Winter Meetings interview with Joe Maddon

December 12th, 2017

Q. You signed Chatwood last week and seems like you're really moving forward with pitching, how encouraging is that?
JOE MADDON: Obviously we have needs to fill and we have all been fans of Tyler's for several years. Saw him last year again; he's really good. Can throw the ball on the ground, can get the punch-out. So obviously it's a really good step in the right direction after having a couple open slots going into the off-season.
So it's definitely a step in the right direction. The conversation, a lot of it is based on pitching, when we are up in our room. We're kind of satisfied with the team on the field but we have to constantly try to upgrade the pitching; everybody does.
So that was great first step. I know Theo has addressed this at different times, but I really like that -- we all liked that one a lot.
Q. With Hickey joining you as a pitching coach, he has a reputation for helping guys get better, refine things and just all around good --
JOE MADDON: Bon vivant.
Q. Exactly. Do you expect him to be at the core of this change in the bullpen?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, Hick's really good. He's very good, with starters and relievers. He's good with mechanics. He's good with game planning. He's good on a lot of different levels. So he's going to be extremely relevant. The pitchers will gather around him. They will rally around him. He's got a great personality, too.
Q. How many conversations have you had with him?
JOE MADDON: With Hick? Just talked to him today. Hick is always accessible. You can have a lot of fun with Hick. He's wide open. He's wide open. He's wide open and he's very good at what he does. So we have talked a couple times. We're excited about working together again.
Q. You worked with Dave Martinez for a lot of years, what do the people in DC need to know about him?
JOE MADDON: Davey is are ready. He's ready. He's very good at what he does. He's going to be a very good in-game manager. We talked a lot during the course of the games. He's also a very good instructor. He's a very good outfield instructor. He can help with the hitting.
It's just Davey's time. He's ready to get this done, and I really have a lot of confidence that Davey is going to do a great job.
Q. Will it be weird to look to your side and not see him?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, because he's one of those guys that's at the point now where he knows what I'm thinking all the time. But although Brandon Hyde is going to do a great job as a bench coach, too.
Q. The rest of the bullpen? Still finalizing that?
JOE MADDON: We're still working on Brandon, and there's other things that are still in the offing. You got to have that great bullpen to play the last game of the year and win it. Wade was great last year. Hopefully that's going to come back to us possibly. There's other guys that may still come back to us. But you'll see it, it's really turning into a bullpen kind of a game and especially when it gets to the last several games of the year.
So again, that's a big part of our conversation upstairs is talking about bullpen, trying to acquire the right guys, a good mix, the right mix, but we have always been good about that, and Theo and Jed have been very good about maybe unearthing a guy or two, like last year, for instance. Brian was a fantastic part of our group.
So we'll put that together, but you're not going anywhere, you're not winning the last game of the season without that great bullpen.
Q. What do you think about, bullpen by committee have not worked in general. And teams haven't liked it very much, managers haven't liked it, but now that with the extension of all the bullpen guys going towards the back, is it more logical that you could have an A and B closer?
JOE MADDON: I don't see anything wrong with it. Yeah, listen, first of all, I think it's always great to have the anchor, because if you have the anchor, then it's really a lot easier to build the innings prior to the 9th inning. When you don't that one guy and you're maybe relaying on two guys, I don't want to say it's going to get confusing, but it's just a different method on a nightly basis from the dugout's perspective. But it's always good to have another guy to finish it, if, in fact, that guy is not available.
I still like the leverage moments, I still believe in that. Whenever that arrives, you want to put your best guy, your best matchup in the 7th or 8th inning and not just necessarily go or 6th, 7th, 8th inning pitchers except if those guys are really neutral pitchers, that can get out righties and lefties. Then it becomes more amenable.
So, yeah, it's great to have an anchor, but if you have two guys that can finish, it's always best. But the real interesting relief pitchers are neutral relief pitchers, guys that get out both righties and lefties. Those are the kind of guys that you don't end up warming up too much and not using them, because the situation's kind of always right for them.
Q. If Brandon is on board as the A, if he's on board, is the B guy on your roster now or is that a spot that could be filled?
