Joe Maddon loves talking about the psychology of the game.
He can get going about the baseball on the field, too, of course. But he is clearly interested by the mental aspect of the game. He loves the intricacies of the human mind and what makes each individual tick.
"There's all these little mind games going on all the time," Maddon said. "The world revolves around confidence, man."
That's exactly why the Cubs jumped at the chance to bring Maddon in during the offseason, even with a manager (Rick Renteria) already in place. Maddon is a student of the game, but he's also a teacher, a fan, a coach. A mentor of the mind, if you will.
Maddon spent a big portion of Saturday's pregame media session talking about confidence and how he breeds it in his players, especially young Cubs that don't have much experience at the big league level, like pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Zac Rosscup.
Hendricks started Friday's game and looked to be cruising before a couple hits just out of the reach of Cubs defenders set up a two-out, three-run double by Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli.
Maddon said he intended on letting Hendricks find his way out of the mess, and the hope was the second-year starter would be able to go seven innings. It was a vote of confidence from the Cubs manager to the 25-year-old right-hander making his 20th career MLB start.
"More than just the physical components, it's a mental thing," Maddon said. "And that's why we're so into it. It really matters.
"Young players, Wrigley Field, Friday afternoon, we've been playing well and now (the Pirates) are coming back, they have momentum, you don't and you have to stop it. There's a lot of stuff going on, man. It totally exceeds (mechanical stuff).
"When you're able to control yourself — which we all attempt to do in stressful moments — that's when things get real good."
As for Rosscup, he's only 26 and was pitching in just his 43rd career game at this level. Yet Maddon went with Rosscup with the game in the balance in the sixth inning to face former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen with the bases loaded and two outs.
Rosscup responded by getting McCutchen to fly out to right field.
"You're always looking to build confidence," Maddon said. "I'd say primarily, as a relief pitcher, you've gotta have a really short memory. You gotta be almost, like, senile."
Maddon admitted it's important for him to keep the right mentality even though he's not playing or directly impacting the action on the field.
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He said he has the saying "do not be a fan" written on the top of his daily lineup card/stat sheet, as a reminder to keep things even-keeled and reduce the stress of the moment/situation.
"I try to control my breathing, also," Maddon said. "The pertinent part is to not get locked in the emotion of the moment. Don't become a fan. Just continue to be manager.
"When bad things are happening, you have to fight that tendency to become emotional and just play along. You can't permit that to happen.
"I cannot become a fan. I think it becomes stressful when you become a fan. If you remain a manager, it's not as stressful."