'I expect more out of myself, also': Cubs' Maddon stays cool, embraces challenges ahead
If Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein is the smartest guy in the room, manager Joe Maddon is the coolest.
Maddon seemed cool under pressure Tuesday during his session with a large media gathering at the winter meetings in Las Vegas.
Epstein has challenged Maddon to coach more and be more hands-on during the 2019 season, the final season of Maddon's five-year contract with the Cubs.
Maddon's response? No problem, dude.
"I expect more out of myself, also," he told a large gathering of local and national reporters. "It's not just somebody else bringing that to your attention. First of all, I do want to say that I think a lot of our guys did do well. It wasn't a horrible season. You can't look at 95 wins and totally flush it down the toilet. But when you get ejected that quickly, you're going to look more deeply, how do you avoid that from happening again?
"So that's where we're at right now. I actually like it. I love challenges, as you well know."
Maddon has four straight playoff appearances and a 2016 World Series title to his credit in four years with the Cubs. Despite a 95-win season this year, the Cubs exited with a thud, losing Game 163 of the regular season to the Milwaukee Brewers before getting bounced out of the playoffs by the Colorado Rockies in the wild-card game.
Even though Maddon is one of the most successful managers in Cubs history and likely bound for the Hall of Fame, Epstein has said he wants more "coaching" from Maddon next season.
No problem, replied Maddon, who came up as a minor-league instructor and coach. How will Epstein's edict affect him this coming season?
"Minimally," he said. "You guys see me every day. The difference would be that I want to get out. You saw me in spring training; I get involved in a lot of the drills in camp. During the season I'll just maybe make this (pregame media session) a little bit shorter and get outside during the batting practice and make sure I walk around a little bit and talk to the guys a little bit more often.
"I don't think you're going to see visually a dramatic change. I don't want to paint the wrong picture at all. My teeth were cut in development. I am a developmental guy."
While Maddon may be on the hot seat despite a record of 387-261 (.597) with the Cubs, he sees opportunity instead of pressure as a possible free-agent manager after next season.
"No, it's all good," he said. "We've had some really good conversations. I totally understand where he (Epstein) is coming from. I am not offended. I don't feel badly about it. I get it. I'm excited. I'm really excited about all this. If you have a lot of self-confidence, things like that do not bother you, and I do. I'm going to do my job.
"I am very happy with my stature and my status. The Cubs have taken extremely good care of me and my family to the point where I could never repay them enough. So regardless of your label attachment, your moniker right now, it doesn't matter. I'm going to do the same job, and I feel very confident moving forward that I'm going to be a big part of the Cub organization."