent to the advertising world's "Most Interesting Man in the World," it's Joe Maddon.
Maddon came out firing at his introductory news conference last November, and in the process he proved a bit prophetic.
"Listen, for me, I'm already talking playoffs for next year," Maddon said at the Cubby Bear, a tavern across the street from Wrigley Field. "It's all about setting your standards, your goals, high, because the problem if you don't set them high is you might actually hit your mark.
"We need to set our mark high, absolutely. I'm going to talk playoffs. I'm going to talk World Series. This year. I am. I promise you. And I'm going to believe it."
Maddon didn't stop there. Far from it.
Since then, he has trotted out one saying or pearl of wisdom after another. Let's take an 11-month journey and relive some of them.
Right away, Maddon was asked about the "pressure" that comes with managing a team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908.
His answer: "Never let the pressure exceed the pleasure."
In other words, baseball is a game meant to be enjoyed. So go out, play, have fun and forget the pressure.
Setting the tone:
Throughout the season, Maddon has maintained that no one game or one series is more important than any other. He made that clear at his first news conference in spring training.
"I want us to play the game the same, whether it's March 15 or July 15 or Oct. 15," he said. "When you build that mindset, when you get to the end of the season, playoff situation, you don't change your game. I think that's the trap that a lot of groups fall into, that, 'I got to try harder. I got to do more. I got to step up'. I really don't like that phrase, 'step up,' at all. That insinuates that you have not been trying prior to that.
"If we could build a thought process where you come to play every day regardless of the date, don't apply any more weight to any game, by the time we get to the playoffs, the game feels the same, and I don't think it will be intimidating at that moment in any way, shape or form."
May the force be with out:
The Cubs last winter signed veteran reliever Jason Motte, who enjoyed great success with the Cardinals before having Tommy John surgery.
Motte helped the Cubs early in the season, but he has been on the disabled list since late August due to shoulder strain. It was uncertain in spring training what Motte's role would be, but Maddon liked what this veteran brought to a young club still trying to carve out its identity.
"I use the term 'force multiplier,'" Maddon said. "I read Colin Powell's autobiography a couple years ago - tremendous read. I'm a big Colin Powell fan. In that, he referenced the force multipliers, people that really made the people around them better. I think (Motte) absolutely fits into that category. We have several of those guys, actually. We have a couple of those guys who are really going to make a huge difference for us. As a manager, to be surrounded by those folks is very comforting because I'm a big believer in the players patrolling the clubhouse, policing the clubhouse. Those are the kind of guys who get stuff done."
Winning the close ones:
The Cubs were 13-5 in extra-inning games this season and 34-21 in 1-run games. They had 13 walk-off wins, the most by a Cubs team since 1932. They've also played a lot of tight games this season and shown amazing stick-to-it-iveness.
Maddon has pulled from veteran football coach Tom Moore for an explanation.
"How do you break another team's will?" Maddon asked before drawing on Moore. "Through the relentless execution of fundamentals and technique. I've talked about process a lot. So a lot of my philosophy was validated through coach Moore, whom I have a ton of respect for."
Stretching the mind:
Early this season, Maddon drew on Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. when he said: "A mind once stretched has difficulty going back to its original form."
The quote may actually have been, "One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." But you get the point. Once someone, including a baseball player, is open to new ideas and employs them, true growth happens.
The process is fearless:
Maddon kept the idea of "process" going all the way into late September as the Cubs were preparing to clinch a wild-card spot.
"I want our players to be the same way, to really focus on the process of the day and don't get caught up on that stuff," he said. "The thing I want our guys to understand is the process is fearless. When you want to become outcome-oriented, that's where you can really run into some trouble. If we can just keep our guys focused on the process of the day, there's no fear in that. If we can think in those ways, in those terms, we're going to do pretty well"
"I've talked about September having its own energy. It's there."
And now October is here.
How the 2015 Chicago Cubs were builtThe Cubs must still must set their 25-man roster for the wild-card playoff game against the Pirates. Including players on the expanded September roster, here is how the Cubs obtained each of their players:
CatchersMiguel Montero: trade from Arizona, Dec. 9, 2014, for pitchers Jeferson Mejia and Zack Godley
David Ross: signed as a free agent (Boston), Dec. 23, 2014
InfieldersAnthony Rizzo: trade from San Diego, Jan. 6, 2012, with pitcher Zach Cates for pitcher Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na
Starlin Castro: nondrafted free agent, Oct. 25, 2006
Addison Russell: trade from Oakland, July 5, 2014, with pitcher Dan Straily and outfielder Billy McKinney for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel
Kris Bryant: first round (second pick overall), 2013 draft
Javier Baez: first round (ninth pick overall), 2011 draft
Jonathan Herrera: minor-league contract, Nov. 24, 2014
Tommy La Stella: trade from Atlanta, Nov. 16, 2014, with international signing-bonus slot No. 4 for pitcher Arodys Vizcaino and three international signing-bonus slots
OutfieldersKyle Schwarber: first round (fourth pick overall), 2014 draft
Chris Coghlan: minor-league contract, Jan. 23, 2014
Dexter Fowler: trade from Houston, Jan. 19, 2015, for Straily and third baseman Luis Valbuena
Jorge Soler: nine-year major-league contract, June 30, 2012
Chris Denorfia: free agent (Seattle), Jan. 9, 2015
Quintin Berry: minor-league contract, Aug. 24, 2015
Austin Jackson: trade from Seattle, Aug. 31, 2015, for a player to be named
PitchersJake Arrieta: trade from Baltimore, July 2, 2013, with pitcher Pedro Strop and two international signing-bonus slots for pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger
Jon Lester: free agent (Boston), Dec. 15, 2014
Jason Hammel: free agent (Oakland), Dec. 12, 2014
Kyle Hendricks: trade from Texas, July 31, 2012, with infielder Christian Villanueva for pitcher Ryan Dempster
Dan Haren: trade from Miami, July 31, 2015, for infielder Elliot Soto and pitcher Ivan Pineyro
Clayton Richard: trade from Pittsburgh, July 3, 2015, for cash
Trevor Cahill: minor-league contract, Aug. 18, 2015
Justin Grimm: trade from Texas, July 22, 2013, with infielder Mike Olt, pitcher Carl Edwards Jr., and a player to be named (pitcher Neil Ramirez) for pitcher Matt Garza
Travis Wood: trade from Cincinnati, Dec. 23, 2011, with outfielder Dave Sappelt and infielder Ronald Torreyes for pitcher Sean Marshall
Hector Rondon: Rule 5 draft (from Cleveland), Dec. 6, 2012
Pedro Strop: trade from Baltimore in Arrieta deal
Zac Rosscup: trade from Tampa Bay, Jan. 8, 2011, with pitcher Matt Garza and outfielder Fernando Perez for pitcher Chris Archer, catcher Robinson Chirinos, infielder Hak-Ju Lee and outfielders Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyor
Carl Edwards Jr.: trade from Texas in the Grimm deal
Tommy Hunter: trade from Baltimore, July 31, 2015, for outfielder Junior Lake
Yoervis Medina: trade from Seattle, May 19, 2015, for catcher Welington Castillo
Fernando Rodney: trade from Seattle, Aug. 27, for a player to be named or cash
Tsuyoshi Wada: free agent (Baltimore), Feb. 7, 2014