Star power: Maddon makes perfect pitch to Cubs fans
When Cubs president Theo Epstein came to town for his first Cubs convention in 2012, he brought something of a rock-star quality to the event.
In fact, we awarded him four "guitars" for his performance that year, as fans chanted his name here and again during the weekend.
This year, the guitars, bass and drums all go to new manager Joe Maddon. And since Maddon said he is a Bruce Springsteen fan, we'll throw in the sax, too.
There were big cheers for the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester and Kris Bryant, too, but the fans definitely seemed to like what Maddon was serving up.
Here are a few highlights, from the Saturday session with Maddon and his coaches and from Maddon's news conference with the media:
The batting order: Maddon says he has not formulated lineups yet, but he did say he was tinkering with the idea of batting the pitcher eighth, much as Tony La Russa did from time to time when he managed the St. Louis Cardinals.
"The things I've been researching a little bit, honestly, is the concept of hitting the pitcher eighth sometimes and why you would do that," Maddon said. "I talked to Tony about that in the past. I did it with the Rays a bit when we played National League ball. There are some definite reasons why you would do something like that.
"More than anything, you want to feed into the beefy part of the National League batting order better. I'm trying to find that."
Accountability: Epstein told the fans Saturday to hold him and the Cubs accountable for results.
Maddon said he'd be doing the same with his players.
"What's unique or what's challenging is they're good, these players are good, we have really good young players," the manager said. "The challenging component is the accountability side. A young player comes, and all of a sudden he gets to the big-league level or gets a chance to become a major-league baseball player.
"I don't like the entitlement program, so to speak. You have to earn that moment. So when our young guys get up there, they have to understand you have to earn it. Once they've earned that right, they have to be able to stay there. I think you stay there just by being an accountable person. In other words, owning up to your mistakes If something does go awry, you say, 'Yes, I did mess that up.'
"I really like when guys do that because I really believe that in order to become better at whatever we do, we have to admit to our mistakes... My primary task in spring training is to be aware of that and really hold the players accountable to moments."
Fan interaction: Not only did Maddon take questions from fans during his Saturday session with fans, he engaged them by asking questions to their questions.
"Who do you want?" he asked one fan about the third-base situation.
Not surprisingly, the fan answered Kris Bryant.
"Great question, brother," Maddon told the young man.
When the subject of shortstop came up, Maddon asked a fan whom he thought was the more fluid shortstop between Starlin Castro and Javier Baez. That kind of interaction makes the fans feel like they have a stake in things.
As far as music goes, Maddon said sometimes he would use his "Tommy Tutone" lineup, or 8675309. for the first seven spots
So expect the stereos to be blaring, both in the clubhouse and in the manager's office.
"I became a really big Springsteen fan in the '70s," he said. "I don't do anything without putting the music on first."