2016 Cubs Convention: Joe Maddon and His Coaching Staff
Joe Maddon and his staff engineered the biggest turnaround in the big leagues last season, as the Cubs won 97 games. He made waves off the field too, from themed road trips to bringing zoo animals to Wrigley Field. This panel covers what’s ahead for the 2015 NL Manager of the Year and the rest of the Cubs coaching staff. It was hosted by Len Kasper.
Full disclosure: We missed about the first 20 minutes of this panel while covering another one. Here’s what we were able to catch from the questionn and answer session:
The first question we caught was about Kyle Schwarber and where he will play next year. Mike Borzello, the catching coach, starts by saying he wants Schwarber to be a catcher. Dave Martinez, the outfield coach, wants him in the outfield. Martinez says people don’t realize how athletic Schwarber is. Schwarber wants to steal bases. He’s also been picking Jason Heyward’s brain to try to be a better outfielder.
Maddon called Eric Hinske Schwarber’s dad. Hinske joked that he looks like Schwarber and often gets asked to sign autographs as Schwarber. He takes that as a compliment (Hinske is 38 years old).
The coaches all talk about how special 2015 was. Maddon talks about Javy Baez’s home run in the postseason and how special that was for the young player and for him as a manager. He also talks abotu the fight his team displayed in the postseason. He says he’s good at reading players’ faces to see if they still have some fight in them. His team never gave up.
One fan asks about Baez playing center field in winter ball. Maddon really likes the idea of Baez in center. He’s very athletic and is one of the best on-field defenders Maddon has ever seen. Maddon praises Baez’s baseball acumen. He also likes winter ball for players and likes to see guys playing year-round.
The next question is about the great prospects who came up with Dave Martinez, comparing that class to the current one. Martinez said he just wants to keep all these guys for a long time. He’s surprised at how big these guys are. The talent pool right now is unbelievable. He’s ecstatic to be able to work with these guys on a daily basis. He feels their job is just not to screw these guys up. They players are just that good.
There is a question about the depth in the bullpen and how many swingmen there are. How will this get sorted out? Maddon says you can never have enough relief pitchers. He wants at least four guys who can pitch in high-leverage situations—even-or-ahead-guys, he calls them. He thinks they have seven guys this year who can do that. “When you have interchangeable people like we do, you can keep guys frisky until the end of the season.,” Maddon says. He wants to dole out the work and keep guys fresh. Bosio says they have something that no one else in baseball has. Four bullpen guys who have four to five pitches. Other teams are trying to follow what the Cubs are doing. Maddon talks about how the game can be won or lost in the fifth or sixth inning, so he wants to use the key guys in the key situations.
Maddon talks about wanting starters to go deep in games, which makes for a better bullpen. But he uses Kansas City as an example or the Yankees. Maddon thinks the Cubs bullpen could be comparable to those in terms of shutdown pitchers. He looks at how sharp the starter is and how fresh his bullpen is. But he generally looks at the hitters more than the skillset of the pitchers. He’s playing matchups in leverage moments. It’s about leverage moments and who is the best guy for the job against each hitter.
Bosio talks about how the game as changed and compliments Maddon on how he manages the game and the pitchers. Bosio has an old-school mentality about pitching as a former starter. Now he knows the game is going to tell you the move. That’s what Maddon does so well. Bosio says you’re trying to win every game, but you’re also trying to win every at-bat, every out. That’s something he learned from Maddon.
There’s a question about the hardest decision Maddon had to make. He says it was the time he took Jason Hammel out of a game early against San Francisco. He knew how important that series was and thought he needed to start managing like it was a playoff situation. That decision made sense to him in that big series. He wanted to get that first win in the series. It was difficult, but it was the right thing to do. They ultimately swept the series.
Someone asks a question about Martinez’s managerial aspirations. Martinez says there’s no better man to learn from than Maddon. When he first started coaching in Tampa, he asked Maddon what he wanted him to do because he’s not a yes man. Joe said he wanted Martinez to be himself and tell him what he saw, whether Maddon agreed or not. the manager wants to be challenged. Martinez also says he learns a ton from this coaching staff. Maddon told him early on never to think he knows enough about the game. Just be a good listener. Martinez is happy with where he is. He chose to be here and wants to win here.
The last question is about whether Maddon has any regrets from the season. He says perhaps he should have said more rosaries.