Cubs embrace Maddon's anti-rules discipline
MESA, Ariz. -- No rules?
Cubs pitchers and catchers held their first formal workouts of spring training Friday, and new manager Joe Maddon made the rounds on the fields, observing workouts and chatting up his charges.
Maddon and the players still are in the getting-to-know-you stage, but the first impressions have been good, and most seem to like that Maddon is a self-described "anti-rules" guy.
"I still have my beard; that's a great, great thing," said relief pitcher Jason Motte, who signed with the Cubs this winter after playing for the Cardinals. "No, that is a good thing. He likes the players to be comfortable and just do what you do, not worry about the (nonsense). Just go out there and do what you do.
"I'm sure if there's stuff that's going on that shouldn't happen, he's going to get on you. At the end of the day, it's about going out and winning ballgames."
Maddon's day began with an address to the team followed by a team stretch with classic rock blaring out of what Maddon said was a $700 speaker.
A day earlier, Maddon said he isn't a big rules guy, but on Friday he wanted to make clear what he means by that.
"I was talking about in a baseball sense," he said. "Society needs rules. I wasn't talking about anything beyond the limitations of our clubhouse, when you're in an organization within a team concept, and I'm talking about accountable, professional people. You can't do that with a bunch of fifth-graders. Do not try this on your fifth-grade class. It doesn't work, I'll tell you in advance."
In other words, players can do as they please as long as they focus on the game.
"When you have a bunch of accountable, professional players who have worked very hard to get to this point, know what it takes to be successful, why would I want to get in the way of their day with some inane rules and stuff that means nothing?" he asked. "Dress means nothing. It has nothing to do with your success or failures, how they wear their socks, if they have long hair, if they have an earring. Why would I ever care about something like that? Every generation has its own little gig going on.
"Back in the day, I had long hair. It was down to my shoulders. I was very proud of it. It was actually brown at that time, too, from what I remember. So why do you always want to impose your will on everybody else? I don't quite understand that."
Even though the Cubs have prospects on the way, they added veterans this off-season in pitchers Motte, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester, catchers Miguel Montero and David Ross, and outfielder Dexter Fowler.
A returning veteran, pitcher Jake Arrieta, said he likes Maddon's approach.
"When the players are able to police themselves and kind of run the clubhouse as a team, as a unit, things run fairly smoothly," Arrieta said. "Jon's going to be an instrumental part of that and, obviously, Hammel, some of the older guys in here. It's just something where the young guys can go to somebody as a source of information. That's nice to have.
"I think accountability is huge for any ballclub, especially a championship team. That's something we'll harp on a lot this year, having guys hold themselves to a high standard and, obviously, hold their teammates to a high standard as well. Accountability plays a big role in that."
Lester had seen Maddon from the other side of the field when he pitched for Boston and Maddon managed in Tampa Bay.
Lester threw from one of the bullpen mounds Friday, and he said he likes what he sees of Maddon's approach.
"It's pretty straightforward," he said. "It's pretty simple. Play hard. Respect the game and do the right thing. That's refreshing to hear. I've come from a couple of good managers who were a lot like that, where, 'Hey, if you guys respect the game and respect me, I'll do the same right back to you.' It's refreshing to hear that, where there's not going to be, 'You have to, you have to.' It's, 'Go out and play. Let's have fun and enjoy this. And let's win.'"
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