Q. About Lester, tomorrow could be easily his last pitching assignment this year, obviously his last start this year. Could you talk a little bit about how important it is to have a pitcher like Lester for that tough game? And please, if you could talk about what he's meant to your pitching staff the last years you've been here.
JOE MADDON: Well, had him for two years now. Been with him for two years, and I've watched him from a distance for a while. But he's just continually grown while he's been here. Started out slowly last year. Was hurt in Spring Training our first year together. Beginning part of the season didn't go as he had wanted it to, but by the end of the season he really started to kick it in gear nicely. This year, pretty much wire to wire. He's just been a different cat all year. More comfortable in his Cubs skin this year, and you could see that from day one.
So right now for the most part, for most of the season, we've seen him pitch as well as he possibly can. He's been outstanding.
Then more specifically about tomorrow, yeah. I mean, to have a guy that's been-there-done-that kind of a guy, and he's been very successful, been a World Series champion, he knows what the feeling is like, he knows what it takes. So it's definitely comforting to the rest of the group for tomorrow. But it's about taking care of business today to make that game feel entirely different for him and for us.
But, yeah, listen, I've been really -- as a steward of this ballclub right now to be able to work with people like that and him, it's kind of special for me.
Q. When you look at the off-and-on nature of your offense in the postseason, how much of it is attributable to the youth of your team and being here for the first time, or is it just all the other side's pitching?
JOE MADDON: No, I think a lot of it has to do with youth. That's what I keep bringing up. I talked about it yesterday. As we continue to move forward together, the one area of our club that I anticipate's going to get better is offense. If you put your scout's cap on right now, normally you look at our group or any group, you're going to see running speed should hopefully remain the same, possibly regress a little bit. Defense should remain the same, possibly get a little bit better. Arm strength the same thing, you want to at least maintain what you have. But if you had to write numbers down on a piece of paper, the one you're going to project a lot on would be offense, whether it's hitting or hitting with power.
So if you look at our kids, I think if you put your, like I said, your scout's cap on, it's going to be easy to understand that the area we're going to get better at is offense. Understanding themselves better, understanding what the pitcher's going to try to do against them. Understanding how to make adjustments in the game. Understanding how to utilize the entire field more consistently as they gain experience.
So that's the part that's really exciting to me is that we're in this position right now, two years in a row. Like last year we didn't quite get here, but two years in a row now we've been one of the last four teams playing with a really young group of baseball players that are going to continually get better.
So that's really exciting to me. I think it's more of a youth commentary as opposed to the fact that, if anything else, we're just young and having to make adjustments against some very good pitching.
Q. Javy talked last night about how he might have been a little overanxious at the plate. How would you assess his approach lately? And do you think maybe he was trying a little bit too hard there?
JOE MADDON: First of all, I love the fact that he's honest about it. I really dig that. That's how you get better is the accountability component. He just needs repetition. He's been good. Look what he did in San Francisco. Look what he did against the Dodgers. He's been really good. He's been really good in this postseason. He won an award.
So the last couple nights maybe shows that he is 22 or 23 years of age. Maybe finally he demonstrates that. Again, what that requires more than anything is just talking to him. Having him getting back to the approach that made him so successful for the last two series in the latter part of the season. That's it.
There's no more work to do. There's no more information, data, all the stuff that everybody wants you to really inundate yourself with. It's just a mindset. It's controlling your emotions. It's controlling your mind. It's having the right plan in place. It's being self-aware.
There's one thing I talked about all year it's about self-awareness. Yesterday I thought we demonstrated great self-awareness on defense. Offensively we weren't as self-aware as we had been in the first two series, and that's what we have to get back to. That's how you control your strike zone.
Listen, I love this guy. We all do. He's spectacular. He's going to keep getting better, but I love the accountability component from him.
Q. With Heyward, to what extent, if any, is he still trying to work through and make meaningful adjustments at this stage?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, he's still working on things, but this is something he's going to have to, really, during the winter time search internally, what do I want to do here? Get some help probably from John (Mallee) or Skee (Hinske), get together during the winter time and make it a wintertime approach. He definitely needs also time to shut 'er down. I don't believe in the 12-month thing especially for a guy that's been playing as much or as often as he has. It's more mentally draining than it is physically, ever. So probably shut it down, think it through, come back, and then get physically and mentally into it again.
For right now, believe me, his work is outstanding. They've been working all year. He's shown spurts or signs of really coming through what he had done in the past. But for right now pretty much just go play without overthinking it right now. Just go play and just contribute to us winning somehow.
