Epstein denies he was control freak when Maddon was in Cubs' dugout
MESA, Ariz. -- Flying in from Chicago on Monday and spending most of Tuesday morning in staff meetings to prepare for spring training, Cubs president Theo Epstein said he didn't have the time to take a look at major-league baseball's reported proposal to expand the playoffs from 10 teams to 14 in beginning in 2022.
Epstein was able to absorb some strong words from Joe Maddon, who exited as Cubs manager at the end of last season.
In an interview with ESPN, Maddon said Epstein wanted to "change everything," during his final year in the Cubs' dugout.
"Philosophically, Theo needed to do what he needed to do separately," Maddon said. "At some point, I began to interfere with his train of thought a little bit. And it's not that I'm hard-headed. I'm inclusive.
"But when I started there, (20)15, '16, '17, it was pretty much my methods. And then all of a sudden, after '18 going into '19, they wanted to change everything."
Instead of lashing right back, Epstein seemed to be somewhat stunned by Maddon's remarks.
"I'm going to take the high road here, and that's easy for me to do because I love Joe and I value our friendship and I've got nothing but respect and appreciation for what he brought to the Cubs," Epstein said. "Nobody on the planet, and I've said this before, nobody on the planet could've done what he did those first couple years.
"Changing the whole mindset, raising expectations, getting players -- especially the young guys -- to be themselves and be comfortable and thrive."
After heaping praise on Maddon, Epstein strongly denied he ever pushed his manager to change.
"I guess I'll just say that this is my 29th season in major-league baseball, it's my 18th running a team," Epstein said.
"I can guarantee you that I've never wanted to get involved in running the clubhouse, I've never wanted to infringe on a manager's authority. I've never told a manager that he had to hire or fire a coach. I guess with one exception, due to some off-field issues, I had to get involved.
"I'm a firm believer that it's the manager who has to help define the culture around the major-league team. The manager has to be a leader of the clubhouse. The manager has to set expectations and hold players accountable to certain basic organizational standards for preparation and for work and for behavior. Teams run best when that's from the manager, the coaching staff and the players, and not from the front office.
"I have no interest in usurping a manager's power or authority or place running the team. I can only succeed doing my job if we have a strong manager who's empowered in that clubhouse."