Maddon holds court, talks playoffs during intro
Cubs' new manager doesn't mince words at news conference
CHICAGO -- The Cubs ushered in a new era of optimism with confidence and flair on Monday, introducing Joe Maddon as the franchise's 54th manager.
With the highly anticipated construction taking place at Wrigley Field -- Maddon's introductory news conference was held at the popular Cubby Bear bar nearby because of the ongoing renovation work -- and the already high hopes for the young Cubs, Maddon was talking postseason within a matter of minutes.
"For me, I'm going to be talking playoffs next year," Maddon said. "I'm going to tell you that right now. Because I can't go to Spring Training and say any other thing. I'm just incapable of doing that. Why would you even report? It's all about setting your standards and your goals high, because if you don't set them high enough you might actually hit your mark.
"We're going to set our mark high and I'm going to talk playoffs and World Series this year, and I'm going to believe it."
The former Rays manager agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal with the Cubs, who dismissed Rick Renteria on Friday following one season with the club. After three seasons focused on rebuilding, the Cubs shifted their direction to being more competitive with the hiring of Maddon. A two-time American League Manager of the Year in Tampa Bay, Maddon guided the Rays to six winning seasons in nine years in the tough AL East, reaching the World Series in 2008.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein interviewed Maddon for the Red Sox's job in 2003, but instead picked Terry Francona, who had more Major League managerial experience. Francona led Boston to two World Series championships.
"Comparing Joe now to when I interviewed him over a decade ago, he was always confident," Epstein said. "But it's now reached a new level, because he's done it and it's worked.
"Joe is a combination of just about everything we look for in a manager. Everyone associates him with new-school because they've used analytics in Tampa and he's so open-minded and so progressive. But this is an old-school baseball guy with a wealth of knowledge. ... It's hard to find that. It's hard to find old-school and new-school in the same package."
The Cubs dismissed Renteria after one season not because of anything he did, but because of what Epstein believes Maddon can do. On Friday, Epstein said Maddon "may be as well-suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us."
Maddon became available when he took advantage of a clause to opt out of his contract with the Rays.
"We were caught with a dilemma on our hands," Epstein said. "In reconciling that, we had to think about what ultimately my responsibility is, and that's to do the right thing for the Cubs organization as a whole. I think we owe it to our fans to always try to have the best. It's a very unique opportunity when someone like Joe Maddon becomes available, and I don't think I'd be doing my job if we didn't pounce on that."
Maddon, 60, spent 12 years at the Minor League level as a manager or instructor before being promoted to the Angels' Major League staff as a bullpen coach in May 1994. He continued his move up, becoming the first-base coach in 1995 and bench coach in '96. He never played in the big leagues after four Minor League seasons at the Class A level.
The 2015 season will be Maddon's 41st in professional baseball, 22nd at the Major League level and 10th as a Major League manager. He is the Cubs' first high-profile manager since Lou Piniella took over in 2007, and the third -- following Dale Sveum and Renteria -- to be hired by Epstein since he arrived in Chicago in October 2011.
"Why would you not want to accept this challenge?" Maddon said. "In this city, in that ballpark, under these circumstances with this talent. It's an extraordinary moment, not just in club history but in today's game. This confluence of all these items coming together at the same time is pretty impressive."