With a half-demolished Wrigley Field standing in the background like some sort of post-apocalyptic coliseum, Joe Maddon was officially announced as the 54th manager in the history of the Chicago Cubs. And if his first impression is any indication of things to come, he may make people forget the first 53.
Dale Somebody. Mike…uh, Q something. Ricky What’s-His-Nuts. See, I’m already having trouble remembering Maddon’s predecessors.
In the ever-increasing dystopia that is Cubdom, he walked into Thunderdome (aka The Cubby Bear) and emerged victorious. Radiating a preternatural savoire faire, Maddon’s acknowledged the various reporters’ introductions with “yo,” before launching into his varied responses.
Between talking about tooling around in his RV and having beers in Myrtle Beach he discussed how to best ameliorate some of the Cubs issues with the help of the card in his back pocket, which is apparently “dripping with analytics.” He waxed poetic about the cathedral in which he’d be managing, about National League baseball, and about following his dreams.
He wasn’t afraid to talk about the shortcomings of this team either, saying that he believes they swing too much. And while that’s pretty much a given for anyone who watching more than an inning of Cubs baseball this season, Maddon’s solution was perhaps a bit counter-intuitive.
Players don’t need to work harder, he said. They don’t need to spend more time at the ballpark. “The players don’t have to be the first one in and last one out to impress me,” Maddon said. “That has nothing to do with winning. Zero.” So will the manager himself be putting in long hours instead?
“We don’t have a lot of [7 o’clock games], but I can guarantee you won’t find me there at 2 o’clock or even 1. I don’t like sitting around in concrete bunkers, drinking coffee and watching TV.”
Maddon said that he wants his players to work less as the season goes on, but his mantra is that they need to work smarter. He said at one point that he has “Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure” written at the top of his lineup card for each game.
And that’s all well and good for a guy coming from Tampa Bay, but this is Chicago. This is the Cubs, a team whose title drought has exceeded the advent of most other professional sports leagues on earth. David Kaplan addressed that when he asked, “Do you have any idea what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into?”
“I love it,” Maddon responded with no hesitation.
Chills. I’m sure White Sox and Cardinals fans are laughing about the fact that so many are ready to cast a statue and hold a parade in the guy’s honor, but man. If this guy manages even half as good a game as he talks, there’ll be plenty of justified celebrations to follow.
And he’s planning on being here for a while, since he’s still a few months short of his 41st birthday. Yes, you heard that right. In addition to providing some convoluted math to explain how 9 can equal 8, the newly-christened Cubs skipper proclaimed 60 the new 40.
Maddon held court for a little over 30 minutes, just enough time for the cement of his foundation in Chicago to set and cure. It was certainly enough time for fans to believe that he actually holds the cure to the Cubs woes, that he’s just the shaman to lift the varied curses surrounding the grounds of the former seminary in which they worship every gameday.
While it’s not difficult to appear vibrant and animated after the parade of milquetoast automatons we’ve been subjected to over the past several years, it was obvious to anyone listening and watching that Joe Maddon is simply on another level. Is it hyperbole to say that this presser proved definitively that the Cubs did indeed make the right choice here?
Probably, but I’m going to say it anyway. In the short intro, he ingratiated himself to fans, players, and the media by letting everyone know exactly who he is and what he plans to do. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he took the mic one last time when the event had concluded and offered to buy everyone in the bar a beer and a shot.
Welcome to Chicago, Joe, I think you’re gonna do just fine.