JOE MADDON: I don't know, like Stropy is really good. Stropy was really good last year. CJ is really good. You look at CJ, there was a little controversy at the end of the year, this guys's fantastic. He had a fabulous year, not a good year. So I've always thought CJ's going to be capable of being that guy eventually. Stropy's shown that he can, if it's necessary. And then of course we got to nail down Morrow, hopefully.
Q. Or Justin?
JOE MADDON: Excuse me, that's another guy, listen, I'm glad, thank you for saying that. I really want to get in touch with Justin, because I know that wasn't the typical representation of him at the end of last season. He just got off to a tough start, and we didn't have time to really get it rolling right. But getting him back on track makes a huge difference for us also going into this season.
So there's so many different options. Spring Training, big, really reestablishing the relationships, getting on the same page. They have a new pitching coach to deal with, different thoughts and ideas. I like the pen. I think it's going to keep getting better before we get done with the off-season, but there's some really good arms, and I'm not worried about having A and B, I'm not worried about that, I still think we're going to work all the way through that. But we have really capable lefties and righties. Like Montgomery's still in that situation, possibly a swing guy, I'm not sure. I just think by the end of this -- maybe not by the end of the Meetings but by the end of this off-season we're going to have a really firm bullpen again.
Q. Has Hickey said anything about his observations on Wilson just based on being in the same --
JOE MADDON: No, we haven't drilled -- I've been like trying to vacation a little bit. Last week got kind of hectic again, and taking off for PA tomorrow night, and then I'll get more involved with Jimmy as we get into the new year. As you know, I like to put things down for a bit. These last three years have been pretty firm, and I wanted to just try to cut away from that. I promise you we have plenty of time to talk about that, think about that.
Our guys upstairs do such a wonderful job, video analysis and breakdown of deliveries and that and information that we'll start compiling that, so we'll have a definite plan by the time we get to Spring Training. So Hick and I will have some really good conversations, there's no question, but it's not a huge concern of mine right now.
Q. Schwarber, would he possibly lead off again?
JOE MADDON: Well, first of all, he looked great the other night. He came to our event, we had the Thanksmas event in Ava 717 south, he showed up and it was really amazing and a good way to see. He's probably arguably in the best shape of his life. So it starts right there.
Regarding the leadoff thing, and I know there's a lot of stuff written about that, it wasn't -- it was only failed in the sense that Kyle had a tough time last year. He could have hit one through nine and still had a tough time last year. Just it was not his year, although he rebounded really nicely.
I don't know, we haven't, again I have not really drawn a lot of conclusions with that. Obviously we still got to see what the team's going to look like in its entirety. Schwarber obviously could lead off, if he is hitting like Schwarber, he's accepting his walks and he's got his .250-plus batting average, and his on-base, his on-base is going to be a hundred points over his batting average, I really believe that again.
So he's definitely -- I definitely will consider that once again, but I want it see who all the available candidates are first.
Q. With your new hitting coach, Chili Davis, I know you've always let your coaches coach, but will you be kind of hands-on in helping him initially as to where you want him to go with your hitters as far as a difference of approach?
JOE MADDON: When we sat down with Chili before we hired him, we had a really strong conversation -- Chili and I go way back. Chili and I used to sit in the ball room, baseball room at Anaheim Stadium, before it was redone, when I was there as the bullpen coach, and I would be rubbing up baseballs and Chili would comeback with a cigar and sit with me, and we would talk hitting often. And even at that point I thought this, guy's going to be a very good hitting coach someday.
My point is he and I have had really open conversations about hitting, and there's a lot of similarities, there's a lot -- we overlap philosophically a lot. And even in that meeting that we had prior to hiring him, it really came out again in regards to the philosophical amenities there that we really agree with.
So primarily it's about approach, like approach with runner in scoring position, approach situationally with approach two strikes, because I thought he was really good at that. And even then he and I still would talk and there was so many again similarities regarding how to go about this. So I'm going to be very comfortable going out there throwing out there what I want to throw out there to Chili.
