Cubs

Embrace The Target: Cubs manager Joe Maddon brushes off criticism from Aroldis Chapman and Miguel Montero

Embrace The Target: Cubs manager Joe Maddon brushes off criticism from Aroldis Chapman and Miguel Montero

President Barack Obama called Joe Maddon from Air Force One and invited the Cubs to the White House.

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney dug the "Embrace The Target" and "Try Not To Suck" messaging so much that he asked the Cubs manager to shoot a video to show his team before beating Alabama in the national-championship rematch.

Maddon could retire tomorrow and start working on his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Leading the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908 will guarantee his Cooperstown plaque.

So at a time when his Q rating should be soaring, why is Maddon getting second-guessed by players like Aroldis Chapman and Miguel Montero and pestered about how he managed Game 7?

"Honestly, I find it humorous that people want to go there," Maddon said Wednesday during his "Thanksmas" dinner at The Salvation Army Freedom Center in West Humboldt Park. "After all, we won 103 games. We had to beat the Giants, Dodgers and Indians to win the World Series… and people want to focus on one moment where I totally disagree with them and I can't convince them of that.

"There's nothing I can do about perception and interpretation. That's in the brain and the mind and the heart of the beholder.

"I would prefer that everybody would understand the magnitude of running the gauntlet of the Giants and Dodgers and Indians and how difficult it was to get to Game 7."

You know it's going to come up at some point during this weekend's Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. Set up a few microphones and pack enough Cubs fans into a hotel ballroom and there will be awkward moments during the Q&A sessions.

But the Chapman questions have been asked and answered. It's really not about the reactions on Twitter or managing from the press box anymore.

It's whether or not Maddon has to clear the air with any relievers who felt marginalized while Chapman threw 97 pitches in Games 5, 6 and 7 combined – or address any underlying issues that compelled Jason Heyward to call a players-only meeting in a Progressive Field weight room during that rain delay.

"I'm always open about conversations with anybody," Maddon said. "I don't really feel it's necessary to have any conversations. After all, we did win the World Series. And everybody did participate and everybody had a role.

"There were certain things said – whether it was Miggy or with Chappy at the end of the year – that really brought light to it. Otherwise, I think for me it turned out pretty well."

[MORE CUBS: Jake Arrieta's future and how Cubs plan to build their rotation for 2017 and beyond]

After the team's championship parade and Grant Park rally, Montero went on WMVP-AM 1000 and complained about the lack of communication while being stuck in a three-catcher rotation and wondered why Maddon leaned so hard on Chapman.

"I'm sure we'll talk," Maddon said. "Miggy likes to talk."

Maddon could laugh about Montero's brutal honesty and odd sense of timing, because the veteran blasted a grand slam in the National League Championship Series, caught the final two innings in the World Series and will be a part of the defending champs.

Chapman didn't show much appreciation for the way Maddon welcomed him after a midseason trade from the New York Yankees – and a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball's domestic-violence policy.

During the conference call to formally announce his five-year, $86 million contract with the Yankees last month, Chapman said through a translator that Maddon misused him in the playoffs.

"It's too bad he had to say that," Maddon said. "There's really nothing to it, as far as I'm concerned. We had talked about his usage and he was all for it. I just know one thing – that we could not have won it without him.

"He was about as big a part of that run as anybody was, so I'm grateful for everything that he had done here, and I just wish him nothing but the best in the future. But everything that occurred in those last couple games was planned out in advance.

"And as it turned out, it turned out pretty well."

Maddon can publicly take the high road now – and flip up his World Series ring finger later.

"It's unfortunate that they felt they had to discuss it that way," Maddon said. "But from my perspective, I appreciate everything they've done."

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Baseball players don't forget grudges. Javy Baez and Reds pitcher Amir Garrett gave an example of that on Saturday.

Garrett struck out Baez in the seventh inning of the first game of the Cubs-Reds doubleheader. Garrett showed some excitement with the strikeout and then said something to Baez. They both started jawing at each other and suddenly the benches cleared.

At first glance, it looked like Garrett was a bit too excited to get a strikeout with no one on base. Turns out Baez had his own bit of swag for Garrett last year (Friday was the one-year anniversary) in the form of a grand slam at Wrigley Field.

This time Garrett got Baez and wanted to even things up a bit.

Things didn't get too feisty despite the benches clearing, but Anthony Rizzo did rush to Baez's side at some speed. This could be a matchup to keep an eye out for in the future.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

Siera Santos, Kelly Crull, and David DeJesus go into the audio archives to break down the biggest games for the Cubs in Cincinnati.

David DeJesus gives us his top 3 ballgames with such gems as The Schwarber Game, The Kris Bryant Game, Starlin Castro’s debut, and Jake Arrieta’s second no hitter.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: