So yesterday morning I read that new Cubs skipper Joe Maddon went down to Puerto Rico to pay one Mr. Javier Baez a little visit.
He had a message for the young Cubs slugger: R-E-L-A-X.
Actually, Maddon had one more message than Aaron Rodgers; the other was to smile. After reading this I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. The first thing I’m thinking after reading that is “how cool is Joe Maddon?”
I mean, this is why the Cubs hired this guy. Forget about the tactical skills that Maddon posseses for a moment. The reason the Cubs brought the hipster-skipper to Chicago was more about leading the young men that are fast coming through the pipeline.
They need Maddon to not only teach these young players how to be big leaguers, but to get them to relax and perform under the intense scrutiny they are about to face here in Chicago. All of baseball has been hearing the hoopla about these kids, which means a lot of eyes and pressure.
Maddon is known within the game as being able to incorporate advanced stats and batted-ball data into his management. Yet he is probably more known for bringing his clubhouses together with a wacky atmosphere that includes themed dress-up days and boa constrictors.
Good ol’ Uncle Joe the hipster will now be there to put an arm around a player when he needs it.
“I’m a new member of the Cubs as a leader, and Javier is a big part of our future,” Maddon says. “I come to give support and develop a relationship — that you trust me. The most important thing for me is the confidence we can have in the spring fields”.
“He’s trying way too hard,” Maddon says of Baez. “I want him to back off. The last thing I want him to do is try to impress me tonight. … I said, ‘Hit a couple singles and, above all, I want to see you smile.'”
Putting an arm around a kid is exactly what Maddon is doing down in Puerto Rico right now. You don’t think players like Baez are going to respond when a guy like this takes the time to do this sort of thing?
“(Maddon) talks to me as if I had known him all my life,” Baez said. “I like him, and he is a tremendous person.’
On top of this, Maddon’s moxie — case in point: publicly aiming towards the World Series in 2015 — has his players taking a cue from him. Do you think Anthony Rizzo makes his division-winning guarantee without Maddon’s presence? I wouldn’t bet on it. I wouldn’t bet on the Cubs winning the division either, but the point is he’s got his players believing already.
All of the intangibles Maddon brings shouldn’t allow us to forget he is a tremendous in-game manager as well. However, wouldn’t it be ironic if the Cubs got themselves a duo like Maddon and his top lieutenant Dave Martinez, who are known to be experts at defensive metrics and shift strategy, only to have that advantage taken away by new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred?
Yeah, that would be pretty Cub.
Oh well, the bigger picture issue here is that Maddon is the Xanax for what Cubs-induced anxiety ultimately calls for. Maddon’s biggest job is to get everyone in Chicago to follow his lead and all be his cool babies.
Even if it takes buying shots for the local media and accumulating frequent flyer miles.