Chili is a very strong personality. He has a really strong belief system, but all our coaches, but I know with him being new and Hickey being new, the history that I have with both of these guys it's easy, just throw it out there. You don't have to go through that tiptoe moment, am I going to offend this guy? He's going to take what I say the wrong way, which I absolutely hate. I love cross-pollination, where coaches are not afraid to step outside of their own little department, to add to the conversation because they know the guy they're talking to is not going to be offended, because their self-confidence is strong enough.
Like Butterfield, I think we have a real great group, very self-confident group that nobody's going to feel offended or threatened if somebody wants to try to help. So I try to do that with all my coaches, and I want the coaches to feel free to do that among each other.
Q. When you're in the moment and going through the playoffs and guys are struggling to make contact, do you allow yourself at the end of the day saying, the little guy behind you saying, this isn't going to happen again as we go forward, we're too good to not have a better approach?
JOE MADDON: You know, my original thought whenever -- that's happened twice now - against the Mets and then again last year. I'm just waiting for guys to get more at-bats, to grow up in the Major Leagues offensively. Listen, I have talked about it last year, we are young but I can't no longer say we're inexperienced. We have done a lot of stuff over the last three years. I believe that as we accumulate more at-bats against good pitching, not just pitching, really good pitching, which obviously occurs during the playoffs, as our guys arrive at that point, the combination of the hitting instructor and just being more savvy, knowing what to do, processing the moment a little bit more cleanly, whether it's Javy or KB or Riz or whatever, it's just going to keep getting better, because we expect to be back there again.
So I think it's a combination. Chili's, he's kind of like that dude that could apply like the graduate school kind of stuff to undergrad, from undergrad to grad kind of stuff, and then with that just the experience of playing at that time of the year and not liking not doing well, not liking not winning. Again, our guys may not be old on a birth certificate, but we're not satisfied with what happened last year.
So I'm really here about Spring Training, and I think that we lost a couple really good coaches. We shuffled the deck, and they were really outstanding, but the guys we got in are going to probably provide a little bit different semantics, verbiage, whatever to bring this across. So I think that our players are going to respond well.
Q. Usually you're thinking about your messages, even now I don't know if they've crystallized yet, but have you reached a point as an organization where it's almost World Series or bust in a good way, where it's not enough just to be good?
JOE MADDON: Right, listen, NLCS or bust we have been over the last three years, and it's really not that bad to be under those circumstances. I don't want to grow up to be that guy that if you don't get the pony every birthday, that you're going to be upset or start crying in a corner. Of course our goal is World Series on an annual basis, or bust is kind of difficult. I mean, I just think that the way our is society's generating these days, sometimes that kind of thought actually could be counterproductive and actually work against you.
I would much prefer us to be -- you've heard me a zillion times, be process oriented. This is how we're going to do this to get to that point, to get to those meaningful games. We have done it three years in a row. Listen, three years to the NLCS in a row, that's tough. And I give our guys a lot of credit. One World Series. Our goal is to play and win the last game of the 2018 season. Absolutely it is, but I would hope that we just don't arrive at that point as a fan base, as an organization that if we don't win it all, that all of a sudden you consider that a failure, because I totally disagree with that concept.
Q. It's always been a business and maybe it's just perception, but it felt like years ago trades were more about talent. Now it's talent, contracts, controllable years, salary dumps, walk years. Do you like the business part of it?
JOE MADDON: I stay out of it. I mean honestly, I do what I'm supposed to do. I attempt to manage the team, any suggestion I make is really independent of any of that stuff. It's not up to me to consider all those other things. It's up to me to verbalize what I think in regards to making the Cubs a better team, whether it's personnel, what I see, whether it's methods on the field, whether it's practice, whether it's interaction or communication with players. That's my job. My job is not to attempt to worry about contracts and controllables, and I don't.
I can't even tell you about that most of the time. I don't keep track of that stuff. I mean that absolutely sincerely. I'm pretty good at staying in my lane, and I stay in my lane, and I think if I'm able to do that, I can intellectualize my job a whole lot better than be worrying about the peripheries, because when I have -- obviously I got Jed, Theo and this other group of wonderfully intelligent people, so they will throw it back at me, we can't do it because of this, or that sounds good. And then I move on. I move on. I'm really good at moving on.
