Cubs: How would Joe Maddon handle Pablo Sandoval’s Instagram problem?


Cubs: How would Joe Maddon handle Pablo Sandoval’s Instagram problem?

CLEVELAND – Joe Maddon’s social-media policy can be summed up in less than 140 characters: “Just don’t get caught.”

The Cubs manager has an anti-rules philosophy, more than 236,000 followers on Twitter and a laissez-faire attitude in the clubhouse.

Maddon hadn’t heard about the Pablo Sandoval Instagram incident until a reporter explained it to him during Thursday’s pregame media session at Progressive Field. As an ideas guy, he sounded interested in the story.

[MORE: Why Joe Maddon ordered Tsuyoshi Wada to say 'I am a badass']

The Boston Red Sox benched Sandoval for “liking” an attractive woman’s pictures during Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. This became the perfect storm for a last-place team, an aggressive media market and the new guy with a five-year, $95 million contract. 

Barstool Sports, a Boston-centric website, noticed the interaction between “kfp48” and “diva_legacy” on the photo/video-sharing application. Sandoval admitted to checking his cellphone while using the bathroom in the middle of the game.

“Seriously, what are you going to do?” Maddon said. “When I was in the minor leagues – a rookie-league manager – there was a rule that you had to monitor (the) one inch of red on my socks…back here with the stirrups. You’d come out every day worrying more about that than what you’re supposed to be worrying about.

“I don’t want to worry about things like this more than the things I’m supposed to be worrying about. I want them to exercise good judgment. I would believe that everybody in there would tell you that’s not the right thing to do.

“It really is harmless, but it sends out all the wrong messages, especially when you’re not playing well. Then it becomes amplified even more. Just don’t do it.”

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Unlike the Red Sox, the Cubs don’t have a formal team rule against using cellphones during games. Or a mobile-device shutdown 30 minutes before first pitch – something Hall of Famer Paul Molitor instituted during his first year managing the Minnesota Twins as a way to sharpen concentration.

“That’s a situation where I really like to believe that the guys will police one another,” Maddon said. “And if they feel like somebody’s not getting ready, call ‘em on it. I’d much prefer that method as opposed to something written on a piece of paper and me telling them how to act.

“You should know how to act. Act properly. And if you’re not, the guy sitting next to you who’s professional is going to say: Listen, man, put it down.”

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.