Cubs: Joe Maddon digging the new clubhouse culture at Wrigley

Cubs: Joe Maddon digging the new clubhouse culture at Wrigley

Joe Maddon explained his less-is-more philosophy during his first Cubby Bear press conference, promising he would never show up to the ballpark five or six hours before a 7 p.m. game.

The new Cubs manager didn’t believe in eyewash, felt batting practice was overrated and said a first-one-there, last-to-leave workaholic culture had “nothing to do with winning.”     

Of course, by November 2014, the Wrigley Field construction project had experienced so many delays that the promised state-of-the-art clubhouse still felt like a fantasy.  

Now the New York Yankees are the only team in The Show that has a bigger clubhouse than the 30,000-square-foot underground facility the Cubs carved out of parking lots.

Maddon sounded amused during Wednesday’s pregame briefing with reporters, which took place in a corporate conference room instead of the old storage closet/makeshift interview space that felt more like a dungeon.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

A media personality mentioned that first baseman Anthony Rizzo had spent part of Tuesday’s off-day working out at the new facility before spending an hour floating in a saltwater tank listening to John Mayer.        

“I don’t blame him for coming in,” Maddon said before a 9-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. “I’ve heard about this little egg that simulates the mother’s womb back there. So apparently Rizz was the first guy to jump back in the womb. I guess it’s more buoyant than the Dead Sea.

“That’s what I’ve been told. I guess it is like body temperature, which makes sense. So I’ll give that a go at some point. I’ll let you know how the experience (goes). But it doesn’t surprise me that Rizz did it.”   

Maddon doesn’t want his players pushed to the point where they’re mentally fried and physically exhausted. But the Cubs do believe all these gadgets (hyperbaric chamber, infrared/steam saunas) and distractions (air-hockey/ping-pong tables) will help the team’s performance and chemistry.    

“There would be a time that I would kind of like dissuade anybody from wanting to do that,” Maddon said. “But what better health club to walk into than this one?”

Podcast: Main takeaways from the 5-game Cubs-Cardinals series


Podcast: Main takeaways from the 5-game Cubs-Cardinals series

Tony Andracki is joined by Phil Barnes, the senior editor of Vine Line, to break down the Cubs-Cardinals 5-game series at Wrigley Field that kicked off the second half of the 2018 MLB season.

The main takeaways from the weekend included an up-close look at a Cubs starting rotation is still struggling to find their footing almost 2/3 of the way through the season. 

The Cubs lineup and bullpen continue to be the saving grace of the team with the NL's best record and run differential, but there are serious question marks moving forward on the depth of the relievers as well as waiting for Kris Bryant to return to MVP form.

Check out the entire podcast here:

Kaplan: Why Harry Caray was simply the best

Kaplan: Why Harry Caray was simply the best

Growing up in the Chicago area, we have been fortunate to hear some of the greatest names in sports broadcasting. From Jack Brickhouse to Harry Caray to Pat Foley to Jim Durham to Pat Hughes to Wayne Larrivee, the list is long and illustrious of the best play-by-play men in Chicago sports history.

For me, growing up listening to and watching many of these men on an almost daily basis only served to stoke my interest in pursuing sports broadcasting as my chosen career. All of the greats were obviously well prepared and technically excellent calling their respective sports, but for me one man stood above the rest because of his irreverence and ability to entertain people in a variety of ways. I ran home from Middleton School in Skokie to watch the final innings of many afternoon Cubs games in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, and I loved Jack Brickhouse and the enthusiasm he brought to each and every broadcast.

However, Harry Caray was the one that captured my heart and pulled me toward this great field of radio and TV broadcasting. Harry was one of the best technical baseball announcers in the history of the sport, but many people who only became aware of him as the announcer for the Cubs on WGN-TV only got to experience him in the twilight of his career, when he was best known for singing the Seventh Inning Stretch and his mispronunciations of players' names.

In the main portion of his 50-plus-year career, Harry called some of the game's greatest moments and saw many of the all-time greats. As the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics and the White Sox, he became one of the best in the sport with his colorful calls and honesty about the team he was working for. Fans loved his willingness to tell the truth and to openly cheer for the team he was affiliated with. However, when he was hired as the voice of the Cubs on WGN-TV, he became larger than life. With the power of the superstation behind him, he reached another level. A whole new generation of young people became Cubs fans — even if the team wasn't very good — because of the man in the funny glasses who was wildly entertaining.

I fell in love with his style and his entertainment ability. He was must-watch TV even when the games weren't very good. Until the Cubs signed Jon Lester and he became a key member of a World Series champion, Harry Caray was the single best free-agent signing in the history of the Cubs. From 1982 to 1997, he was bigger than almost every player who wore Cubbie Blue. Former All-Star first baseman Mark Grace remembered with a wry smile a story from his days as a Cub that shows just how big Caray was in relation to even the biggest-name players.

"We were playing the Marlins in Miami, and I was signing autographs alongside Rick Sutcliffe and Ryne Sandberg," Grace said. "There were long lines for each of us, and then Harry poked his head out of the Cubs dugout. The fans spotted him and someone yelled: 'Hey everybody, there's Harry!'

"I'm not kidding, everybody ran over to him, and the three of us were left with no one to sign for. We looked at each other, and Sutcliffe says to us, 'Guys, now you know where we rank on the totem pole.'"

Harry Caray was a legend and for me. He was the most entertaining play-by-play man I ever listened to. I still find myself listening to old tapes of him, and I am still as entertained today as I was then. Harry was simply the best.