Q. You were with an organization that might not have been able as a manager to dream a little bit big when you ask for wants. There are some guys in hotel rooms that are playing under different rules. I'm not asking if you feel bad for them, but is it a little different, I'm assuming, now for you?
JOE MADDON: No, it is different, no question. Absolutely. When you ask Santa for something, there's a good chance it's going to show up, where in the past you just didn't know. I don't necessarily -- no, I don't feel bad about it or for them because I found that challenging. I mean, honestly when I worked with the Rays, to compete in the East every year, I thought it was outstanding and also outstanding with some sort of restrictions. It was a real challenge to win 90-plus games against that schedule. And now that I've gotten away from it and now I look back at it, you can see how challenging it actually was. When you're actually doing it, you don't see the forest for the trees. Again, I don't recognize that; you do your job.
So I'm certain that people that feel as though maybe they don't have all those resources, there's got to be a different path, method that you want to really explore, because you're trying to prove to everybody it doesn't matter, and that was my whole thing was to prove to everybody that it didn't matter.
Q. We spoke about Dave Martinez yesterday and you advocated for him again to get a chance as manager, what were some of the things that you did to try to get him prepared for that opportunity?
JOE MADDON: With Davey, like I said, it's his time; he's ready. You know, I gave him a lot to do. He was really involved in the defense every day, he was involved in outfield. He would stand by me during the game, was always listening in on the discussions for pitching changes, etc. Offensively he knew what I wanted, he was following the signs all the time. He would throw a suggestion out there. Just talking about the game stuff. Probably more importantly he's like, how do you deal with the players themselves, conversation, I would ask him to have conversations with certain guys and sometimes it's not easy, not easy ones.
Part of it was the fact that I should be the last voice to have to say that to somebody, and you try to send the intermediary out there first. Because the players, it's funny how players react to the manager sometimes in a real frozen or they get like concerned manner, whereas if you send the messenger, they react to the messenger a little bit better. So Davey was really good at delivering messages. I'm not just saying always harsh or bad, just in general.
I had a lot of conversations. He asked me a lot of questions all the time, and we have been together for awhile. He's going to develop his own method, too. That's what you need to do. You need to be your own man, which he's definitely going to be. But he's been a great student, I think he understands the job in its entirety. I think that regarding like all this stuff, that's just something you have to grow into anyway. But he's going to do a really, really good job. He'll also delegate well, I believe.
Q. Some of the things you mentioned they highlight people skills, and I'm wondering how big a part of the job is that compared to say the analytics, which seems to have grown in importance?
JOE MADDON: I still think people skills are number one. I do. Don't forget the heartbeat. That was on the T-shirt a couple years ago. I think that what's happening in our industry right now, everybody's drinking out of the same pool or reservoir, everybody knows the data, the information, everybody's got pretty much all that stuff. Then you have to decide to what extent you want to utilize it. But at the end of the day, you're trying to get better baseball players. Better baseball players that are fearless, better baseball players that when it gets hot a little bit, meaning tight, that they respond well to that. They never quit, they never give up.
It's always going to be about the heartbeat. But I think as everybody's gaining more like a level footing regarding the information world, it really is going to come back to the player. I think we're almost going to come back almost full circle to what it had been, meaning the player, the person itself is going to gain more importance. I think it's everything's been so pointing in a direction of numbers right now. The guy that really knows how to relate -- look at Dave Roberts what he's done and A.J. what they did last year, wonderful job of communicating with their players beyond the numbers. I think it takes a balance of all that.
Q. Has Baez done enough now to earn an everyday spot to be out there 162 times?
JOE MADDON: Well, of courses he's an everyday player. 162, I can't tell you that. I'm still into resting guys and there's still going to be -- everybody being healthy, there's still going to be guys I need to play and have to move around a bit. I really prefer not playing anybody 162. KB's going to want to be out there. Riz wants to be out there, but I think when we're able to rest these guys and again, I'm talking about the latter part of the year when you don't do well at the end, I think a lot of that is based on fatigue.