But absolutely it's something that needs to be addressed and he will address it in the off-season. I have a lot of faith in him going into next year.
Q. Back to Lester, how helpful has it been as manager with such a young team to kind of have him be a lead-by-example guy, a tone setter, he deals well with the media, that kind of thing?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, I love all that. To talk the game, it's one thing to actually go ahead and do it is something entirely differently. I think the learning component from the young guys watching him, like you're saying, just observing him, whether it's his workout, how he goes about his business on the mound, how he addresses the media, how he just addresses them, all that stuff, that's how you do learn.
Again, theory and reality are two different things. With him theory and reality do come together. I think as a young player I definitely would want to emulate that, watch that, how does he do this. Furthermore, all the different physical maladies he's had to overcome as a young player to get to this juncture. There's a lot of stuff Jon's gone through to get here.
So I love the fact that our young players get to watch him or David Ross or Miggy or whomever, go about their business and how they handle the daily routine, especially at this time of the year. Because it's only going to make us better. And I think our kids really do watch very carefully.
Listen, I've been really proud of the way all of our guys have handled everything to this moment. Look what Montgomery's done; nobody even talks about him. And CJ Edwards, these are really young, inexperienced players, pitchers handling really big roles. Justin Grimm yesterday, the big double-play ball. I'm really pleased with the growth of a lot of our young players, and I think a lot of it is attributable to watching the veterans do what they do and how they do it.
Q. You've been commanding the strike zone from the batter's box over the last couple days. You've got Kluber who he sort of decides on his own who is going to be commanding what strike zone some days. But he's also going on three days' rest. Getting into their bullpen is no real joy either. So what is the point of emphasis in terms of first three, four innings against him? Attack, try to see more pitches, push him toward --
JOE MADDON: I'm not talking about seeing more pitches. I'm talking about not swinging at the pitches he wants you to. Last night, for instance, we were outside of the zone a lot and chasing a curveball in the dirt, chasing elevated fastball. Those are the kind of things, that's what I'm talking about. I'm fine with attacking strikes early and not necessarily trying to work to get them to throw more pitches. I'm sorry, that's not my point.
Q. Even on three days' rest?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, I don't know. We saw Kershaw shove on three days' rest, and we beat Kershaw with normal rest. So I don't even know what to expect. My point prior to that game was I was eager to see velocity and location, and he had -- all he threw was his fastball that night. He threw the fastball on the edge all night long, and there was nothing we could do with it on short rest. Then he comes back on regular rest, and we watch the first inning, the fastball velocity is down and command's not there. So it's so hard to predict.
So my point on harping on that is that we're really good when we force the pitcher over the plate. With that, we utilize the entire field. Those are the kind of things I'm talking about. Not necessarily to not be aggressive or try to make him throw more pitches. To not expand our strike zones and swing at what he wants you to swing at, that was my point.
Q. Let me try and belabor the Heyward thing a little bit more in a different way. Is it your experience that a player may cognitively lose his baseball judgment over a period of time and is unable to get it back?
JOE MADDON: I would say that probably happens more to a guy that's a little bit older and maybe has lost quickness or agility or whatever. Jason's really just approaching his prime, I think. Honestly, there are so many times that I would probably talk about a guy's mental approach getting in the way. With him it truly is a physical adaptation that he's got to make in regards to how he's swinging the bat and how he presents the head of the bat to the ball.
So there's nothing physically holding him back. There's not a lack of quickness, awareness, all that stuff. It's just a physical awareness or adjustment that I think he has to make, and we've talked about it.
So moving forward, I totally believe that he can get it back. I think you could actually see the best version of him to date with a good off-season and working through some physical issues to get him on the right path. Because you watch him, you watch him run, you watch him play defense, you watch him throw, he's strong, everything about him is really good. With him, I just think we have to get together regarding physical adjustments with the way he presents the bat, presents his hands to the ball. I think, like I said, you still stand the chance to see the best version of him ever, and he's had some really good years to this point.
Q. You mentioned the youth of your team and self-awareness. Taking those young players against Corey Kluber on short rest, do you manage them differently in that situation compared to Game 1?
JOE MADDON: No, I mean, the difference would be they've seen him a couple days ago. We haven't seen him either. We didn't even see Kershaw this year until we saw him in the playoffs, because he had been injured when we played them. Kluber we saw last year one time here, and he pitched pretty well here. I think it was a Monday make-up day.
