What Cubs' manager Maddon expects from 2018 season
Cubs manager Joe Maddon is always cooking up something.
On Wednesday, he cooked up and served meals to the homeless during his annual "Thanksmas" event, at the Catholic Charites building in Chicago.
With the Cubs convention this weekend and spring training just over a month away, Maddon is trying to cook up a theme for the spring, something to keep his players sharp not only in the spring, but for the long baseball season.
The T-shirts haven't been printed yet, but Maddon seems to have an idea of where he wants to go.
"Probably for me, the two most important items all summer are going to be 'energy' and 'enthusiasm,'" he said. "Listen, we've been there (to the postseason) three years in a row, right? OK, we're pretty good. We've got good guys coming back. We just acquired some good guys; If you show up with energy and enthusiasm every day, they're going to do their to work, they're going to do the data, they're going to do the video, they're going to do the physical work.
"What else could you possibly ask for them to do? But if you show up with the right mental attitude every day, that's when all that stuff really kicks in. So if I'm going to make an emphasis on anything, it's that."
The 2015 Cubs, in Maddon's first year at the helm, shocked the baseball world by advancing to the National League championship series, getting swept by the Mets. Coming back hungry in 2016, the Cubs won the franchise's first World Series since 1908.
Last year, much was made of a World Series "hangover," as the team took awhile to get its bearing before righting itself, making another trip to the NLCS, but getting beat by the Dodgers.
"I don't know that we had enough fun, and I talked about this at the beginning of last year," Maddon said. "I'm not talking about crazy, zany kind of stuff. I'm just talking about, just don't apply so much undue pressure to yourself trying to replicate what you just did the year before. Go out there and let it happen.
"I just think it's a good life lesson. As we move along in life, we become jaded to what we had accomplished or what happened last year … and I don't want to get jaded by anything, whether it's a Thanksmas, two trips to the playoffs, a 1956 (Chevrolet) Bel Air. Don't ever get jaded. I think that's a tendency we run into. So I want to really tap into our human spirit."
Liking things ... for now:
The free-agent and trade markets have been slow this winter. The Cubs have added to their starting rotation with Tyler Chatwood and to their bullpen with the likes of Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and Dario Alvarez.
But look for team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer to add one more top-of-the-line starting pitcher.
Until such time, Maddon has what he has heading into the convention.
"Of course, we could function pretty well with what we have right now, but you're always looking to add more," he said. "There's no reason to believe that we're not. If I say that I'm happy with what we have, then I'm speaking to the group that's already there, and I'm plugging those guys, obviously. But if I'm the GM, president, I'm always trying to make the group better. I do like the group that's already there, but I would not doubt that our boys are going to do something else."
Schwarber impressing the boss:
Maddon says he's impressed with the way left fielder Kyle Schwarber has gotten himself into better physical shape this off-season, losing weight and working out rigorously.
Schwarber hit 30 home runs last year in a "down" season, as his line was .211/.315/.467 with 59 walks and 150 strikeouts.
"Just give the guy credit," Maddon said. "Obviously he did not like how last year came down, and he did something about it. Did you expect him not to? That's who he is. He's attacked it with a verve that's kind of unmatchable. That's just who he is."
Schwarber struggled hitting in the leadoff spot to start last year and eventually spent a short time in the minor leagues.
"He can hit anywhere in the lineup," Maddon said. "Everybody really got caught up in that moment last year. It always amuses me, honestly, when things are interpreted in a manner that has nothing to do with the outcome. He just had a tough year. So when Kyle's right, he can hit anywhere in anybody's lineup."