So we have enough, I think position players that we really, we really don't have to push anybody to 162. I hope it doesn't come down to that. But yes, Javy is an everyday player.
Q. With that in mind what do you kind of envision as Zobrist's role, and how big is the hurdle from being consistently productive?
JOE MADDON: He's working his butt off right now. I need to have my conversation with Zo to ask him what he thinks he can do. Honestly I don't know. Like last year I thought as we worked out, we played him about the right amount of times last year and he was fine for us at the end of the year. That's going to require a conversation, and probably I'll get in touch with him as we get deeper into this off-season. When we get to Spring Training he's going to definitely want specifics. That's how Zo is. So we need to be able to give him specifics and we will. But I honestly can't give you an exact -- you'll see him in both infield and outfield again.
There's other thoughts I have, I want to throw out at him, but I want to talk to him about it first.
Q. Do you think you'll, to start the season at least, you'll start Schwarber against lefties or is that something you have to figure out?
JOE MADDON: I think I have to figure that out and look at it. Again, to be absolutely honest, I don't know that right now. Again, while I'm looking at him the other day, I have an idea what it's going to look like, but I think we just have to wait and see before we decide that.
Q. How about a spot in the batting order, do you like giving Rizzo and Brian protection?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, again, I haven't written down a lineup one time last year, but this time I think I wrote it down and sent Peter the lineup one time. I haven't sent seat Peter the lineup this year.
Q. Have you come up with a theme or a saying for going into Spring Training? Have you started to think about it?
JOE MADDON: No. I'm being honest. Listen, I've been really --
Q. Will you have one this year?
JOE MADDON: Who knows. I really, I really just try to lay it down after the season was over and I did. And then this last, the combination of going to L.A., then I went and saw did an event for Cal in DC, then went back and just did this thing in Tampa. Sammy Fuld had an event, we had an event the other night and then I went back to Tampa. I have been getting busy again, and my plan is going to Hazleton tomorrow night for our event on Friday night. Coach Ditka is our special guest, and then Sunday's going to be a Thanksmas in Hazleton, and then starting that Monday I really want to be up there away from everything, and I'm hoping that my inspiration occurs at that point.
I've not been, I've not been very inspired to this point. Just been trying to chill out a little bit.
Q. After Gabe Kapler was hired, he talked about how you were one of the managers during his playing career that he learned from. What do you remember from the two years you managed him, and were there were there any qualities you saw then that might indicate that he could succeed as a manager?
JOE MADDON: At that time I told him at some point he's going to coach. He's been one of my coaches at some point. Really bright. Obviously very bright. Inquisitive, very inquisitive, very bright, well thought out. He was a really great conduit between the office and the clubhouse talking to young players, I thought he did a great job of leading. I thought he was a leader. I thought he was a leader, how he went about his work, obviously, and then his conversations with the guys, but his relationship with me, I was really impressed, like I said, with the intelligence level and inquisitiveness, I thought it was really interesting. Sincere, not fabricated, this is like real. And the way he played the game so hard and so proud, square-jawed, just everything about him, he's really focused all the time.
So I thought he would be a coach at some point before all this occurred, but he went back to the minor leagues did some good work. I know he managed in the minor leagues, but I was talking to him a lot on the phone prior to this. I just saw him at Sammy's event the other day, he's ready to rock and roll and he's going to attack with the same verve that he utilized as a player.
Q. A lot of people thought your creativity might get Otani to Chicago. Can you lay out how you may have would have used him if he was a Cub?
JOE MADDON: Well, that was really intriguing and I did use my Deshawn Warren method that I was going to employ in 1992, in my conversation.
No, part of I thought obviously pitch and obviously there's got to be some rest in there for the arm and then attempt to get him in the outfield, and then also of course pinch-hitting was a possibility there, too. In my conversation with them was that typically we had this week planned for him, but that was always malleable based on how you feel. Who knows, it's an arm. You have to take care of that arm. So my point was, it should not be etched in stone, this is exactly how we're going to do this. This is how we think that we can look, and then you got to be communicative and let us know, me know, what you think you can do.
The biggest concern would be throws from the outfield, recovery time, just being on his feet a lot. And I would need his information, I would need his input. So that's what I really wanted him to understand.
