Exactly one year ago, Joe Maddon killed it at The Cubby Bear, immediately talking playoffs, comparing Wrigley Field to a computer-generated scene from “Gladiator” and grabbing the microphone and offering to buy the first round.
The Cubs haven’t been the same since that shot-and-a-beer press conference on Nov. 3, 2014, when Maddon took over a team that had sunk to fifth place for five years in a row, finishing an average of 25 games out of first.
The Cubs won 97 games and two playoff rounds this year, and everyone around the team agreed that doesn’t happen without Maddon’s influence.
While it might be a stretch to say Maddon misses his daily media sessions before and after every game, he clearly enjoys playing to the cameras and hearing the sound of his own voice.
Even if there’s an expiration date to Maddon’s act, the Cubs still feel like that deal, which has four years remaining and guarantees at least $25 million over the life of the contract, will go down as a franchise-altering investment. (Compare that to the way the Nationals reportedly lowballed Bud Black and hired Dusty Baker as their fallback option.)
On Opening Day 2016, the National League will feature at least six new managers from the year before, while a Cubs franchise that had been unstable and dysfunctional will be a trendy pick to win the World Series.
One year after Maddon sipped a Guinness can at the bar opposite the Wrigley Field marquee, a look back on some of his best material, in the same free-association style that drives his press briefings:
• “I do vibrate on a different frequency, man.”
• “I never want to be dictatorial regarding the way I teach or suggest. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
• “You might have seen the body for a couple years, but the brain has not arrived yet.”
• “You don't have to go to an Ivy League school to overthink it. You could go to a state school, too.”
“One time I overreacted as manager in Midland, Texas, in 1986, when I actually went to a local newsstand and bought newspapers from throughout the country and took the classified ads and pasted them all over my locker room, because I told my players those were your alternatives to not playing baseball well and hard.
“I learned from my own mistake there – had them on the back of the stalls in the bathroom. So the guy would sit down there, and all of a sudden he’d close the door and there would be classified ads in San Antonio.
“I did all that. I was wrong. But as you go forward, I’d never seen an uptight moment be beneficial to any group. Never. Never. So I thought if I ever got an opportunity to do this, I’d really work against that concept.
“Baseball, you play every day. Football, you have a once-a-week gig. You can go through the whole week and there are different ways to get through the week and a different mindset entirely. In baseball, man, you’ve got to be in the present tense and be tension-free. I learned that, I think, and in a roundabout way.”
• (Pajama trip): “It works both ways. If you’ve won, it always makes it even better. And if you’ve lost, it’s kind of like: ‘Let’s put this behind us and let’s move on.’ So I see it as a ‘win-win-win,’ as Michael Scott would say.”
• (Simon the Magician): “It’s hard to grab a zoo animal on the road. You can do it at the last minute at home. You always have the home connection when it comes to animals. It’s much easier to acquire a magician on the road than it is a 20-foot python. I’ve always felt that way.”
• (Talking to a zoo animal in Wrigley Field’s interview room/dungeon): “My goal is life was to eventually own a bar named ‘The Pink Flamingo.’ If that ever happens, then I’ve made it. And if that ever does happen, Warren’s going to be at the opening night. Thank you, Warren, you did not disappoint.”
“The fans should always worry. It’s always the prerogative of a fan to worry. I absolutely believe in that. That’s what barrooms are for. That’s what little forums are for online in this 21st-century stuff. The fans should always worry. I’m always about fans worrying. Go ahead and worry as much as you’d like.
“From our perspective, we have to just go out and play the game like we always do. I’m here to tell you, man, I just can’t live that way. The line I’ve used is I don’t vibrate at that frequency. It has nothing to do with anything.
“The process is fearless. If you want to always live your life just based on the outcome, you’re going to be fearful a lot. And when you’re doing that, you’re really not living in a particular moment.
“I’m 60, I’ll be 80, and if by the time I’m 80 20 years from now I’ve just been worried about outcomes, I’m going to miss a lot. So you’ve really got to get involved in the process. And from our players’ perspective, that’s all I talk about. I’ve not even mentioned about winning one time to these guys during this whole time.
“If you take care of the seconds, the minutes, the hours in a day take care of themselves. So for our fans back home, please go ahead and be worried. That’s OK. But understand that from our perspective in the clubhouse, we’re more worried about the process than the outcome.”
The Geek Department
“I had one of the first laptops ever. I was like roundly laughed at and criticized: ‘How is a computer ever going to win a baseball game?’ I said: ‘No, no, no, no, it’s about organizing your information.’
“If Branch Rickey in the 40s had all this information, this stuff would have been done 50, 60, 70 years ago, if it was available. It wasn’t available. It’s new stuff. It’s color TV. It’s air conditioning. It’s power brakes. When it wasn’t invented, you could never miss it.
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“But it’s been invented, and now you utilize it, so to run away from technology and change and advancement…why?
“(That’s) an archaic form of thinking. It was definitely rooted in old-school, which I really respect. But for me, old-school has nothing to do with being stuck.”
“The social-media component – I don’t know if that’s going to keep getting bigger – or honestly is it going to become less? At some point, it’s oversaturated with nonsense.
“How much nonsense do you want to hear? I don’t really want to know about everybody else’s thoughts all the time. I really don’t. That would be the next level, like if I eventually become a mind reader.
“At that point, that would really suck, because if you know too much, man, that would be awful. It’s good that you don’t know everything. So all this stuff is getting to the point now where I don’t even know – what would be the next level of communication, outside of reading someone else’s mind?
“And I don’t want to read any of your minds at all under any circumstances. Because once you get in there, you may never get out, and you could be contaminated for the rest of your life.”
Pre-tay, Pre-tay Good
“There’s also ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ which I’m a big fan of. I got a photograph. Actually, there was a common friend. There was that one episode when he picked up a hooker to go in the diamond lane to go to the ballgame at Dodger Stadium. There’s a picture of her draped over the front seat and he wrote on her butt: ‘How bout that for a strike zone?’ Signed, Larry David.”
On Personal Grooming
• “I don’t like when it gets puffy on the side. Remember Paulie from ‘The Sopranos?’ I feel like Paulie. I get into that Paulie mode and it really bothers me. So whenever I start looking like Paulie, I get a haircut. That’s the indicator.”
• “I’m a product of the 60s and the 70s. Every generation has its own little gig going on. Back in the day, I had long hair. It was down to my shoulders. I was very proud of it. It was actually brown at that time, too, from what I remember. So why do you always want to impose your will on everybody else?”
“If you get it on your own, then what am I going to do? I’ve already told you: I can’t tell you everything right now. And I’ll say I can’t tell you. Your job is to do what you do. And my job is to not give it up.
“Your job is to find it out. And that’s cool. At the end of the day, what does that mean? I keep going back to the barroom. It’s great barroom banter, man.
“And also at the end of the day, we’re not trying to conceal weaponry being sold to Iran.”
Don’t Ever Change
“If I change, I want you to slap me in the face.”
You got it.
“If you do it to me one day and just go – boom! – I’ll know why.”
You won’t see it coming.
“I won’t see it coming, then I’ll say thank you.”