Anyway, I want to believe the idea that seeing him a couple days ago is going to help. When you see premier pitchers that are on top of their game for the first time all season, that's not an easy thing. The way his ball moves is abnormal sometimes. It's not unlike what people went through last year with Jake Arrieta, especially when they saw him for the first time. So hopefully we'll be able to make some adjustments today, things that John Mallee and Skee have been talking about. Again, on shorter rest, they may have a shorter leash with it because of that, possibly.
Their bullpen, I think Miller's still frisky tonight because he did not throw that many pitches last night. So the big thing again is to grab the lead somehow. Grab the lead, hold onto the lead. You don't want to try too fight from behind on these guys because that trilogy they're throwing out there is pretty good.
Q. Were you disappointed Soler didn't run hard off the bat last night? Does there have to be a discussion? Do you think he could have scored had he run hard off the bat?
JOE MADDON: I think I would have been disappointed had he only gotten to second base. I think all he could have done was get to third base.
I heard about the discussion, it kind of surprised me a little bit. When I saw the replay, and I thought it happened, and it happens to a hitter sometimes, you hit the ball and you don't know where it is. Once you find out where it is, truthfully, from the dugout it looked like it was going to be in the stands and the wind blew it back. Not any excuses, but the way the play eventually turned out, I truly believe the best he could have done is achieved third base under any circumstances.
So, no, I wasn't. For the most part, I'd say at least 90% of the time or more, guys do give you that right effort. Javy's had a couple missteps this postseason based on what balls he thought were home runs. And Jorge last night I think it was totally an innocent thing. He didn't know where the ball was and then the wind. Eventually he achieved third base. I only would have been upset had he only achieved second base.
Q. I was just reading that Beanie got here last night on time.
JOE MADDON: Yeah.
Q. I wonder if you could chronicle her travels? Is it the first time she's ever been in the back of a police car?
JOE MADDON: Not the first time I don't think (laughter).
Yeah, first of all, my mom's 83, so they have to drive two hours to go from Hazelton to the Philly airport to begin with, which she did. And there is a 11:30 plane flight out of Philly that gets delayed because of the unfortunate situation at O'Hare. So she's at the airport until 6:41 or 7 p.m. last night. Thank God we picked up an hour coming this way.
She sits there all day, and they get on the plane, and I'm with Vijay, our traveling secretary trying to figure out how to get Beanie here. So we contacted the police, and they threw her in the back of the car. First of all they had to tell her she's not being arrested. Yeah, right, Beanie, being from Hazelton, Polish Catholic, she would have imagined the worst first; they always do.
So she was there. The cop assured her. My niece and nephew, Michael and Christine, were also part of the party. So I guess they threw them in the back there and just rushed them on in, and got her up to the will call window, escorted her in. And they got there by the second inning.
So it's definitely something, even though she's retired from the Base, Third Base Luncheonette, she goes up there for her morning coffee. It's a great conversation for maybe at least the next two years. So I definitely appreciate our local police force getting her here in time. 83, and then she's there till midnight after the game, I see her in the parking lot for the first time. Gets back at one o'clock, whatever, after going all day, and then she's going to be here tonight. God bless her.
Those tough Polish ladies man. I grew up with them. They're awesome. They can really clean, they can cook, and she's the best mom ever.
Q. You've mentioned a couple of times how your team has been guilty of chasing breaking balls out of the zone. To my understanding your club has actually struggled against breaking balls all season. Is it fair to say that this is something you need to live with? That you can't really, quote, unquote, fix it in the World Series?
JOE MADDON: I think it's an industry-wide concern. Right now the magnifying glass is on us. But I think if you point at every team, that probably most of them have a problem with that particular issue or pitch. I also believe that we hit breaking balls in the zone well, and that's the key component here is that you have to be able to discern.
Now if the other team's making pitches, if the other guy's making pitches in good spots all night long, any team's going to have that difficult moment.
So for us, I've seen us hit breaking ball strike really well all year. Again, that's why you have to learn to recognize the pitch that starts out as a strike and becomes a ball and take it. Whereas there is also the pitch that starts out as a ball and becomes a strike is the one you have to swing at.
So those are the kind of determinations you have to make in that split-second. But I'm here to tell you, man, it's not just us. It's an industry-wide problem. There are a lot of teams that we've played against that we'd like to do the same thing against them. Then it comes down to the command of that pitcher that night. His ability to command that pitch in and out of the strike zone.
So, listen, it's a great conversation, and it's true. But it's not just true of us, it's true of a lot of teams.