Q. I know you said you stay out of the, obviously, business side of it, but had a lot of rumors heating up. Obviously Washington in the mix. His agent came out and gave a price tag. How confident are you that we could possibly not see in Jake Arrieta Cubs uniform next year?
JOE MADDON: I have no meter working right now. I don't know. I don't know. I saw the number. Listen, I love Jake Arrieta. I mean, this guy, he and I got along great. He is really a man's man. Loved the conversation. We talk about Austin. We both want to go to Marfa, Texas and hang out. He's a great family guy. I love his family. I want the best for Jake Arrieta. Quite frankly I want the best for the Cubs, and I want what's best for Jake.
So when it comes down to negotiating, I don't get involved in that kind of stuff also because it's counterproductive to me to say something that could interfere with Theo and Jed's attempt to sign him, whereas it could also interfere with whatever they're doing.
I just want good for Jake. Jake was great for the Cubs, for my personal career, and I have nothing but thank yous to him. So those are the kind of things that are better left for somebody else. All can I tell you is that this guy is aces as a person.
Q. Do you think 200 million dollars is ludicrous at this point in his career?
JOE MADDON: Like I said, I wouldn't even go near that. It's a nice number though.
Q. Do you want Chili Davis to start working with Heyward?
JOE MADDON: I think they have been together. They have been together. I think Chili lives out there, too. No, listen, Chili, I know Jason and I know Chili, I could see that being an easy dialogue. I could see Jason warming up to him relatively quickly and easily, and I could see that Chili being able to like knock down any barriers in regards to what he wants to get across. I see it as being potentially really a good relationship. I think it's gotten off to a pretty good start from what I understand.
But, yeah, listen, John Mallee fabulous, Jonesie is fabulous, Bos, I wish these guys the best. It's just like now, like I said, a different voice for Jason might be beneficial through Chili.
Q. Do you expect major changes?
JOE MADDON: No. See the thing when you're almost 30 years old, dramatic changes are almost impossible. When a guy's body been working a certain way, whether it's throwing or hitting, whatever, there's so many years, just to on a Major League level to break it down and revamp in a dramatic method is difficult. It's really difficult.
Again, it would be something subtle. It's just a matter of them clicking on the right thought and then Jason being able to take it and run with it.
Q. The easiest narrative of baseball is it's strikeouts and it's home runs. We have kind of forgotten about all the stuff in the middle. Do you like this style of play?
JOE MADDON: I want it all. I want the homer, I want the good bunt, I want the safety squeeze, I want the hit-and-run, I want the runner on third base with less than two outs scoring on an out. I think you can nurture all of it. I really do. That's what we attempt to do. We relied on the home run a lot, we do punch out a lot but we also do walk a lot.
I alluded to it earlier, as our guys get more experience as hitters, I would like to believe that we'll understand how to make adaptations in any at-bat to move the baseball, put more pressure on the defense. I disagree with the group that says that strikeouts is just another out. It's totally wrong. The runner on third base less than two outs, it's not just another out. With nobody out on base and two outs, go ahead and strike out, hit a ball in the gap, it's different. Runner on first base and two outs, punch out, I'm okay. But I don't like it with a runner on second and two outs, I definitely don't like with a runner on third with less than two outs.
There's different buckets that need to be assigned to different situations. So when you just take this blanket method and apply it, I could not disagree with that more. It's no different than the data versus the heartbeat. Cannot disagree with it more.
So I want it all. I want our guys to play the game properly. I want them obviously, if they're strong enough to hit the ball out of the ballpark, but then if the moment requires for the ball to be moved, let's move the baseball. Let's learn how to move the baseball. Against good pitching, not just anybody, against good pitching. And I think as our guys gain experience, more experience offensively, hitting-wise, we're going to get better at that. That's what I look for.
Q. Do you have to snap some guys out of that mentality?
JOE MADDON: It's a slow process, man, I mean that's not, again, they're on a Major League level. It's not -- in the minor leagues is when you can, you know, verbally slap them around a little bit more. On the Major League level it's a slower process. It just is.